The message from teachers Monday on the picket line was loud and clear.
“The message I have is that this is really an incredible profession that’s being disregarded, dismembered and it’s horrific,” said Huntley Addie, a John Rennie High School teacher.
Teachers from a common front of unions were taking part in demonstrations across Quebec.
The strike started at midnight Monday, with school staff getting back to work at 10:30 a.m., meaning classes started later for English school boards, French school service centres and CEGEPs.
Teachers say they’re fighting for better wages and working conditions.
“We need better working conditions, we need more autonomy, we need smaller class sizes and we just really need to be respected as professionals,” Beaconsfield High School teacher Jonathan Keane said.
Teachers called the government’s latest offer a joke — and even insulting.
“If the government thinks that 10.3 per cent over five years while their own inflation numbers show 16.7 per cent, that’s just ridiculous,” said Matt Wilson, president of the Pearson Teachers Union.
They argue that if workers in other sectors are being offered increases, so should they.
“Police officers were offered 21 per cent over five years; they turned it down. We would love 21 per cent,” said Kevin Sauders, John Rennie High School teacher. “The MNAs themselves giving themselves these 30 per cent pay raises.”
Doug Bentley, who has two children in the Lester B. Pearson School Board and sits on the English Parents Committee Association, says he fully supports the teachers and what they’re fighting for.
“By keeping teachers out of the classroom, by not responding to their needs does not help the kids,” Bentley said. “And it’s the government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens, to take care of its workers, its teachers.”
And that sentiment was echoed by some students, young and old, who were out picketing alongside their teachers.
“What they get paid and their classroom conditions affects me and my education,” said Mathilda Johnson, a high school student. “I think it’s super unfair that like they’re not getting paid basically a livable wage.”
Treasury Board president Sonia LeBel responded Monday on X, formerly Twitter, that if unions aren’t satisfied with the government’s offer, they should submit a constructive counter-offer.
“A negotiation cannot be one way,” LeBel wrote.
If a new deal isn’t reached, teachers who are part of the common front will be off the job again for three full days from Nov. 21 to 23.
They say they are determined to do whatever it takes to get the government to listen.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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