Many Quebec schools closed Monday for one-day strike

Many public school students stayed home Monday morning, as 54,000 Quebec teachers hit picket lines to protest against stalled contract talks with the province.

Parents scramble to find care as 54,000 Quebec public school teachers take day off to strike

Angie Gery and her daughter Elizabeth will have extra company at home this week, as Gery's two sons are facing strike days at school.

Parents were left scrambling to find care for their children on Monday, as 54,000 Quebec teachers hit picket lines for the first of as many as six rotating strike days planned to protest against stalled contract talks with the province.

In the Montreal area, strikes were confined to French-language school boards and affected all 54,000 students at the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys's 95 schools. Those schools will also be closed for a second day of strikes on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Teachers and support staff at the English-language Wilfred Laurier School Board – which includes schools in Laval, the Laurentians and in the Lanaudière region – are also carrying out two days of strikes, on Monday and again on Thursday, Oct. 29.

School was cancelled in many other regions of Quebec, including Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, the Outaouais, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Northern Quebec, where all schools serving Quebec's Cree and Inuit communities are also closed.

Parents missing work, searching for sitters

For working parents, the rotating strike days mean staying on top of the notifications their children bring home from school and planning for alternative care for as many as six days in the coming weeks.

Even for a stay-at-home mom like Angie Gery of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, the strike is complicating her life.

Angie Gery's two sons, one of whom has special needs, are attending two different schools. One is off on both Monday and Thursday, the second is off on Thursday only.  

"It's a juggle," Gery said. "Sometimes you have doctors' appointments that you've been waiting for months to have. If you can't bring your children, then you lose that appointment."

6 strike days planned

Teachers' unions have voted for another two days of rotating strikes in November at many school boards.  In addition, the majority have voted to join in a three-day general strike of public-sector workers on Dec. 1, 2 and 3, if there is no progress in negotiations before that date. (More information here).

The strike action is being held in response to a lapse in contract negotiations, a union leader told CBC.

"We want negotiations to advance. We managed to make some advances a few weeks ago then negotiations slow back down," said Jacques Létourneau, the president of the CSN, the Confederation of National Trade Unions.

The teachers are striking for higher salaries, but that is not their only goal.

"I am not doing it for the money but more for the kids," said Lajoie school teacher Jean-Francois Taylor-Wingender. "There are too many kids in the schools and not enough material in the classrooms. It's very hard for us. Some kids need special help and it's very hard for teachers."

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