19 August 2021
The 2021 school year is about to begin and the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ) is witnessing the enormous impact of the labour shortage in its sector with hitherto unimaginable situations becoming reality.
“I have never seen a shortage of manpower like this,” laments FPSS-CSQ President Éric Pronovost. “The number of positions still vacant, one week before the start of the school year, is alarming. And it’s not just the 7 or 10 hours per week shifts that aren’t finding takers. Now we are talking about the traditionally highly coveted full-time positions,” he adds.
One of the unions affiliated to the FPSS-CSQ, for example, has yet to fill 9 of its daycare technician positions, something which is unprecedented. “These positions of responsibility are usually quickly filled. But the pressure to operate a daycare in the midst of a pandemic, with a shortage of educators in the network, has become unbearable. People just aren’t interested in taking on these jobs, especially with the salaries being offered,” says Éric Pronovost.
In another union affiliated to the FPSS-CSQ, school support staff such as special education technicians and social work technicians are receiving calls from their local health and social service centers offering them full-time, permanent positions. “This is insane! Public sector networks are now competing with each other. And the education sector cannot compete. Budget envelopes for support staff are meager and the needs are immense. We are literally asking our members to work miracles with nothing while offering them uncompetitive conditions and for just a few hours a week,” laments Pronovost.
After conducting its assignment procedures for regular and permanent employees for 2021-2022, another affiliated union is short 73 special education technicians, 136 daycare educators and 15 handicapped student attendants. “And these figures only apply to one school service center. Imagine all the positions still unfilled throughout the province. There are so many we don’t know about yet. And above all, we need to consider all the students who won’t be receiving the services they need,” adds the President of the Federation.
An avoidable situation
“We have been talking about labour shortages since 2013… we have been warning successive governments of what was coming, and we have been proposing realistic solutions that would have a significant impact. But none of these governments took action. And so we find ourselves in a situation this year with a labour shortage that is extreme, in the midst of a pandemic moreover,” says Pronovost.
Offering school support staff full-time, permanent positions and higher salaries is part of the solution. But the work they perform and what they contribute need to be recognized. “We saw this with our orderlies last year. Appreciation of their work, along with better salaries and working conditions, is needed to counter the labour shortage in so-called support jobs. It’s not a mystery and we know how to solve the problem. But the government is still waiting for things to hit rock bottom before taking any action. I think we are almost there…” concludes Éric Pronovost.