Western Quebec teachers vote Strike foreseeable without gov’t offers

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Carl Hager
Local Journalism Initiative

The CAQ’s slow response in negotiations with teachers and other public sector workers (health, social services) has resulted in a large-scale vote for strike mandates. On October 5, teachers represented by the Western Quebec Teachers’ Association voted an unprecedented 100% in favour of striking, joining colleagues in other English language school boards in Quebec who have voted 90% in favour of striking overall. Teachers in the French sector have also voted to support strike action.

Teacher unions deposited their demands one year ago in October 2022, ahead of schedule as their collective agreement expired this past spring. So far, government offers concerning salary, working conditions and pension plans have been inadequate according to the unions. For example, while government figures expect inflation to increase by 16% over the next five years, they’re offering a 10% wage increase over the same period; and changes to pensions reveal a serious reduction in benefits for public sector workers.

“Teachers are expected to do much more than they have in the past. The government wants to have all special needs students included in regular classrooms, but aren’t offering teachers help with behavioural issues and learning challenges. This is no way to retain teachers or attract them to work in Quebec. Not only that, but in Western Quebec, we have more split or multi-level classrooms which makes lesson preparation and delivery all the more difficult,” remarked Brian Smeltzer, president of the Western Quebec Teachers’ Association.

If progress isn’t made at the negotiating table, an unlimited general strike is foreseen. Smeltzer explained that if necessary, the strike will begin in short bursts and notice will be given to inform the public of when strike days will occur.