‘Relief’: Quebec reaches tentative deal with teachers, public sector workers

Click to play video: 'Quebec inks tentative deal with striking teachers'
Quebec inks tentative deal with striking teachers
WATCH: Parents across Quebec are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The province has reached a tentative deal with the FAE, one of the major teachers' unions. Global’s Gloria Henriquez has more on the development and how it will likely put an end to the month-long strike in hundreds of schools. – Dec 28, 2023

Quebec could be seeing the beginning of the end of a long-lasting labour conflict between the province and hundreds of thousands of public sector workers.

After weeks of striking, the provincial government and a major teachers’ union had a breakthrough at the bargaining table.

The Federation autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), which represents some 66,000 teachers, has reached a tentative deal with the province over collective agreements late Wednesday.

They’ve reached a consensus regarding working conditions and salaries, according to the offices of Treasury Board Chair Sonia LeBel and Education Minister Bernard Drainville.

“Yes, there is relief,” said Sylvain Martel, head of the Regroupement des comités de parents autonomes du Québec, which represents parents of about 200,000 francophone and anglophone students. “I heard from parents in the week before Christmas and there was a lot of despair.”

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The details of the proposed agreement are not being shared, though.

The union says it first has to bring it to its council. If the council approves it, then it becomes an agreement in principle that will have to be submitted to all union members for a vote.

“We will leave it to our council to determine if this is an agreement in principle that responds to the pressing needs of teachers as well as their students,” FAE president Mélanie Hubert said in a news release.

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“The 66,500 members of the FAE have just spent 22 days in the streets, without pay, to be heard. We will respect our democratic process before saying more.”

For Marc Ranger, a former union leader, this development means the worst is over.

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“I’m very confident that we will be able to put that unlimited general strike behind us,” Ranger said.

The proposed deal comes after an unlimited strike since Nov. 23 and a four-day negotiation blitz. The FAE represents nearly 40 per cent of teachers in the province.

The strike forced the closure of hundreds of schools across Quebec and students were out of class for about four weeks before the holidays.

The FAE is negotiating separately from other unions. Last week, the FSE — the province’s largest teachers union that represents some 100,000 teachers — reached its own agreement over working conditions.

Common Front inks deal on salaries

Striking teachers weren’t the only ones to see some movement in ongoing negotiations Thursday.

The Common Front, a labour alliance of four major unions representing about 420,000 public sector workers in the education and health sectors, said in the afternoon there is a proposed deal with the government on salaries.

It says the tentative deal will be presented over the coming days to its member groups, which will decide whether to take the agreement to workers for a vote.

“On the salary front, the objectives of the common front were based on two key principles: protecting our 420,000 workers against inflation and securing a certain overall catch-up of wages for all workers. And that’s what guided us throughout this negotiation blitz to reach a tentative agreement proposal,” the Common Front said in a news release.

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All the unions affiliated with a Quebec labour alliance representing around 420,000 public sector workers have now reached tentative deals on working conditions with the provincial government. jqb

Quebec’s treasury board president also confirmed the news on social media, but stopped short of revealing any details.

“The details of the agreement will remain confidential until union members have decided on its content,” LeBel wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The latest announcement comes one day after the Common Front confirmed all of its unions had come to a tentative agreement over working conditions.

The Common Front held 11 strike days over the past two months to put pressure on the government. Before Christmas, leaders maintained their members were ready to undertake an indefinite walkout in the new year.

No agreement of any kind with nurses

There is still no deal in place for some 80,000 health-care professionals, ranging from nurses to respiratory therapists.

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The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) confirmed Thursday that talks with the government are in progress.

Those negotiations have reached an impasse and a conciliator has been appointed.

Ranger says that will be a tough battle.

— with files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Quebec nurses, health-care workers begin 4-day walkout'
Quebec nurses, health-care workers begin 4-day walkout

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