Public service strikes continue Record strike December 9

0
58

Allyson Beauregard & Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

Thousands of civil

Allyson Beauregard & Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

Thousands of civil
servants, across the province, including teachers, healthcare workers, support staff, and others,  staged the largest strike in Quebec since 1972 on December 9 to protest contract negotiations with the government. Many public service workers marched through downtown Montreal demanding a decent wage increase and better working conditions.
The public-sector workers have been staging rotating strikes since September; however, union officials said progress is being made at the negotiation tables. “Talks have intensified, but significant obstacles remain,” said Sylvain Gendron, spokesperson for the Secrétariat intersyndical des services publics (SISP).
November 18
offer rejected
The Common Front submitted a counter-
proposal to the government on November 18, which was rejected by Martin Coiteux, Québec’s Treasury Board president. The Common Front is a consolidation of unions representing 400,000
public sector workers.
Mr. Coiteux questioned the wisdom of the December 9 strike saying both sides are close to making a final deal and argued that the variance between the government’s latest offer and the union’s counter-offer is $12.4 billion. “It’s clear the unions turned a deaf ear to the government’s appeal. Their counter-offer is standing at 10.2% over three years, … totally
unrealistic,” he declared.
The unions’ counter-offer was a 2.5% yearly increase over three years, with an adjustment if inflation exceeded 1%. The breakdown of the 2.5% offer is 1% to protect against cost-of-living adjustment, which follows the consumer price index, a 1% catch-up raise until the imbalance is reabsorbed, and a 0.5% mutual enrichment clause if the GDP is higher than 1%. The unions calculate the increase for 2015 at 2.9%.
Union negotiators also rejected increasing the age to retire without penalty from 60 to 62.
“(The counter-offer) would return us to deficit, massively, it would require massive tax increases or require scraping an instrument of intergenerational equity, the Generations Fund,” said Coiteux, who insisted the unions know there is no money to
satisfy their demands.
The Treasury Board president insisted the government’s 5.3% offer over five years is fair. “Inflation is running at 1 %. They received 1% last March. So actually they will receive, over the next five years, including this year, at least 6.3%, which is above the inflation rate. Nobody will be poor with our offer,” stated Mr. Coiteux.
Three day French
board strike
The eight unions affiliated with the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), including the Syndicat de l’enseignement de l’Outaouais (SEO), participated in
a three-day strike, December 9, 10 and 11. This strike affected about 375,000 students in Montreal, Laval, the Lower Laurentians and the Outaouais. The FAE is negotiating separately from the Common Front.
The teachers of the Commission scolaire des Portages-de-l’Outaouais (CSPO) are members of the SEO. The Western Quebec Teachers’ Association representing the English board’s teachers, is not part of the FAE.