Quebec public sector strike: What’s happening as 100,000s of workers set to walk

Click to play video: 'Keeping students busy during Quebec’s teachers’ strike?'
Keeping students busy during Quebec’s teachers’ strike?
WATCH: Several hundred thousand Quebec parents are preparing to deal with their kids being home from school this week. This, while public sector workers including teachers go on strike. Some recreation centres are opening their doors specially for kids but many parents say they'll rely on friends and the internet to keep students occupied. Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports. – Nov 20, 2023

In Quebec, hundreds of thousands of teachers and nurses are set to walk off the job this week as contract talks with the province continue to stall.

The province is negotiating salaries and working conditions for contracts with different unions representing some 600,000 public sector employees.

Teachers, nurses, health-care workers, junior college professors and other public sector employees will be on strike at various times during the coming week.

Here is what you need to know.

Most schools closed starting Tuesday

The majority of public schools will be shut down as of Tuesday as wide-scale job action begins in Quebec.

The Front Commun — which includes members of four major public sector unions representing a “common front” of some 420,000 workers — will be off the job between Tuesday and Thursday.

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That group includes the majority of elementary and high school teachers as well as school support staff. It also includes health-care workers like orderlies and technicians.

Parents will have to find other child-care arrangements during the strike since schools and their daycare services will be closed. The Lester B. Pearson School Board and the English Montreal School Board are among the boards affected by the three-day walkout.

Click to play video: 'Quebec students, parents join teachers on picket lines in province-wide strike'
Quebec students, parents join teachers on picket lines in province-wide strike

Nurses off the job later in the week

The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), which represents 80,000 nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists, will be on strike Thursday and Friday.

The FIQ is negotiating separately from the other unions. Among the sticking points are higher salary, better working conditions and lower worker-to-patient ratios.

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Patients should expect slowdowns in hospitals this week, but essential services like emergency rooms will be maintained during strike action.

Click to play video: 'Across Quebec, 80,000 health-care workers launch two-day strike'
Across Quebec, 80,000 health-care workers launch two-day strike

Many teachers will strike indefinitely as of Thursday

Some teachers will be off the job much longer if a deal isn’t reached in the coming days.

The Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE), which is also negotiating separately, represents nearly 65,000 teachers in elementary and high schools. It will launch its own indefinite strike Thursday.

The FAE includes nine unions representing teachers working in several francophone Quebec school boards, including in Montreal, Laval and Quebec City.

This means that Montreal’s major French-language school boards — including the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) and Centre de services scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (CSSMB) — will only be open Monday. Support staff will strike the following day, with teachers’ unlimited general strike to begin Thursday.

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Both school boards note there will be no daycare services while schools are shut down.

Teachers of the Federation autonome de l’Enseignement (FAE) demonstrate as they present their negotiation demands, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022 in front of the legislature in Quebec City. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Why is there a strike?

Quebec’s latest contract offer for all public sector employees was made in late October. It included a 10.3 per cent salary increase over five years, as well as a one-time payment of $1,000 to each worker. It also includes more money for shift workers such as nurses who work nights and weekends.

Sonia LeBel, Quebec’s treasury board president, said the latest offer is a serious one and merits a counter-proposal. The government maintains it is in line with inflation.

The unions roundly rejected the latest offer, with the FAE describing it as “more of an insult,” while the FIQ has said it is “angry and disappointed.” The teachers and health-care unions have said it falls short and does not address problems plaguing schools and hospitals.

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Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet announced Monday on social media that he will appoint a conciliator to help move along collective bargaining talks. The conciliator’s recommendations, however, won’t be binding.

The common front of four major public sector unions had asked for a conciliator.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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