Teachers union mulls possible strike action this fall
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
About 200 teachers from the Pearson Teachers Union protested lagging provincial government contract talks during a demonstration outside the Fairview Centre in Pointe Claire last Friday, May 15.
Lagging contract talks between teachers and the provincial government could result in possible strike action in the fall, said John Donnelly, President of the 3,000 member Pearson Teachers Union (PTU), last Friday, May 16 Donnelly made the remark to Your Local Journal during a protest that saw more than 200 PTU teachers carrying banners and placards march peacefully along Brunswick Boulevard and around the perimeter of the Fairview Centre in Pointe-Claire to publicize their plight.
The group later congregated along the west side of Boulevard St. Jean near Highway 40 to garner public attention for their protest. Several motorists honked their horns in support of the teachers’ action. With about four weeks left before the end of the school year, Donnelly said contract negotiations are expected to resume in earnest in the fall and he wants the teacher’s union members to be prepared for some tough negotiating sessions and to take necessary action to make sure the government listens to their demands. “We’re here today to protest the obnoxious government demand that’s been put on us for a contract and also to protest the lagging contract negotiations which haven’t been going anywhere for the last four months.
The government refuses to budge or even negotiate,” said Donnelly. “The teachers are very angry and frustrated,” Donnelly added. “We have to find a way to move the negotiations forward and that may be in the form of many actions including a possible strike in the fall,” Among the issues that have dominated public sector teacher contract negotiations include proposals by Quebec Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux to increase class sizes and working hours for teachers, and to limit pay increases to three per cent over the next five years. “I guess anyone would be upset over a five year contract offer with no salary increase for the first two years and one percent for the next three years,” said Donnelly.
“That’s three per cent over the next five next years, less than the cost of living increase, so actually it’s a bit of a salary cut.” The proposed increase in class size will also have a detrimental effect on the quality of education especially since there will be no support for special needs students, said Donnelly. “From a teaching standpoint, we are majorly concerned about their desire to negate class sizes and put it up to whatever they want to,” said Donnelly. “This puts regular students at risk also because they won’t get the attention. The teachers will be too busy trying to handle all the problems.”
Donnelly is also upset about the proposed increase in the work week, from 32 hours to 35, hours with no increase in pay, which would also result in the loss of autonomy for teachers who have historically used five hours a week to do lesson plans, corrections and have meeting with parents. Richard Goldfinch, President of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT), which represents English school board teachers throughout the province, is also critical of the contract proposals made by the government and directed his comments directly to Coiteux during a speech to union members.
“You have no right to destroy our public education system,” Goldfinch told the gathering. “It’s taken us 50 years to build one of the best education systems in the world. How dare you think with your austerity measures that you can come and dismantle what we built for our students? We need to shake Mr. Coiteux. We stand tall and we stand strong. We will not let them not beat us down. We need to win.”