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Public-sector contract talks | 420,000 Front commun members begin a 7-day strike

December 8 2023

Public-sector contract talks | 420,000 Front commun members begin a 7-day strike - APTS

Québec City – On the last day of the regular parliamentary session in Québec City, over 2,500 Front commun members marked the beginning of the longest public-sector strike in the last 50 years by gathering to welcome MNAs. The workers clearly asserted their demands and told the government that even as the holidays approach, they’ll keep on mobilizing until offers that answer their needs are on the table.

“The government may want to take advantage of the current situation to try and corner us and break our movement. The next few days will give it an idea of what to expect if it persists with its stubbornness,” said CSN first vice-president François Enault, CSQ president Éric Gingras, FTQ president Magali Picard and APTS president Robert Comeau, speaking on behalf of the Front commun at a press briefing on Friday morning. “Our movement isn’t running out of steam – on the contrary. The last few weeks have been electrifying, and Quebecers clearly support workers in our public systems. The most recent offer was insufficient. We’ll keep on negotiating, and we won’t back down!”

“Nobody wants to go out on strike,” added the union leaders. “It’s a means, not an end in itself. But people are even more unwilling to see our public systems keep on unravelling. The situation is untenable, and this time, everyone understands that these contract talks are a big part of what could make it better. We’re determined – and our members even more so. Our people deserve better and so does Québec. And that’s what Quebecers, too, are telling the government. There’s a political choice to be made, and now is the time to make it – a choice to establish conditions of work and practice that will finally acknowledge the value of the work done by those who teach, support and care for Quebecers.”

The Front commun’s goal is to reach a settlement before the holidays, and members had given it a mandate to use a series of strike action days according to what was needed at the bargaining tables. The strike beginning today is the last of these series of strike days, and it’s also a final warning. The Front commun has a very strong mandate, adopted by a vote of more than 95%, to launch an unlimited general strike at the most appropriate moment.

For the Front commun, the government bears a significant share of the responsibility for the strike. The current stalemate at the bargaining tables is caused by the fact that the government is refusing to table offers that would meet workers’ urgent needs.

“It’s crazy to have reached this point after negotiating for over a year!” said the Front commun spokespersons. “And we’re still facing the same old strategies on the government’s part. First, they’re not really willing to negotiate. Then, they start negotiating in public by making empty statements. They wait for workers’ mobilization and pressure tactics to reach their peak, and then everything has to happen in a frantic hurry within a few weeks. This time, our people are fed up – and they’re not alone. Solutions do exist, and it’s time to tackle the problems in our public systems head on. Enough is enough!”

The government presented the Front commun with a new offer on Wednesday afternoon, which was found to be clearly insufficient. However, the Front commun reiterates that everything has been set up to bring contract talks to a successful close. Union teams are fully available, and union decision-making bodies have even planned to meet in the week of December 18 to take stock of negotiations. The goal is to reach an agreement that will be satisfactory for all of the workers in Québec’s public systems. And this will only be possible if both working conditions and salary meet their expectations.

The Front commun represents 420,000 workers in health and social services, schools, and CEGEPS, who will be on strike from December 8 to 14 inclusively. The conflict affects all of Québec’s school boards and school service centres, CEGEPs, and health and social service institutions.

For more information on public-sector contract talks: frontcommun.org.