February 22nd, 2024

Quebec labour strikes: Progress with one teachers union, deadlock with another

By Thomas MacDonald, The Canadian Press on December 22, 2023.

MONTREAL – There is some hope of progress in one of the several labour disputes rattling Quebec’s public service as a union representing 95,000 teachers said Friday it had reached a partial agreement with the government.

Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement, or FSE, reported in a social media post that it had agreed to one proposal after an overnight negotiating session. The union didn’t specify the terms of the offer but said it would present details to its council later in the day.

What is clear is that the proposal doesn’t include an agreement on teacher salaries. That issue and other points of contention are still the subject of the FSE’s joint negotiations with other labour groups under a partnership known as the common front. The broad alliance of public sector unions – representing hundreds of thousands of workers – has launched several multi-day strikes over the last two months and threatened an unlimited walkout in early 2024 in the absence of a deal.

Meanwhile, a separate union representing 66,000 teachers says it will continue its unlimited strike in the new year amid a deadlock in negotiations with Quebec. The strike by the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, or FAE, has kept around 800 schools closed for more than four weeks.

In a video update Friday, FAE president Mélanie Hubert said disagreements about the scope of negotiations were impeding progress. The FSE agreement, she said, “doesn’t change our objectives or the demands we carry.”

Hundreds of FAE members and their supporters took to the streets of downtown Montreal on Friday to protest in front of the local office of Quebec Premier François Legault. Blowing horns and yelling chants, they hoped to pressure the government to listen to teachers.

At the heart of the FAE’s demands are more resources to support students who require additional attention and to relieve teachers who say they are overstretched.

Within the crowd on Friday was Montreal-area elementary school teacher Rosalie Gaudreault, who said she has had a class of 23 students in which 17 needed extra help.

“We have kindergarten children arriving from abroad …. Some children don’t speak French, some aren’t potty-trained, some have never seen a book in their lives. We have a lot of needs,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2023.

– With files from Stéphane Blais in Montreal.

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