Pontiac Oct. 30, 2023
Two unions representing teachers at Pontiac schools have announced they will be holding simultaneous strikes on Nov. 6.
The announcement follows members of both the Syndicat du personnel de l’enseignement des Hautes-Rivières (SPEHR) and the Western Quebec Teachers Association (WQTA) unions voicing nearly unanimous approval of a strike action earlier in October.
Negotiations are ongoing and the possibility of an agreement being made prior to Nov. 6th remains. Nevertheless, union representatives say the strike action has been a long time coming.
“The time was deemed appropriate for the strike by the Common Front and the SPEHR because the government offers have not moved for nearly a year after the filing of our requests and despite numerous negotiation meetings,” said SPEHR communications representative Audrey-Anne Gagnon of the strikes’ timing.
The SPEHR demands include the improvement of class composition and salary that is in line with inflation.
SPEHR represents the francophone teachers of the Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais School Service Centre , the school board that administers francophone schools and education centres in the MRC Pontiac.
Anne Gagnon said that the union represents “about 80 people in the Pontiac,” and that all francophone schools in the region will be affected.
SPEHR declined to comment on the specific actions members will take during the Nov. 6 strike action.
In response to SPEHR’s strike announcement, the Hauts-Bois-de-l’Outaouais service centre posted a statement to their website on Oct. 27 saying the school board was aware of the union’s labour action.
“Currently, various scenarios are being evaluated regarding the continuation or suspension of our services in the event of a strike,” the statement read.
The school service centre vowed to keep parents and guardians informed on any updates as they occur.
WQTA, which represents over 500 teachers across 33 different schools and centres in the Western Quebec School Board, will simultaneously be holding labour actions on Nov.6.
WQTA is one of 10 unions that represent teachers in the English sector in Quebec.
The 10 unions collectively make up the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT). All ten unions will be participating in the November 6 labour actions.
“This is an attempt to kickstart negotiations that are currently stalled,” wrote WQTA President Brian Smeltzer in an email to THE EQUITY.
“We deposited our demands a year ago. . . there has been no movement in the negotiations.”
The union’s demands, published by the union collective on Oct. 31 of last year, focus on a number of factors such as the professional autonomy of teachers and the attraction and retention of staff.
Class composition and workload are also central concerns of the unions.
“All the English schools in the region of the Outaouais and the English schools in the Abitibi - Temiscaming will be picketing outside their buildings until 10:30 a.m.,” wrote Smeltzer, detailing the plans for Nov. 6.
“The teachers will then report to their buildings for work,” he wrote. “The strike is indicated from midnight to 10:30 a.m., however the teachers will be outside,off school grounds, a half hour before the start of the day until 10:30.”
In response to QPAT’s strike action, the Western Quebec School Board has announced that it will be cancelling all educational services on Nov. 6.
In a letter to parents distributed on Oct. 27, the WQSB wrote it had decided to “cancel all classes, transportation, and daycare services” throughout the board and that it would inform parents “should there be any changes in the situation.”
Common front across Quebec
Strike actions by SPEHR and WQTA are part of a broader labour movement taking place across the province.
Common Front, a coalition of several of Quebec’s largest public service union federations, is in the process of a collective bargaining negotiation with the provincial government over wages and working conditions.
Common Front represents some 420,000 workers in the sectors of healthcare, education and social services.
Both SPEHR and WQTA are a part of broader public service unions represented by Common Front and are moving in solidarity with the coalition.
According to Common Front, if its “message isn’t heard, a second strike action sequence may be organized.”
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