March 29, 2021 - No.
Teachers Provide Themselves with Strike Mandates
the Government to Negotiate
to Support the Teachers' Fight for Their Rights and a Human-Centred
Our Demands Are Essential to
Solving the Crisis in Education
- Interview, Geneviève Royer
to Quebec Health Care Workers!
• Labour Court Vindicates
Workers' Demands for N95 Masks
of Unacceptable Quebec Ministerial Order -- Scrap the
- Pierre Soublière
Teachers Provide Themselves with Strike Mandates
the Government to Negotiate
The 122,000 teachers in Quebec's school service centres
(formerly school boards) have given themselves strike mandates to
compel the government to negotiate and meet their demands for the
renewal of their collective agreements which expired on March 30, 2020.
The two teachers' federations representing preschool, elementary,
vocational and adult education teachers -- the Federation of Teachers'
Unions (FSE-CSQ) and the Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE) -- have
reached the conclusion that the government is intent on dictating their
working conditions and wages. CEGEP teachers and support and
professional staff who are members of the Centrale des syndicats du
Québec (CSQ) have also given themselves a strike mandate,
starting with a one-day strike on March 30, if the government does not
provide additional resources to improve their working conditions. The
government is using the pandemic as an opportunity to impose conditions
on teachers that they consider unacceptable and to attempt to silence
them. The teachers reject this dictate and are demanding a negotiated
solution based on their demands for a significant improvement in their
working conditions, which are the learning conditions of young people.
Workers' Forum firmly supports the
teachers' struggle for their rights and calls on all workers to give
them their full support. In fighting for the conditions they need to
teach and for their right to determine those conditions, they are
defending society against the rule by decree of government executives
serving narrow private interests.
If teachers decide that they have no choice but to go on strike to
break the impasse, let us give them all the support we can.
Geneviève Royer is a secondary school
remedial teacher in Montreal.
Forum: Teachers employed by the school service
centres put forward their demands for changes to their collective
agreement in October 2019, and the agreement expired on March 30, 2020.
What is the status of negotiations with the government?
Royer: The two organizations that represent the
approximately 122,000 teachers in Quebec have both taken strike votes.
On February 1, the Federation of Teachers' Unions (FSE-CSQ) adopted a
mandate for rotating strikes over five days, and the member unions of
the Autonomous Teachers' Federation voted for an
unlimited general strike starting May 31.
meetings, government officials have had ample opportunity to hear our
demands, which were tabled, as you said, in October 2019. But our
negotiators are being told by their employer counterparts, "We don't
have the mandate to negotiate that." Now, if the education experts, if
the people who work every day, have no power to change
the situation, to have a say in the decisions that are made, we have a
It can be said that after all
these negotiation meetings and 12 mediation sessions, the only thing
that has changed is that teachers are now in a legal strike position.
It is the government that is inciting teachers to take this action. The
newspapers have already begun to talk only about the strike issue and
not about our working conditions. But
what is it that the public needs to know? It must be what the teachers
have proposed to the government, which is responsible for the education
system. We say that reducing the number of students per class,
increasing direct services to students (more educators, speech
therapists, etc.), creating specialized classes for students with
special needs, is
what is needed to improve our working conditions which are the the
learning conditions of our students.
important to know that the number of students in Quebec who, according
to the criteria of the Ministry of Education, are entitled to
educational services for at-risk students and students with
disabilities, adjustment or learning difficulties (EHDAA) increased by
71.8 per cent from 2001 to 2016. In 2018-2019, there were 216,821 EHDAA
in our schools, and of these, 164,936 or 76 per cent, are in regular
classes, not special classes.
The government is
engaging in provocations against teachers in the negotiations regarding
our wages and our working conditions. For example, it wants to add
wording to the collective agreement saying that it is "the
responsibility of the teacher to adapt his or her pedagogical approach
according to the needs and abilities of each student
entrusted to him or her." This will allow the government to deny
services to teachers and students on the basis that it is the
teachers' responsibility to implement personalized intervention
strategies. The government is also proposing to add two reasons why
class sizes will be allowed to exceed planned ratios. None of these
the mental, physical or educational well-being of students and teachers
at a time when we are all witnessing multiple forms of distress in our
Do you want to say something in conclusion?
We want our proposals to be discussed in the public
domain. We feel that we are taking up our social responsibility by
raising the real problems in education and proposing solutions based on
our expertise and experience. The question for us is not whether or not
to go on strike. The issue is that it is our working conditions
and our demands for change that must be publicly discussed and that the
government must be held accountable for its repeated refusal to
negotiate with us.
Listen to Quebec Health Care Workers!
