Quebec offers retired teachers financial incentives to head back to work

Quebec Education Minister Jean François Roberge is hoping to attract at least 10 per cent of the some 8,000 teachers who have retired since 2015.

Teachers' union questions age cutoff and lack of incentives for those already on the job

While some schools have enough teachers on tap despite the pandemic, others are lacking staff. The province hopes to attract about 800 teachers back to work. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The Eastern Townships School Board has enough teachers for now, but chair Mike Murray says that could change at any time during a pandemic.

"If teachers become ill or or simply overtired and need to take a break, then we definitely are concerned about having enough supply teachers to meet the requirements," he said.

Other school boards in Quebec are having trouble keeping their ranks filled, but the province's education minister has a solution — he's offering retired teachers a handsome bonus if they agree to come back to work.

Jean François Roberge is hoping to attract at least 10 per cent of the some 8,000 teachers who have retired since July 1, 2015 by offering remuneration according to the salary scale they had just before they retired.

That means a teacher will be able to earn up to $412 daily. That rate is usually capped at $212.15 per day at first.

The idea is to fast-track teachers to their original salary without touching their pensions, the government vows.

Roberge said the hope is that retirees will be on call to fill in for teachers who have to isolate at home.

On Sept. 21, there were 117 full-time teachers missing from the education system, Roberge said.

The minister does not expect 800 retired teachers work full-time classes until June, but given the current situation, "even 10 or 20 days a year could make a difference," Roberge said.

If they wish, retired teachers can work in multiple schools, the minister said, but most prefer to stay in the school they worked at upon retirement. 

Some retirees don't want the risk, Murray says

The financial incentive is due to end June 2021, but Roberge said it could be extended if successful. 

"Is this a measure that will be there in the medium or long term? We will be able to assess it, probably, at the end of the current year," he said. 

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge doesn't expect retirees to work full-time until June. But, he says, working 10 to 20 days a year would help. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

As for Murray in the Eastern Townships, he welcomes the incentive to bring retirees back on the job, but he's not sure how many will be willing to take the risk.

"We'll see how many retired teachers feel comfortable coming back," he said. 

"Generally the older teachers are more concerned about the consequences of potentially catching COVID-19."

Union challenges plan that leaves out current staff

The Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE), a union representing about 49,0000 teachers across Quebec, said Roberge's plan is unfair for those who are already on the job.

The union questions why current employees aren't getting similar incentives to work. 

The union's president, Sylvain Mallette, also questions the motivation behind only offering incentives to those who retired after July 1, 2015.

"Is it because they fear for the health of teachers? Those are questions, too, for which we still do not have an answer," Mallette told Radio-Canada.

With files from Josh Grant and Radio-Canada

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