Back to school THE priority for education will be negotiations

21 August 2023

As the fall school term approaches, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and its school network federations are reminding the public that the issues that affect the education network and that impact the services it provides are intertwined with the public-sector negotiations currently underway.

“Every year the back to school period is a time of excitement and enthusiasm for students and for staff. However, once the high spirits have subsided, the basic issues remain. Nothing new on that score. Yet, although some people would like to reinvent the wheel, the fact is that this school year is once again getting off to a start in a context of staff shortages in all the employment categories of the network. The government would like to have a winning, magical and simple solution, but whether it likes it or not, the shortage and attraction issues have a common denominator, that is, working conditions,” emphasized the president of the CSQ, Éric Gingras.

Assembled at a joint press conference, CSQ president, Éric Gingras, the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ) president, Josée Scalabrini, the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ) president, Éric Pronovost, and the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ) president, Jacques Landry, stressed the fact that in order to improve the working conditions of school staff, the challenges facing the school network cannot be separated from negotiations.

“Last year at this time, it was said that appeals to everyone to replenish the staff in our schools and our centres wind up having an impact on the morale of teaching, support and professional personnel if no structuring measures are included to actually promote and value the work, the competencies and the professionalism of the personnel of the school network and to make all jobs in the network more attractive and more competitive. This is exactly what happened throughout the past year and not a week went by without the topic making the news from one angle or another. Today, no one questions the fact that the working conditions of network personnel are the starting point for breaking the infernal cycle of staff shortages. In our view, it’s clear. This fall, THE priority for education to bring about tangible change and impact in the work settings, in the day-to-day realities of personnel and in the services they provide, is negotiations,” explained Éric Gingras.

The Drainville reform is not a priority!

Another element that appears to be a certainty for the Centrale: Bill 23, tabled by the Education Minister in May, does not meet the priorities of the education network and offers no solutions for the challenges the school network is facing and that nevertheless require an urgent response. By granting more power to the Education Minister, the legislation does not promote commitment on the part of the network’s stakeholders. Why this Bill? That is the question we are all asking! It was tabled at a time when no one was expecting it and without any prior consultation. For the CSQ, that is the wrong message to be sending to the network.

“And yet, we are well-positioned to know that it takes much more than a minister to secure educational success! At the CSQ, we represent personnel working in all employment categories, throughout the network, and all across Québec, which gives us a full portrait of the issues. The school network is an ecosystem in which each personnel category is an interdependent link with the others. That is the strength of the network. Perhaps this is precisely the moment to make use of and to value this strength instead of seeking to make political and public relations gains. As this school year kicks off, we hope that negotiations at the tables will be supported in this regard.”

Lighten the load before we walk out

“The priority is certainly not another shakeup of school structures or an attack on the professional autonomy of teachers by choosing their continuing education activities for them. At the parliamentary hearings, the Minister formulated a desire “to be useful for something.” I invite him to leave his mark on the profession—nothing less! —by returning teaching resources to us. We can no longer manage because of the weight and the complexity of workloads and we won’t be able to solve the issues without a review of class composition. If the Minister wants to change things for the better, he must listen to the teachers.” – Josée Scalabrini, President of the FSE-CSQ

Improve the quality of support staff jobs

“The problem of staff shortages is a major issue for members of the FPSS-CSQ. We are demanding specific measures to improve the attraction and the retention of personnel. This requires quality jobs in full-time positions, the end of split schedules, the valuing of all support staff jobs, and work-life balance. Tangible actions are required to solve the problems. Given the context of staff shortages, the high level of insecurity in support staff positions is absurd. Putting an end to working in emergency conditions, taking action upstream and preventing problems rather than being subjected to them, that is what staff long for.” – Éric Pronovost, President of the FPSS-CSQ

Experience success, make progress and grow

“It is appalling and overwhelming to see that students in difficulty do not receive the services to which they are entitled by law. However, we must recognize that the shortage of professionals has never been so glaring. It affects all school service centres. The government needs to send a signal of hope and prove that education is still a priority in Québec. We have to take advantage of the negotiations in progress to significantly improve conditions for personnel. If we want to see brightening horizons, a major effort has to be made to attract and retain professionals for students.” – Jacques Landry, President of the FPPE-CSQ.

From Left to right: Jacques Landry, president FPPE-CSQ; Éric Pronovost, president FPSS-CSQ; Josée Scalabrini, president FSE-CSQ; Éric Gingras, president CSQ