A guide to today's French-language teachers' strike
5 things to know about the strike day by teachers from Quebec's French school boards
The teachers' strike affecting French school boards will cause a lot of headaches for parents whose kids will have a mandatory day off on Wednesday. But do you know why teachers are striking and what they're demanding? Read on.
1. Who is affected by Wednesday's strike?
About 275,000 children attending French schools in Montreal, Laval, the North Shore, Outaouais and Granby. Also, English students who attend FACE will be affected because the school is run jointly by the English Montreal School Board and the Commission Scolaire de Montréal.
The Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE), which represents about a third of teachers in the province, has decided to exercise its right to strike on September 30. The union plans to hold a large demonstration in Montreal to put pressure on the government to renew their collective agreement. At the same time, they want to denounce the cuts in education.
2. What do the teachers want?
Unions have denounced the government's proposal to increase the number of students in the latter years of elementary school and in Secondary 1 and 2.
Quebec also wants to increase the teachers's working week from 32 to 35 hours (and even 40 hours depending on the employer's final proposal) without any wage increases.
Current working conditions
Currently, teachers are required to work 32 hours every week. In elementary school, it involves 23 hours of instruction, four hours of additional activities and five hours for preparation, marking and meetings with parents. In high school, it's 20 hours of instruction and seven of complementary activities.
On wages, teachers are demanding increases of 13.5 per cent over three years: 7.5 per cent on the first year and 3 per cent per year for following years.
The government proposed a wage freeze until 2016 and an increase of 1 per cent per year until 2019.
The government also wants to make changes to the pension plan or delay the retirement age and add penalties for early retirement.
The negotiations come as Quebec begins major cuts in education.
3. How are the negotiations going?
The negotations have been ongoing since the teachers' contract expired in April. The unions rejected management's latest offer on September 22.
Over the past nine months, there have been more than 50 meetings, but the parties failed to reach an agreement on any of the points.
4. Are there other strike days planned?
The FAE has announced it will hold two more strike days, one of them between October 14 and 30.
The unions under the Fédération syndicale de l'enseignement (FSE), which represents 65,000 other teachers, are trying to approve mandates from their members to hold six days of rotating strikes.
These days, which could be switched on a regional or provincial basis, will be coordinated with all unions that are part of the "Common Front". This includes teachers from English school boards, educational professionals, technicians. and support staff.
These negotiations with the government are part of the wider renewal of collective agreements of public sector employees. This includes 267,200 people in the health and social services, 38,300 in colleges, 188,400 in school boards and 83,800 in the public service.
5. What about English schools?
Parents of students enrolled in Quebec's English public school system won't have to worry about a teachers' strike for about a month.
Even though English school boards have been voting overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate, it probably won't happen before the Oct. 19 federal election.
"We're probably looking at Oct. 26 to Oct. 28 at the earliest," said John Donnelly, president of the Pearson Teachers Union.