Two busloads of teachers from the Western Quebec School Board participated in a massive Common Front union demonstration in Montreal, September 23, alongside other public sector workers including healthcare workers, construction tradespeople, policemen and social service workers. The demonstration of over 100,000 public sector workers clogged the downtown Montreal centre as they demanded higher wages, more manageable working conditions and pension protection in ongoing negotiations with the Legault government.
The government’s salary offer to teachers and public sector workers is less than 10% over 5 years, representing less than inflation. “The government offer will scare away teachers from coming to work in Quebec, not attract them,” said Brian Smeltzer, president of the Western Quebec Teachers’ Association, noting union demands were given to the government over a year ago, as the contract expired this past March. “The government seems blind to the reality teachers face in schools, even as expectations for student success increase,” he added. The 2023 school year began with a shortage of teachers as the government scrambled to put “at least one adult in every classroom”.
In conjunction with the demonstration, member unions are holding strike votes. Steven LeSeuer, president of the Provincial Association of Teachers, said “Pressure will be applied gradually, and with it is the possibility of an unlimited general strike. So far, votes in the public sector show 90% are in favour of striking.”
– Carl Hager