Close to 97% English-board teachers overwhelmingly support strike mandate

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Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

Teachers with the Western Québec School Board have sent the Quebec Treasury Board, chaired by Martin Coiteux, a clear message. On September 25, the Western Quebec Teachers’ Association (WQTA) announced that members voted 96.7% in favour of the six-day strike mandate proposed by the Common Front.

Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

Teachers with the Western Québec School Board have sent the Quebec Treasury Board, chaired by Martin Coiteux, a clear message. On September 25, the Western Quebec Teachers’ Association (WQTA) announced that members voted 96.7% in favour of the six-day strike mandate proposed by the Common Front.
“The WQTA, with the common front, will be selecting dates for a rotating strike. We will be monitoring very closely the pace of the negotiations. Other provincial actions may be on the horizon,” said Brian Smeltzer, W.Q.T.A. President.
The common front is negotiating “intersectorial matters” with Québec’s Treasury Board. These include salaries, pension plans, group insurance plans, regional disparities and parental rights.
The Common Front negotiations affect close to 400,000 public sector workers, including teachers who are asking to recoup their purchasing power lost over the years. Most members are unhappy with the Treasury Board’s offer of a 1% salary increase for the last three years of a five year deal – with nothing for the first two years.
The yearly salary increase for the expiring collective agreement was 0.5 %, 0.75%, 1%, 1.75% and 2% for the fifth year. Average annual inflation between 2010 and 2015 reached 1.55% according to the Bank of Canada.
“In our view, the offer will set teachers back about 30-40 years in terms of what we have been able to gain over the course of negotiations. The two most pressing issues in the sectorial dossier are the class sizes (proposed increases) and special education (proposed removal of codings for students amongst others),” said Mr Smeltzer.
Sectorial negotiations include employment conditions, fringe benefits excluding insurance and parental rights, job
security, and so on.
Teachers plan to strike for six days on a rotating basis. Dates remain open. “We are compiling the results of all the locals within the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT). We have a very strong
mandate,” Mr. Smeltzer told the Journal.
QPAT is a federation that represents teachers in Québec’s English school boards as well as the teachers in the English schools of the Littoral School Board. QPAT represents approximately 8,000 teachers across the province.
WQSB Chair James Shea wanted to wait before commenting until the school board was directly informed by the WPTA.