Quebec is going to be hit by another wave of strike action as a seven-day walkout by public sector workers is set to begin Friday.
The Front Commun — which includes four major unions representing a “common front” of some 420,000 members — is moving ahead with the plan as contract negotiations drag on.
Hundreds of thousands of employees in the health, education and social services sectors will be off the job from Dec. 8 to 14. The latest walkout is set to overlap with other strikes by teachers and nurses.
After the latest offer was rejected Wednesday, Premier François Legault said the government is “very open” on negotiating salary increases but still wants more flexibility from unions on other sticking points.
Here is what you need to know.
Who is on strike?
There are ongoing, rotating strikes as the provincial government negotiates collective agreements with separate unions representing some 600,000 public sector employees.
The Front Commun represents some 100,000 teachers. This means many public schools — including the English Montreal School Board and the Lester B. Pearson School Board — will be closed for the week-long strike.
Aside from the Front Commun’s upcoming walkout, tens of thousands of nurses will also picket next week. Essential services like emergency rooms are maintained by law, but expect delays in health-care institutions.
The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) — which represents 80,000 nurses, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists — says its members will be off the job from Dec. 11 to 14.
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Indefinite teachers strike
The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) represents nearly 65,000 teachers in elementary and high schools. The FAE is negotiating separately from the Front Commun.
Since Nov. 23, those teachers have been on an indefinite strike. No deal has been reached, despite talks between the two sides.
As a result, many French-language schools across the province have been closed for more than two weeks due to overlapping walkouts.
The FAE includes nine unions representing teachers working in several francophone Quebec school boards, including in Montreal, Laval and Quebec City.
What is the latest offer?
The Quebec government tabled its latest offer Wednesday afternoon, just ahead of the fresh wave of walkouts.
The province said it would raise its base offer to 12.7 per cent over a five-year period. In late October, it proposed a 10.3 per cent salary increase.
Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel said they are “determined to settle quickly” and asked unions to continue talks at the bargaining table.
But the unions quickly slammed the newest offer, with the Front Commun saying the proposed salary increases don’t meet inflation. The week-long strike will go ahead as planned. Meanwhile, the FAE submitted its latest counter-offer to the government early Thursday.
On Thursday, Legault appeared willing to up the salary offer but he said the province has not been able to improve the education system over the past 10 years, in large part because of the rigid nature of the collective agreements.
“It is not normal that our network is managed by unions rather than by managers,” he said.
— with files from Global’s Franca Mignacca and The Canadian Press
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