Quebec teachers brace themselves for new school reform
QUEBEC CITY — With horse carriages, top hats and long dresses, teachers demonstrated in Quebec City streets Wednesday dressed in period costumes in minus 30C temperatures.
“The Couillard government is threatening to take us back 100 years,” shouted Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE) President Josée Scalabrini to the crowd gathered.
Protesters halted in front of the Quebec City building where negotiations for a new collective agreement are taking place.
Last month, Treasury Board Martin Coiteux announced the government would extend teachers’ work week from 32 to 35 hours, without increasing their pay.
He reiterated Wednesday that all Quebecers need to tighten their belts.
“We are making to all public-sector employees what we think are reasonable offers in the current context of the public finances in Quebec,” Coiteux told reporters.
“We expect the collaboration of everybody.”
Teachers’ unions said it is a clear message the government does not value the teaching profession.
“We can’t expect a bill like that to go through without affecting our children and all the people who work at our schools,” said Mélanie Renaud, a spokesperson for the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ).
Union members blamed the Education Minister for spending cuts affecting their work; they fear the upcoming school reform will only increase their workload.
Yves Bolduc is set to present a global plan for education that he hopes will put more students in classrooms — from Grade 3 to high school. Special needs and handicapped students will also be further integrated.
Bolduc said his government has deliberately taken more time to reflect on education because it isn’t a service like others.
“We want to have discussion, we want to work with them but we don’t want to delay the reform for many months,” Bolduc said.
With major reforms now underway in healthcare, daycare and education, unions have promised to get creative and organize more demonstrations.
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