Quebec educational professionals propel unprecedented strike vote amid tensions over government neglect
In an unprecedented upheaval, education professionals in Outaouais, represented by the Syndicat du personnel professionnel du milieu scolaire de l’Outaouais (SPPMSO - CSQ) and affiliated with the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’Éducation du Québec (CSQ), have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a potential strike. During a general assembly held on September 26, 2023, 98.5% of members voiced their support for a strike mandate, which could escalate to an indefinite general strike, expressing significant discontent with the current governmental offers on table, particularly concerning perceived setbacks on retirement and salary propositions that lag behind inflation rates.
Annie St-Pierre, president of SPPMSO - CSQ, highlighted the growing unrest among professional staff who feel that education is far from being a priority for the current government. “The dissatisfaction is at its zenith at the moment among the professional staff, who feel education is being sidelined by the current government,” declared St-Pierre. “Professionals are prepared to strike if the Treasury Board continues to turn a deaf ear,” she added.
The strike proposition not only focuses on salary but also emphasizes multiple overlooked solutions proposed to ameliorate working conditions for education professionals. Proposals include facilitating access to telework and flexible schedules, conceding more leave, and incorporating flexibility in management to maintain a balance between work, family, and personal life. Implementing such measures is seen as a crucial step towards retaining and attracting more professional staff for the benefit of students.
This move is part of a larger, historically unparalleled labor movement witnessed over the last 50 years, which sees participation from over 420,000 workers across public health, social services, education, and higher education sectors.
Following the reluctance and closure stance of the Quebec government after nearly a year of negotiations, unions constituting the common front have initiated a series of general assemblies to acquire a strike mandate, potentially leading to an unlimited general strike. The initiation of such a general strike will follow sequential, lesser strikes, allowing members of CSN, CSQ, FTQ, and APTS to democratically express their stance through a secret vote. The series of general assemblies are scheduled to continue until October 13, 2023, following which the common front plans to reassess the prevailing circumstances.
The FPPE - CSQ, which represents 19 unions and 12,500 members spread across nearly all school service centers and school boards in Quebec, is playing a pivotal role in this scenario. It includes members from various sectors such as administrative, pedagogical, and direct services to students, including psychologists, educational advisors, speech therapists, guidance counselors, and special educators.
Similarly, SPPMSO - CSQ, representing close to 400 members across various school service centers in the region, is inclusive of different categories of staff, emphasizing the diverse representation in the ongoing negotiations and potential strike.
In the face of government’s apparent disinterest and unresponsiveness, this vote for a strike mandate by educational professionals in Outaouais reflects the mounting frustrations and is a significant development in the broader, unprecedented labor movement witnessed in the region.
Photo caption: Educational professionals in Outaouais during the general assembly on September 26, where 98.5% voted in favour of a strike mandate, highlighting the growing unrest and dissatisfaction with the current government's approach to education and professional working conditions.
Photo caption: Courtesy of Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ).