The North Star


Second week of teacher’s strike

Government treatment fuels “our indignation and will strengthen our mobilization”

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Despite the cold weather and snow, mobilization and solidarity on the picket lines are growing, as the 66,000 teachers of the Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE) have been on unlimited general strike for 10 days. Following the historic walkout on November 23, teachers demonstrated in front of the Radio-Canada building in Montreal, Ministry of Education offices in Montreal and Quebec City, and Premier François Legault's office in Montreal.

In a video addressed to teachers, FAE President Mélanie Hubert announced that the mobilization had been successful and made its presence felt at the bargaining table. After a year without making any progress in talks with the Treasury Board, the general strike called by the teachers forced the government to give in to some of their demands. A number of gains were made by the FAE, notably on the issue of class composition.

With this in mind, the federation's negotiating team submitted a counter-offer to the government after the first week of the strike, in an attempt to reach a settlement. The Treasury Board quickly rejected this offer, stating that "the union is sticking to its guns and has not included any flexibility in its counter-offer". FAE responded by inviting the Treasury Board to participate in the negotiation process, rather than obstructing it by publicizing the issue.

The FAE teachers are thus entering their second week of strike action without a strike fund. Despite this, mobilization remains strong, and support groups have been set up to back up the teachers. A Facebook group created at the end of November, "Entraide pour les profs en grève" (Mutual aid for striking teachers), already has almost 7,000 members, and offers of help are multiplying daily.

Public support for FAE's demands is overwhelming. According to a Léger poll, 82% of Quebecers are in favour of raising teachers' salaries to the Canadian average, and 90% of those polled are in favour of setting a maximum time limit for evaluating students who are experiencing difficulties.

Treasury Board's attitude towards the FAE's counter-offer closes the door on any hope of reaching an agreement quickly. Negotiations are also stagnating between the Treasury Board and the United Front, despite the appointment of a conciliator at the end of November. The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), too, has been negotiating at the same tables for over a year without making any progress.

The United Front, which has an unlimited general strike mandate, has announced that it will be stepping up its pressure tactics with walkouts from December 8 to 14, in the hope of breaking the deadlock in negotiations and reaching an agreement before the holidays. The FIQ has also announced 3 strike days from December 11 to 14. Should negotiations drag on until 2024, the Common Front has indicated that it will carry out its mandate for an unlimited general strike.

In an attempt to neutralize the current pressure tactics, on December 4, the Centre de services scolaires de montréal (CSSDM) obtained an injunction against the teachers working there. The injunction prevents them from maintaining rigid picket lines in front of CSSDM schools until December 14. The measure was strongly criticized by the Alliance des professeurs et professeures de Montréal (APPM), which represents CSSDM teachers. "This contemptuous way of treating us only fuels our indignation and will strengthen our mobilization."

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