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Quebec teachers' strike: Staff may be on strike until Christmas, says union vice-president

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The over 65,000 teachers in Quebec who began striking on Thursday may continue off the job until Christmas if an agreement isn't reached, according to the union.

"Our teachers are ready to go a long way if we don't get an agreement right now," said FAE (Fédération autonome de l'enseignement) labour relations vice-president Benoit Giguere. "We have to continue to put pressure and we'll be available."

Giguere said that it is not an easy choice for teachers and that they would "like to be in class tomorrow." He said he understands that parents are concerned, but that a proper agreement is necessary.

"We want a collective agreement that will be for us better working conditions but better learning conditions for the students as well," he said.

The FAE launched an unlimited general strike on Thursday.

Giguere said there will be further negotiations this week with the government and that, generally, the communication with the government has been decent.

Giguere responded, however, to Premier Francois Legault's comments this week that he is willing to increase the government offer but that unions need to be more "flexible."

"We have to stop talking in the media and we have to start going into our negotiations meetings," said Giguere. "We were outside and we learned that. We didn't have the information on the table. That's a problem actually."

Giguere said the unions' negotiation teams need all the information at the table to move forward.

"That will be what will enable us to go and get an agreement," said Giguere. "That's what we want from Legault and everybody on his side."

The Quebec Education Ministry told CTV News that it would not comment on current negotiations.

The biggest demand for teachers is better class compositions, including class sizes, coded student numbers, and numbers of students without French proficiency.

"This is a lot of workload for teachers to be able to teach correctly to all the students, not only the ones who have difficulties," said Giguere.

The FAE plans to assemble in front of Radio-Canada in Montreal on Sunday night at 6 p.m. when Treasury Board chair Sonia LeBel is scheduled to appear on the program Tout le Monde en Parle.  

With reporting from CTV News Montreal journalist Olivia O'Malley.

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