Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne says a strike by teachers in 10 school boards across the province will not have an effect on the government's position in contract negotiations with the educators.
More than 300,000 Quebec students had the day off school Tuesday because of a one-day teachers strike.
Around 32,000 teachers represented by Fédération autonome de l’enseignement, the umbrella organization for nine regional teachers unions in the province, took part in the one-day protest, a pressure tactic in labour negotiations with the Liberal government.
The teachers, who have been without a contract since the end of March, fanned out in picket lines across Montreal, on the South Shore, in the Outaouais and in other regions.
Courchesne said she did not understand the teachers' decision to strike as students are completing the final days of their school year.
"That is part of their strategies, of course, but I think the best way to find an agreement is not to be in the streets; it is to be around the table," Courchesne told reporters in Quebec City.
She said reports from the mediator overseeing negotiations indicate that it is the union that is stalling the talks.
"We are really concerned with the same issues, so there is no reason why we couldn't reach that solution before the end of June and not jeopardize the beginning of the next school year," Courchesne said.
Several thousand protesters clogged the streets of downtown Montreal to demonstrate outside the offices of Premier Jean Charest.
Though unions representing teachers in other parts of the province have reached an agreement in principal with the government, the federation said its concerns are very different from those of teachers in smaller cities and other jurisdictions.
The teachers said they want smaller class sizes and more support for students with special needs.
Julie Simoneau, a teacher at Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc School in east-end Montreal, said teachers are "fed up" with the increasing number of students with learning difficulties in their classes.
"We know that a child who has difficulties will become better and learn more if he is among people that are average," she said. "But when you have too many of those children and you don't have support, you can't deal with it. You can't teach the others; you can't teach him.
The strike forced parents to make alternative arrangements for their children as most schools also closed their daycares for the day.
Montrealer Mathieu Rivard spent the afternoon at home with his eight-year-old daughter Felicia.
He said he supports the teachers' decision to strike.
"If the teachers are happier in their work, it will benefit my kid and benefit myself, too," said Rivard.