Common Front unions determined to see things through

Common Front unions determined to see things through
Common Front union members on the picket lines during the snowy day of Dec. 11

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

Despite the sacrifices, local striking unions, part of Quebec’s Common Front of 420,000 public sector workers, are determined to see things through, and some associations are showing their support.

In a show of student unity and activism, the Student Association of Cégep de Sherbrooke (SACS) has announced its unequivocal support for the Common Front’s recent picketing movement at the Cégep campus. The Common Front’s strike, spanning from Dec. 8 to 14, is intended to put pressure on the government at the negotiating table with the stated effort of improving public sector working conditions. The SACS declaration follows a resolution passed at the General Assembly of the association on Oct. 3, underscoring the student body’s firm commitment to the causes championed by the Common Front.

Local teachers

“We know that our strike sequences are having an effect at the negotiating table,” said Brigitte Robert, President of Champlain Lennoxville’s SECCL teacher’s union, a member of the Common Front. The government recently offered the Common Front members a 12.7 per cent salary increase over the next five years, up from their previous offer of 10.3 per cent. The offer was refused. “It was not good enough for us,” said Robert, “because it doesn’t catch up to inflation.”

However, the Common Front sees that the government is “trying”, Robert noted, and there will be a meeting of the government’s negotiating committee this week. There is nothing official yet, she added, but “the rhythm has changed”.

Champlain Lennoxville has revised its school calendar in reaction to the Common Front’s strike actions, to ensure students’ continued success, explained Robert. The semester will now end on Dec. 26 and there will be no makeup classes in January. She is not expecting the school to use Dec. 26, but it is there just in case there is a storm or other obstruction.

One weekend day, Dec. 16, has been newly set aside for exams. The teaching days lost due to the strike, five and a half days, she reiterated, are “gone”. This was a “puzzle” for teachers, and many simply canceled their end of semester evaluations in response, since students could not be reasonably expected to be prepared. Some teachers opted for take-home exams, which add to their marking load, she noted. Since teachers do not wish to work while on strike, exams they have handed out are due on Dec. 15 or later. “We’re going to be grading all over Christmas.”

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