Estrie Region witnesses massive public sector strike and demonstration
By William Crooks
Local Journalism Initiative
In a significant show of solidarity, the Common Front public sector unions organized a major demonstration on Nov. 23 in Sherbrooke, which commenced at 10:30 a.m. This event marked the culmination of the recent three strike days and saw a large turnout (numbering in the thousands) from both the striking workers and the wider Estrie community.
The provincial government faced significant pressure as over 420,000 workers from the Common Front, comprising CSN, CSQ, FTQ, and APTS, with 25,000 members in the Estrie region, went on a three-day strike from Nov. 21 to 23. This collective action highlighted the mounting tensions in public sector negotiations.
Key figures such as Nathalie Arguin, General Secretary of CSN, Richard Bergevin, President of the Syndicat de l’Enseignement de l’Estrie (CSQ), Éric Bergeron, Union Advisor for SCFP (FTQ), and Danny Roulx, National Representative of the APTS, led the march that began from Cégep de Sherbrooke. The procession wound its way through the city streets, culminating in a series of speeches at the intersection of Wellington and King Streets.
The demonstration was not just a display of unity but also an educational platform, with statistics shared to better understand the stakes of the ongoing negotiations:
1) The average salary of Common Front public sector employees stands at $43,916.
2) They face a salary gap of -11.9 per cent and an overall compensation gap of -3.9 per cent.
3) Notably, women constitute 78 per cent of the Common Front’s membership.
The strike and demonstration were part of a broader movement by the CSN, CSQ, FTQ, and APTS, representing a considerable number of state workers in Quebec’s public sectors, including education, health, and social services, and higher education.
Nov. 23 demonstration
Speaking first to the massive crowd in the heart of Sherbrooke, and perched on a mobile platform parked in front of La Maison du Cinéma, Bergeron said, “all of Quebec is behind you!” We are fighting for better working conditions, he insisted. He led a chant of the Common Front’s official slogan: “Us! With one voice!”
“420,000 times ‘hello’!” Arguin shouted to resounding cheers. We are having the biggest chat with Premier Francois Legault that Canada has ever seen, she went on. “Legault is hearing our demands but is he listening?” she asked rhetorically. The 78 per cent women and the rest of the public sector employees, she said, exude professionalism and expertise, and are engaged.
The public sector is not an expense, but an investment, and the road to proper investment is at the negotiating table. They and the public deserve Legault’s full attention. Good public service begins with good working conditions, and they will continue in solidarity to make sure that happens.