Vanier and other Cegeps will be expecting teachers’ strikes this fall, with 90.5% of Vanier teachers voting in favour of a six day rotating strike sometime after elections. So why are teachers striking?
Every five years, Cegeps make a new collective agreement with the Federation of Cegeps and the Ministry of Education, but this year, “the government is not serious about negotiating”, said Eric Durling, the president of the Vanier College Teachers’ Association. They say that their demands are not being heard, and that large cuts are expected for all Cegeps in Quebec.
Beyond that, the government is also planning to remove the portion of the collective agreement which guarantees the amount of funding Cegeps would receive, as well as attempting to change the student to teacher ratio, so that Cegeps can have the same amount of students but with less teachers. Doing so would increase the number of students per class, as well as the hours per week teachers would need to dedicate to the job. Cuts to pension incomes are also being made. So far, no official date for the strike has been confirmed.
Cegeps in Quebec have made an alliances with the federations FNEEQ-CSN (the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec) and FEC-CSQ (the Fédération des Enseignantes et Enseignants de Cégep) and have prioritized several demands.
Cegep teachers and workers in the public sector are asking for a raise of 4.5 % each year, for three years, and Cegep teachers are asking to keep their pensions the same. The Government instead, is offering a raise of 3% over 5 years, as well as a decrease in pension income and an increase in penalties for early retirement. “We don’t understand why they’re attacking our pensions, because [their funds] are in very good shape”, said Durling.
Most of all, demands are being made for better working conditions. Their first priority is to make working conditions for non-tenure teachers (those who work on contract, without much job security) better. Non-tenure teachers, such as those in Continuing Education, are only paid hourly, and are not paid for time that is dedicated to seeing students outside of class. Cegeps are arguing these teachers should be paid more fairly, and for their time spent outside of class.
The second and third priorities revolve around Cegep teachers’ increasing work load. Their second priority is to increase resources for students with disabilities, and to make classroom sizes smaller to allow for teachers to dedicate more time to these students. Since classroom size isn’t taken into consideration, teachers’ workload increases to accommodate these students. The third priority is to clearly define, in the collective agreement, what measures will be taken when making schedules in order to balance teacher’s workload with their training, family, and out of school work. “A lot of teacher’s are new parents”, said Durling.
Their fourth priority is to give teachers more autonomy in their academic bodies, such as in their departments, program committees, and academic councils. When the government proposes Cegeps to introduce new things into the curriculum, what the teachers say isn’t always considered, said Durling. “Teacher’s should play a role in deciding if and how new initiatives come about. We want to be consulted”, he said.
Their last priority is to provide more remuneration for teachers with higher levels of education. “We don’t make a lot more money than secondary teachers”, said Durling, who mentioned that differences in the pay scales between secondary teachers and Cegep teachers with masters and PHD’s varies by only a few thousand. “We give students a higher quality of education, and it should be recognized”
Cegep teachers are not the only one’s expected to strike. Secondary school teachers went on strike Wednesday the 30th over increases in working hours per week, as well as cuts to pensions. Public sector workers went on strike October 3rd over salary freezes and changes from the age of retirement from 60 to 62.
Written By: Miriam Lafontaine
Originally Published: September 2015