In Quebec, public sector unions representing education and health-care workers will hold another strike in December after walking off the job for three days in November.
Contract talks have stalled, leading to the widespread strike affecting around 600,000 public sector employees. The Front Commun, comprising 420,000 workers, held a three-day strike impacting elementary and high school teachers, school support staff and health-care workers.
Simultaneously, the Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE), representing a different contingent of 65,000 teachers, launched an indefinite strike at the end of November.
The strikes are in response to Quebec’s latest contract offer, viewed by unions as insufficient to address critical issues in schools and hospitals.
Unions representing Quebec teachers have highlighted the urgent need for the provincial government to address severe staff shortages. A recent report revealed up to 5,000 teaching positions were vacant ahead of the school year, prompting a joint plea from labour leaders for better support for school employees.
The FAE, representing 34 Quebec teachers’ unions, emphasized the unmanageable conditions in classrooms, attributing the challenges to decades of neglect by successive governments. Teachers argue that negotiations should prioritize classroom conditions to retain and recruit educators.
Education Minister Bernard Drainville said he aims to have one adult in each classroom, while acknowledging the challenge of finding enough qualified teachers.
Steven Le Sueur, president of the Quebec Professional Association of Teachers, expressed concern over this approach, emphasizing the need for improved working conditions to address the root cause of staff shortages. He highlighted the lack of support for special needs and at-risk students, contributing to a crisis in the education sector and diminishing the attractiveness of the teaching profession.