Explainer: What to know as thousands of Quebec workers go on strike Monday

Both schools and the health-care network will be affected as 420,000 workers head for the picket line

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More than 420,000 public-sector workers will be on strike Monday morning as they call for better pay and improved working conditions.

Picket lines are expected in front of schools and hospitals across the province throughout the morning.

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Here’s a brief look at why the strike is happening and how services will be affected.

Why are workers striking? 

The walkout is led by the Common Front, an alliance of major union federations representing education, health and social service workers.

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Negotiations with the Quebec government over the renewal of their collective agreements have been continuing for the past year.

After rejecting earlier offers from the government, workers voted 95 per cent in favour of strike action in mid-October, ranging from rotating strikes to a full-scale walkout.

Common Front members make an average salary of $43,916 and just under 80 per cent of its members are women.

Some of the issues at play are salaries, pensions and parental rights. Among other requests, the unions are seeking a three-year contract with yearly increases tied to the consumer price index.

The Quebec government made its latest offer last week, but the unions quickly rejected it. The offer included salary increases of 10.3 per cent over five years.

“This offer shows us, again, that the government simply doesn’t understand the problems experienced in public services,” the Common Front said in a statement. “Or the urgency of saving a ship that is about to sink.”

How are schools affected Monday? 

The strike will affect elementary, secondary and specialized schools, including transportation and daycare services.

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In Montreal, schools with the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal, Lester B. Pearson School Board and English Montreal School Board will be closed Monday morning.

CSSDM schools will resume classes in the afternoon, according to usual schedules. LBPSB and EMSB schools will carry on as usual as of 11 a.m.

At CSSDM schools, students can show up 45 minutes before the planned return to class in the afternoon, but daycare, lunchtime supervision and transportation to school won’t be offered before.

At LBPSB and EMSB, schoolyard supervision will be available as of 10:50 a.m.

CEGEP teachers are also taking part in the strike, meaning some Monday morning classes have been cancelled.

Quebec’s network of public daycares, known as CPEs, is not affected by the strike.

Will health care be affected Monday? 

Health-care workers are taking part in Monday’s action, but because of the law that governs essential services in Quebec, disruptions should be limited.

Workers have said they will work at a reduced capacity instead of walking off the job.

On Thursday, Quebec’s Department of Health and Social Services said it has put measures in place to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible despite the strike.

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Emergency and intensive-care services will not be affected, the department said, but the strike will cause “a temporary slowdown in certain activities.”

Some appointments for elective surgeries have been postponed and openings at vaccination clinics were reduced ahead of time to avoid cancellations.

Is more strike action looming? 

After refusing this week’s offer, the Common Front said it hopes Monday’s strike will get its message across “loud and clear.”

But it also didn’t rule out the possibility of a second strike action.

In reacting to the offer, the unions pointed to the Quebec government’s recently proposed wage increases of just under 30 per cent for MNAs.

Beyond Monday’s strike, the 80,000-member nurses union, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), has opted to strike later in the week, on Nov. 8 and 9.

The 65,000 primary and secondary school teachers represented by the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) also voted last week to launch an unlimited strike on Nov. 23.

Their membership includes teachers in Montreal, Laval and Quebec City.

Presse Canadienne contributed to this report.

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Originally posted 2023-11-04 20:42:01.