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Strikes looming across Quebec public service sector

Connor Lalande
Pontiac Oct. 2, 2023
Members of the Syndicat du personnel de l’enseignement des Hautes-Rivières (SPEHR), a teachers’ union in the Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais region, voted 99 per cent in favor of strike action during a general assembly on Sept 25.
The union represents francophone teachers employed at the Commission Scolaire des Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais (CSSHBO) and Centre de services scolaire des Hautes-Laurentides (CSSHL), including “about 80 people in the Pontiac,” according to SPEHR communications representative, Guy Croteau.
The union’s demands include the improvement of class composition and salary that is in line with inflation.
In a press release announcing the strike action vote, SPEHR President Daniel Boisjoli says that while the Quebec government has offered a 9 per cent increase over five years, this offer is less than the province’s own forecast inflation rate of 16.4 per cent.
“If negotiations do not progress at the tables, different actions are envisaged to put pressure on the employer and the government, all of which can go as far as the unlimited general strike,” wrote Croteau in an email to THE EQUITY.
The SPEHR’s vote in favor of strike action does not mean a strike has begun but the decision is part of a broader push for higher public sector wages across the province.
Frustrations with stalled negotiations
Thousands of Quebec’s public sector workers marched in the streets of Montreal on Sept. 23, expressing dissatisfaction with stalled contract negotiations with the provincial government, according to Common Front, a coalition of four public sector unions – Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), the Fédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) and the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS).
Together, these unions represent over 400,000 employees across education, social services and healthcare sectors, including the teachers of SPEHR. Daniel Boisjoli, president of SPEHR, said top priority for the unions is higher wages to match inflation.
Collective agreements between the unions and the provincial government expired in March, the unions that make up Common Front are seeking mandates from their members for an unlimited general strike, which SPEHR members supported. Such was the case with SPEHR’s strike action vote, which is itself part of CSQ.
Unions have until Oct. 13 to acquire strike mandates from their members.
A date for the launch of a potential strike action by union members has yet to be announced.