In response to strike action by education professionals, all elementary and secondary schools in the New Frontiers School Board were closed to students for the entire day on April 29. Vocational centres were able to resume classes in the afternoon following the noon strike deadline.
The protest, which saw around 10,000 members of the Féderation des professionnelles de l’éducation (FPPE) walk off the job from 12:01 a.m. to noon, was part of an ongoing pressure campaign over stalled negotiations with the provincial government.
Several factors concerning the potential safety of students left the NFSB with few choices. The school board was not informed by the union of the exact locations at which members were planning to picket, and it was assumed that other unionized employees would refuse to cross picket lines. According to NFSB director general Rob Buttars, this could have meant children arriving at school with no staff to take care of them.
“An unfortunate but necessary decision had to be made to suspend classes for students,” he confirms.
The option to pivot to online learning for the day was not possible as this strategy, which was used by the NFSB at the secondary level during the April 14 teacher strike, is currently being challenged by teacher unions before the Quebec Labour Tribunal. “We hope to get the legal ruling in the next few days,” notes Buttars.
A full day of strike action planned by the white-collar support staff union will potentially impact the NFSB on May 11.
Teachers nearing an agreement
The Federation of Teaching Unions and the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (FSE-QPAT), which represents the members of the Chateauguay Valley Teachers Association (CVTA), called off strike action planned for April 27 after a breakthrough saw negotiators reach a proposed settlement with the Treasury Council.
The FSE federal council (conseil fédéral) has decided to present the proposal to teachers through local union general assemblies. Several other teacher unions in the province have settled agreements with the government; however, the FSE-QPAT unions say it is too soon to call this an agreement in principle. In the meantime, all other pressure tactics will remain in place.