On March 23, three unions -- the Confederation of National
Trade Unions (CSN), the Interprofessional Health Federation of Quebec
(FIQ) and the FIQ-private sector -- announced that they had won their
case before the Administrative
Labour Court (TAT) with regards to N95 protective masks. The TAT
acknowledges that the precautionary principle should have been applied
considering the serious risk of aerosol transmission of the virus which
has been widely proven. It agrees with the unions in their demands that
their employers in the health system and the Labour Standards, Pay
Equity and Workplace Health and Safety Board (CNESST) must
act responsibly in protecting workers.
As of now,
employers in the health care system must provide all personnel caring
for residents suspected of having COVID-19 with respiratory N95 masks,
in warm zones as well as in hot zones. Until now, employers and the
CNESST refused to apply the precautionary principle and to provide
health workers with the adequate protective
equipment. In the first wave alone, 13,500 health workers were
infected. The risk of being infected by COVID-19 was ten times higher
than for the rest of the population.
The TAT stated
that employers must set up warm and hot zones with teams assigned to
each zone and reiterated the importance of the precautionary principle.
In light of this decision, unions point out that the
Vigi-Santé centre and the Integrated Health and Social Services Centre in the Outaouais violated their
obligations pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act
and that the government showed indifference by
refusing to be proactive as prescribed by law. They are revolted that
they have had to fight so that a judge would finally acknowledge the
obvious. The National Director of Public Health passed an order to
hinder access to N95 masks and continuously challenged the legal
actions taken by
unions regarding their health and security concerns at the workplace.
In spite of the risk of aerosol spread of the virus and the repeated
requests of unions to apply the precautionary principle, the government
and managers relentlessly refused to consider their demands.
state: "It was our responsibility to ensure that the health and safety
of the healthcare professionals and health of the residents was
respected. In the face of a potentially deadly threat for which the
world has deployed extraordinary health measures, the government and
employers have tolerated that those who are the backbone of the network
are sent to the front lines with the bare minimum to protect themselves
and their patients. They were particularly negligent when they were
responsible for a clientele known to be very vulnerable to the virus.
They should have made it their priority."
The Quebec government must
be held to account for its criminal negligence, a course it is pursuing
in spite of all the evidence of their harmful activities, passing laws
such as Bill 59 which, rather than helping to improve health and safety
at the place of work, will make the situation worse, further
endangering workers and those in their
March 21, on the first anniversary of the enactment of
Ministerial Order 007 and following the government announcement that
it would renew the order, the Quebec Interprofessional Federation of
Health (FIQ) officially asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister of
Quebec as well as with the Minister of Health and Social Services. An
FIQ communiqué points out: "One year ago today was enacted
one of the most freedom-destroying Ministerial Orders in the history
of labour laws." This order suspended the application of the
collective agreement in order to secure the required personnel to face
the anticipated hospital overcrowding due to COVID-19. The union
the number of hospitalizations has gone down and the number of cases is
stable in Quebec. Yet, the order is still in force. Nurses feel
betrayed and consider that the order was to be used as an exception
under precise circumstances. Unfortunately, it is still being used
indiscriminately by a large number of health care managers.
union wants to put an end to Ministerial Order 007 and discuss alternative
solutions with regards to working conditions as upheld in the
collective agreement of health professionals and, more specifically,
make sure they will have holidays next summer. This order stipulates
that health system managers have the authority, among other things, to
suspend or cancel all forms of leave including holidays which were
already booked, which is what they have been doing for the past year.
The FIQ points
out that abusive use of Order 007 has had devastating effects on the
morale of health professionals, leading to burn-outs and to workers
leaving the profession in droves. It wants to avoid at all costs that
the health staffing crisis gets worse than it already is. It gives
examples of how in certain regions such as the Outaouais the
increase in full-time employees (on the basis of forcing part-time
workers to work full time) has been maintained, 12-hour shifts are
still in force in a number of centres and relocation to different
shifts continues to be imposed.
The FIQ states that
it was never an issue that Order 007 would be used as a threat to
cancel holidays in case of staff shortages. It says, with regards to
the measures taken against health workers: "They have violated our
rights, without the slightest goodwill, without taking into account the
efforts of health professionals to balance work, family
and personal life. The least we would expect would be that we be shown
some concern, some respect, and that no efforts would be spared so that
we feel listened to and supported, including re-establishing acceptable
26, 2021. FIQ Rally Against Ministerial Order 007.
a press conference in Trois-Rivières, Prime Minister Legault
continued to show total disregard for the legitimate preoccupations of
health professionals and the destructive impact of their conditions on
the health system itself. He upheld that the government would still
have to keep the emergency order in place and that he was counting on
his Health Minister to "bring the FIQ to its senses." "No one can
achieve the impossible," he added.
How can it be
"impossible" for a government to simply sit down with health workers
and discuss the alternative solutions they are proposing to improve
both their working conditions and the health conditions of the
population? It is the Legault government which finds it impossible to
take up its social responsibilities. It is definitely not
impossible to imagine what it would be like to have a government made
up of workers who can and do most diligently take up their social
responsibilities and seek solutions beneficial to those who do the work
and for the general well-being of society.
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