Although this very unusual start to the new school year comes with plenty of concerns of its own, the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ) and the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) nevertheless want to provide an update on the status of negotiations at the sectorial table.
In the last few months, with the pandemic, teachers have not really been focused on the negotiations, but in spite of this, the Government insisted on moving forward in an attempt to ensure social stability in the fall.
In the May 28, 2020 edition of Info-Nego, we told you that, on May 26, the Treasury Board President at the time, Christian Dubé, had published the offers submitted to Government employees on May 22. The FSECSQ and QPAT informed the Government’s negotiators that they were extremely disappointed with the proposals made.
On June 9, the FSECSQ and QPAT negotiating teams tabled a real proposal for an agreement in principle that took into account the changing economic, social and political context resulting from the pandemic, and reflected the teachers’ firm and valid wish for concrete improvements to the conditions in which they must work.
Unfortunately, over the following three weeks, the FSE-CSQ and QPAT realized that the employer party’s claim of wanting to reach an agreement before summer was nothing more than a façade, and that it never truly intended to negotiate seriously.
The employer party remained firmly entrenched behind the May 22 proposal. It also demonstrated no significant openness to the union’s proposals.
Given this, and the abyss separating the employer’s offer from the union’s demands, the FSE-CSQ and QPAT concluded that the negotiation process had ground to a halt and that it would beimpossible to reach a satisfactory agreement before the summer. It was against this backdrop that the union filed a request for mediation on June 26, while clearly indicating its wish to continue the negotiations if the employer was willing to consider the teachers’ demands and situation.
In spite of this new invitation to the Government, asking it to at least think about the teachers’ valid demands, there have been no other negotiation meetings since June 29. On August 31, the mediator appointed to the case concluded that the parties were still too far apart to attempt an agreement. Her report will be published in the next few days.
“Teachers’ everyday lives were already difficult before the pandemic, and will be even harder this year, in particular because many vulnerable students were unable to receive follow-up from school teams during the lockdown, and because the pandemic has hastened the retirement of numerous teachers, exacerbating the staff shortage and placing additional pressure on those who remain,” said QPAT President Heidi Yetman.
“The employer’s latest offer was insulting and had the effect of rallying the teachers’ opposition to it. With 97% voting against the offer, the rejection was categorical. The appointment of Sonia LeBel as President of the Treasury Board opens the door to a change of tone in the negotiations. As a woman, will she be more inclined than her predecessors to correct the discrimination of which teachers are victims under the Pay Equity Act?” said FSE-CSQ Vice-President Luc Gravel.
“Regardless, I hope the teachers were able to relax during the summer. We need them to be in good shape this fall to take on the Government. Thanks to its lack of sincerity in the process so far, the negotiations are far from over,” concluded Mr. Gravel.
As the new school year begins, the FSE-CSQ and QPAT have resumed their mobilization activities, which were interrupted by the health crisis. Among other things, our members have been invited to wear their mobilization t-shirts. Other pressure tactics and outreach activities are planned for the coming weeks and months, in schools and at the provincial level, and will change as the negotiation evolves.
In education, things have to change now!