English teachers stage May Day protest outside provincial MNA riding office
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Teachers from the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) union held a May Day
protest outside provincial Liberal MNA Geoffrey Kelley’s Jacques-Cartier riding office in Pointe-
Claire last Friday, May 1.
About 100 teachers demonstrated during the lunch hour outside provincial Liberal MNA Geoffrey Kelley’s Jacques-Cartier riding office in Pointe-Claire to denounce the Quebec government’s austerity cuts that they claim will have a long-term detrimental effect on the province’s education system, last Friday, May 1.
The peaceful gathering was one of dozens of May Day protests that were held throughout Quebec by unionized government workers and their supporters to call attention to increases in the student-to-teacher ratio and pension reforms being imposed the province in the education, health care and other public sector fields. Richard Goldfinch, President of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT), which represents English school board teachers throughout the province, said they chose Kelley’s West Island office because they wanted to speak to him and voice their grievances about the increased teacher-to-student ratios and pension reforms.
“Teachers in solidarity; what a beautiful thing to see,” said Goldfinch to the group of assembled teachers who shouted out their support. “We’re going to make noise today to let this government know that we’re not going to take it. Negotiations should be something where two parties speak together.” Goldfinch said the teachers wanted to meet with Kelley, who was not in his office, hoping they would be able to get him to him understand their plight because they feel the government is not listening to their concerns at the negotiating table.
“Teachers go out of their way to make the system work better,” Goldfinch told Your Local Journal. “Our poster says it all: ‘Holding it Together.’ It’s the teachers and support staff that are holding it together in the school system at this point. The government is not putting in its fair share of the money to keep the system going.” Goldfinch decried the government’s assertion that austerity cuts are needed to rein in the deficit and reduce the provincial fiscal debt load which he feels is being done on the backs of unionized employees.
“That’s a lie,” said Goldfinch. “The International Monetary Fund, the granddaddy of austerity, has come out and said austerity doesn’t work so why is the government still holding onto that line? It makes absolutely no sense. What should be happening is an investment in education, in health care and the things that will create a much better Quebec society.” According to Goldfinch, the cuts will further reduce the number of teacher jobs because newcomers will be reluctant to enter the field because of the increased workload that teachers have to assume to do their jobs properly.
“Schools are functioning at the level they should be because we keep taking on more responsibilities,” said Goldfinch. “We’re flat out tired at this point, to the point where there was a survey done on the teacher/work life balance and teachers are saying loud and resoundingly that they need their life back. We go home and do a lot of work after we put in our 32 hours in the classroom.”
Despite the increased workload, Goldfinch stressed that the quality of education has remained the same because of the teacher’s commitment to their students. “We won’t let that happen,” he said. “We’ll continue to do the best we can. That’s who we are. We’re teachers.” Kimberly Lebar, Kelley’s press attaché, spoke to Your Local Journal on Tuesday afternoon from Quebec City and said Kelley couldn’t comment about the protest because there was no formal request made for a meeting.