Steven Le Sueur thought last week’s one-day teacher’s strike would have added enough pressure on the government to reignite negotiations.
But the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) president says that all talks have broken down at the table. Teachers staged a three-day consecutive strike from Nov. 21-23.
“It’s gotten worse,” said a frustrated Le Sueur, who said it’s been “radio silence” ever since teachers reduced their list of demands on a new contract in early November.
The demands teachers won’t back down from, though, according to Le Sueur are: decreased workloads, more support for special needs students and staff, and fair wage increases that will cover the projected inflation rate over the next five years.
Public sector workers with the Common Front union, which includes teachers, nurses and social workers, were offered a 10.3 per cent increase over five years with a $1,000 bonus to each worker. The offer also includes extra money for night shift nurses and an added one per cent for those who make less than $52,000 a year.
The Common Front called this offer “insulting.”
Teachers argue that the offer doesn’t cover inflation projections over the next five years, which financial institution Desjardins has estimated will rise 17.7 per cent from 2023 to 2027.
Wakefield Elementary teacher and union rep Shannon Langlois told the Low Down during the Nov. 6 one-day strike that teachers are tired, overworked and lack resources in the classroom.
“Our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions,” she said. “We’re negotiating for fair wages, fair pensions, fair class sizes and composition. The negotiations have been very, very slow.”
Le Sueur said he is especially angry after learning last week that the Quebec government will spend $7 million to bring the Los Angeles Kings to Quebec City next year to play a pre-season NHL game.
This is after MNAs in Quebec voted this summer to give themselves a $30,000 raise across the board, with ministers and party heads earning even more.
Premier François Legault’s salary went up by close to $62,000 this summer for a total $270,120 salary.
“It’s very disappointing that we’re not worth so much now that the pandemic is over,” Le Sueur told the Low Down. “The government is saying, ‘We have no money for you, but we have $7 million for the L.A. Kings to bring the millionaires to Quebec.’”
Le Sueur said that teachers are seeking compensation similar to what Quebec police officers got last week when they signed a new deal that will see their salaries rise 17.6 per cent over the next half-decade (See story page 7). Common Front workers say they want something in that range, close to 20 per cent, said Le Sueur, but over three years.
He acknowledged that that number would likely be negotiated down, but added that if the government doesn’t get serious following the three-day strike in late November, the next step would be a general, unlimited strike, similar to what the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) did Nov. 23. That unlimited FAE strike will affect École au Coeur-des-Collines and Des Lacs High School in Masham, Grand-Boisé in Chelsea and École Orée-des-Bois and École de la Rose-des-Vents in Cantley.