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Strike looming for Quebec school support staff

School support workers in Quebec are threatening to go on strike in a matter of weeks, as more than half say they can't afford to pay for the basics of living.

From 2020 to 2021, the average salary of a school support staff employee was $24,284 a year, says Andrea Di Tomaso, a spokesperson with the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics (FEESP-CSN).

"It's either we starve now and have a strike... or we starve later on," she said.

Amid stalled contract talks, the union released the results of a survey of over 7,000 support workers, detailing the economic insecurity they experience.

Among the worrying statistics, 52 per cent say they can no longer afford basic monthly expenses like housing, food, and electricity.

Seventy-eight per cent say they are living paycheque to paycheque, and 12 per cent say they are looking for work in the private sector.

"We're the foundation of the entire school system. Everything is built upon support staff, and if they aren't there and there are less than there were, then there's no schools," said Di Tomaso.

The province is currently offering a nine per cent raise over five years—a non-starter for public sector workers, who took to the street last weekend to put pressure on the government.

Earlier this week, the treasury board president threatened to stop paying bonuses and retention premiums if the unions don't scale back their demands by October 15.

The government says with other investments and lump sum bonuses, their offer is more like 13 per cent over five years—but the unions don't agree.

"We feel that this government now is putting us in a position where they're almost forcing us to strike," said Di Tomaso.

The local unions have until October 13 to hold a strike vote. Across the public sector, every union has so far voted in favour. Top Stories

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