Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik January 23, 2018 - 1:15 pm

Nunavik teachers’ union files strike notice

School board has made concessions, but they're nowhere near initial demands: union

SARAH ROGERS
Members of the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec demonstrate outside the Montreal office of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq last spring. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AENQ)
Members of the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec demonstrate outside the Montreal office of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq last spring. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AENQ)

The union representing Nunavik teachers says its members go on strike starting Jan. 31 if they cannot reach an agreement with the region’s school board.

The Association of Employees of Northern Quebec (AENQ) represents Nunavik’s roughly 300 teachers, who have been without a contract since March 2015. Though the group has threatened job action, it has yet to strike.

The union most recently met with Kativik Ilisarniliriniq officials last week, where AENQ president Larry Imbeault said the school board improved its offer on one of the union’s priority issues—dedicated and increased funding to support Nunavik students with special needs.

But the union says it’s “light years away” from its initial demand and said there are few guarantees that each school in the region would have adequate access to that funding.

“What we don’t agree with is the [terms] surrounding these additional resources,” Imbeault said.

With the union and employer at an impasse, the AENQ sent the school board a strike notice last week.

If parties fail to reach an agreement-in-principle over the next week, teachers will go on a general strike starting Jan. 31, Imbeault said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. The union will meet with the school board this week, Imbeault said, and the strike could be cancelled as late as Jan. 30.

“We are hopeful that an agreement will have been reached by January 31,” said the Kativik Illisarniliriniq in an email to Nunatsiaq News, though the school board declined to comment any further on the negotiations.

But frustration has only grown among teaching staff, Imbeault said, who are now two and half years without a contract.

Apart from increased assistance for special needs students, the union has asked for more attractive working conditions for its teachers, which in turn would also help with the teacher shortage in the region.

The union wants changes to the criteria for the reimbursement of expenses for the transport of food, and better maintenance on teachers’ housing units.

As part of contract negotiations, Nunavik teachers and support staff asked for a 4.5 per cent salary increase a year over a three-year period, which has been agreed on, but won’t be implemented until the agreement is signed.

After talks broke down in 2016, the AENQ filed a complain with Quebec’s Labour Board, which ordered the KI to file its proposals.

And while the two parties came back to the table in January 2017, little progress made throughout the year.

Nunavik teachers are the only group in Quebec that has yet to settle a 2015-2020 collective agreement. 

In December, the AENQ reached an agreement-in-principle with the KI’s support staff, while another union representing school board professionals signed its own agreement-in-principle in mid-December.

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