'This government has not taken care of us': Teachers across Quebec on strike as contract negotiations drag
MONTREAL -- Teachers across Quebec bagen a strike Wednesday morning to pressure the government to move forward on contract negotiations, which union heads say are at an impasse.
The strike has affected 58 school boards and service centres in Quebec, all of which are under the Federation of Education Unions (CSQ), and the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT).
“Teachers are actually pretty angry,” said QPAT President Heidi Yetman, who spoke to CTV News Wednesday over chants and clanging noisemakers. “I mean they're really angry at this government that has not taken care of us during the pandemic.”
The strike affects 73,000 French and English teachers across Quebec. According to QPAT, the issues being negotiated with the government include improvement to daily working conditions.
“Their salaries aren't kept up with inflation and their working conditions are deteriorating,” she said.
In the 2018-19 school year, Quebec teachers' starting salaries were an average of $44,993 annually, the lowest reported rate of any region, other than the Yukon, whose salaries are not recorded by Statistics Canada.
No other province or territory reported a salary under $50,000 for new teachers.
At most, teachers can make $80,917 salary, well below the national average of $91,930.
“We have tons and tons of teachers who have left the profession. We have tons and tons of teachers that are on a sick leave," said Yetman. “This is crazy, we need to protect our teachers.”
The strike started just after midnight, and demonstrators began picketing at 7:30 a.m., with normal class activities resuming at 9:31 a.m., though some schools have opted to move all classes online for the day.
The move online frustrated union leaders, who timed the strike to allow students to learn in-class for most of the day.
John Rennie High School teachers picket as part of their strike action on April 21, 2021. (Ken Dow, CTV News)
Another issue, according to Yetman, is that the move online "sets a precedent for the future."
"Let's say that there's no electricity one day. 'Okay' everybody says, 'you're all going to work online.' So it sets a precedent for the school board to use online learning anytime they feel that they'd like to keep the school closed," she said.
"It's very concerning for us."
Teachers demonstrate as part of a strike action to push the government to offer better working conditions on April 14, 2021. (Billy Shields, CTV News)
If this strike isn’t enough to move negotiations forward with the province, there are still other options available to negotiators.
In January, education unions voted in favour of allowing strikes of up to five days, in a coordinated effort requested by the Centrale des Syndicats du Quebec, a major provincial trade union.
“We still have that strike action in our back pocket. And if [negotiations don’t] move, we will continue applying pressure,” said Yetman.
“A strike is an equalizer, and that's what we're going to have to use to apply pressure to this government.”
English speaking schools represented by QPAT
- Central Québec School Board (CQTA-SECQ)
- Eastern Shores School Board (ESTA-AEES)
- Eastern Townships School Board (ATA-AEA)
- English-Montreal School Board (MTA-AEEM)
- Lester B. Pearson School Board (PTU-SEP)
- School Board New Frontiers (CVTA-AECV)
- Riverside School Board (RTU-SER)
- Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier School Board (LTU-SEL)
- Western Quebec School Board (WQTA-AEOQ)
Other affected schools represented by CSQ
- Harricana (SEUAT-CSQ)
- Lac-Abitibi (SEUAT-CSQ)
- Lac-Témiscamingue (SEUAT-CSQ)
- Or-et-des-Bois (SEUAT-CSQ)
- Rouyn-Noranda (SEUAT-CSQ)
- Fleuve-et-des-Lacs (SEGP-CSQ)
- Kamouraska - Rivière-du-Loup (SEGP-CSQ)
- Monts-et-Marées (SERM-CSQ)
- Headlights (SERM-CSQ)
- Charlevoix (SEC-CSQ)
- Discoverers (SEDR-CSQ)
- Portneuf (SEP-CSQ)
- Bois-Francs (SEBF-CSQ)
- Oaks (SERD-CSQ)
- Riverine (SELR-CSQ)
- Appalachians (SEA-CSQ)
- Beauce-Etchemin (SEC-CSQ)
- South Coast (SECS-CSQ)
- Browsers (SEDR-CSQ)
- Estuary (SEHCN-CSQ)
- Iron (SERF-CSQ)
- Average-North Shore (SERF-CSQ)
- Littoral (SERF-CSQ and LNSETA)
- Hauts-Cantons (SEE-CSQ)
- Region-de Sherbrooke (SEE-CSQ)
- Summits (SEE-CSQ)
Gaspé - Magdalen Islands
- Chic-Chocs (STEEQ-CSQ)
- Islands (STEEQ-CSQ)
- Laurentians (SEEL-CSQ)
- Hautes-Laurentides (Pierre-Neveu) (SPEHR-CSQ)
- Rivière-du-Nord (SERN-CSQ)
- Tributaries (SERM-CSQ)
- Samares (SEL-CSQ)
- Chemin-du-Roy (SEVF-CSQ)
- Energy (SEM-CSQ)
- Grandes-Seigneuries (APL-CSQ)
- Hautes-Rivières (SEHR-CSQ)
- Marie-Victorin (Champlain-CSQ)
- Patriots (Champlain-CSQ)
- Saint-Hyacinthe (SEVM-CSQ)