Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region Tour – We absolutely need to improve the quality of school support staff jobs

13 May 2022

“For years we have been denouncing the precariousness of the vast majority of jobs held by school support staff throughout Quebec. This situation is making it increasingly difficult to retain existing staff and attract new workers, especially in the schools in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region. Improving the quality of school support staff jobs must be at the heart of our next round of negotiations.”

Éric Pronovost, President of the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ), is visiting the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region today as part of a major consultation of its 33,500 members, including those in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean school service centers. He is accompanied by Sandrine Hovington, President of the Syndicat régional des employés de soutien (SRES-CSQ), Nancy Gagnon, President of the Syndicat du personnel de soutien scolaire de Jonquière (SPSSJ-CSQ), and Valérie Savard, President of the Syndicat du personnel de soutien scolaire du Pays-des-Bleuets (SPSSPB-CSQ).

Although the consultation process is just beginning, Éric Pronovost believes the demand for more regular and continuous working hours will be at the heart of the demands.  “The average salary of a support employee is only $30,000 a year and 70% of our members hold precarious jobs.  In such a context, is it any wonder that school service centers are having trouble retaining staff and attracting a new generation of employees?” asks the union leader.

The solution to the staff shortage

Pronovost says that, if we want to put an end to the shortage of support staff in schools, we need to provide attractive working conditions and jobs that are sufficiently interesting to be considered a career. He says the FPSS-CSQ intends to mobilize its members over the next few weeks, relying on their solidarity to send a clear message to the Legault government: school support staff deserve more than precarious jobs. Enough is enough!

 Tough competition

Sandrine Hovington, President of the SRES-CSQ says her members have several areas of concern, particularly when it comes to the staff shortage.  “School service centers in the regions have to deal with the very real problem of attracting and retaining staff.  Indeed, they are forced to compete with large companies in the private sector, which provide better working conditions for their employees.  So, it is not uncommon for support staff to leave their positions for better jobs elsewhere.”

Skilled workers are not happy

Nancy Gagnon expects the remuneration of skilled workers to also be on the table in the next round of negotiations. “I am thinking specifically about very competent electricians, plumbers and carpenters, who carry out tasks and duties similar to their colleagues in the construction sector, without being entitled to the same salary. This obviously generates a feeling of unfairness,” laments the President of the SPSSJ-CSQ. She wouldn’t be surprised to see these skilled workers demand that the 10% attraction and retention premium obtained in the last round of negotiations be integrated into the collective agreement and added to their salaries, making the payment permanent.

Valuable staff who deserve more recognition

Valérie Savard deplores the fact that people who leave are not always replaced.  This exacerbates the work overload of the staff who remain.  “Support staff hold all sorts of jobs.  We are talking about more than 80 different job classifications.  These workers are invaluable and intervene everywhere in our schools, whether in support of students or their teaching and professional colleagues, as well as the administration.  It is obvious that our school network cannot function without support staff, and it is high time we give them the recognition and working conditions they deserve,” concludes the President of the SPSSPB-CSQ.