Interview, Sylvain Mallette, President, Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE)
What are the main features of the offer from the Management Negotiating
Committee that was presented to you at the end of 2019?
The concept which guided
the employer in drafting its offer can be summed up in the
following words: optimal use of the teaching staff. In our opinion, it
is an expression of violence. The employer proposes to use us
optimally, that is to say until we are exhausted, until we are out of
It is a contemptuous and utilitarian look at the
teaching profession. They want teachers to simply carry out orders.
Teachers must do what they are told to do, as and when they are told to
do it. At the same time, they are being held responsible for everything
that goes wrong. They are being made responsible for academic success.
given a role similar to that of a social worker, without giving them
the means they need to accomplish this work.
There is a desire to deny what a collective
is. We are an organization which negotiates a labour contract with
working conditions. Yes, we are concerned about educational success,
and having good working conditions ensures better learning conditions,
especially for the most vulnerable students. We have the right to have
working conditions. In this regard, the conditions under which they
want us to work are unacceptable. I made it clear last December that
the employer's offer cannot and will not constitute a basis for
negotiation. For example, the employers want to give themselves the
means to no longer respect the average and the maximum number of
per class. They want to be able to no longer take students from low
income families into account when forming groups. Yet we know very well
that living in a disadvantaged environment, with students who suffer
poverty and their parents who suffer poverty, has colossal consequences
on academic success, culture and equal opportunities.
According to the employer's offer, the teacher, in
to have access to resources and services, should demonstrate that he or
she has tried everything before making a request. What does that mean
except that the teacher will be pushed to the limit, that they will
burn the teacher out completely, that he or she will be constantly in a
weakness and that he or she will have to justify the call for services
and resources. It is completely unacceptable. This is being done under
the hoax of enhancing the profession, and yet the task is being
individualized and the teacher is made responsible for everything,
especially whatever goes wrong. The burden of academic success is put
shoulders of the teacher. In other words, the teachers have to fend for
themselves in the classroom, almost abandoned, having to meet the needs
of all students, regardless of what those needs are and the existing
level of resources and services.
In the employer's offer, there is also a desire to
eliminate the subjects for which there must be consultation by
management with the teachers and for which the teachers choose the
appropriate consultation mode. This is going back 50 years. They talk
about enhancing the profession but in fact our role is reduced to that
of obeying orders.
This would only contribute to the suffering of
teachers. The teaching profession is suffering and we are not going to
negotiate the suffering of our teachers. This suffering stems from a
staff shortage -- nearly 25 per cent of teachers leave the profession
before the fifth year of practice. People no longer choose our
retirement is on the increase even if it causes a reduction in the
amount of pension you get. The teachers become poorer during
retirement when they take early retirement. Psychological distress is
on the rise. The rates of short-term disability claims, two years or
less, are skyrocketing. Fifty per cent of these cases are caused by
psychological distress. The teachers can't take it anymore. They carry
the weight of having to do more with less.
The employer's offer shows that the school
authorities are envisaging educational networks and systems in line
with the neo-liberal vision of the relationship of human beings with
state and public services, and of the relationship between humans
themselves. We are in a market logic, where we do in the public sector
what is being
done in the private sector. We adopt "lean" approaches, production
methods of private industry. It is very disturbing. In this logic,
children from low income backgrounds are simply reduced to a category,
of being a costly expense to the system. So children from those
backgrounds are put into conditions that are much inferior to those of
from more privileged classes who have access to culture and services.
Children from low income backgrounds are being trained, right at the
end of their second year of secondary school, to occupy semi-skilled
jobs. The public school as the system in which we wanted to create
equal opportunities is being cast aside. Now the public school is
in competition, not only with the private school but with itself,
it is accepted that certain public schools can select which pupils they
will enrol. The people who drafted the employer's offer are no longer
the guardians of the public school that we had given ourselves. They
subscribe to the neo-liberal market and utilitarian vision of the
public school network.
WF: What are
the demands of the FAE in this context?
SM: We want
to improve the daily lives of
our members to ensure that our working conditions allow us to achieve
our mission which is to educate students, especially students from low
income disadvantaged backgrounds who, with their families, suffer
poverty. It is with a humanist approach that we address the
By negotiating our working conditions, we also negotiate the learning
conditions of our students. As teachers, we have the right to good
working conditions and as citizens we are the guardians of the public
school. If we accept the weakening of our conditions, we accept the
weakening of the public school.
We also ask to be recognized as pedagogical
have the right to choose the best pedagogical approaches, assessment
tools and methods of intervention with our students.
We also want to ensure that teachers have access
permanent jobs. It is part of recognizing who we are. It is not normal
for teachers who are approaching retirement, some with 35 years of
service, to still be working under precarious employment contracts.
Teachers are being maintained in precariousness, and these are mainly
women represent 73 per cent of the teaching profession.
We must also make sure that the schools form
which take into account the difficulties which the pupils have -- all
of the pupils. Those who teach groups with the greatest difficulties
must have fewer students to respond to these realities. Or we must
create classes for these students which does not mean withdrawing them
but recognizing that in their educational path they need special help
that we will give them, even if it costs more, to give them time to
realize themselves as human beings.
These things must be said, but action must also be
taken, which poses the problem of trade union mobilization and action.
We must stand together and recognize the usefulness of trade union
action which improves conditions for the whole of society. When we make
gains, it uplifts those who do not have access to unionization, who
broken up work schedules, like all the women who must have two or three
jobs and who live in precariousness.
Teachers' Federation (FAE) represents 45,000 teachers in Quebec's
public schools. The nine unions affiliated with the FAE represent
preschool, elementary, secondary, adult education and vocational
training teachers in seven regions of Quebec.
This article was published in
Number 5 - February 12, 2020
Interview, Sylvain Mallette, President, Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE)