Nunavik teachers to vote on strike mandate
Taxable housing benefit too high, union says
The union that represents teachers of the Kativik School Board says its members will vote on a strike mandate before Christmas if the board does not agree to certain demands.
Those demands include better services for special needs students and lowering the value of the taxable housing benefit for teachers from the south.
Patrick D’Astous, the president of the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec, says the positions taken by each party during contract negotiations “remains far apart.”
The AENQ began negotiating new contracts for its 1,400 members in nine James Bay Cree communities and 14 Nunavik villages about a year ago.
On Nov. 23, the union announced it had reached an agreement in principle for its members with the Cree School Board.
But the AENQ says its first priority is the creation of a policy for Nunavik students with special needs.
“The KSB is the only school board in Quebec without a policy,” D’Astous said, adding the board needs organized services and professionals to assess and support those students.
The AENQ also met with representatives of the Quebec revenue department Nov. 26 to talk about the union’s efforts to have the KSB lower the value of the subsidized housing it provides to teachers recruited from the south.
The union argues that the KSB places too high a value on its housing units in Nunavik, which results in its members being overtaxed.
D’Astous said, for example, that a KSB teacher living in Kuujjuaraapik ends up being charged with a taxable housing benefit that is almost double that of a counterpart living down the street in Whapmagoostui, which is served by the Cree School Board.
For a teacher living in a two-bedroom home in Nunavik, the taxable housing benefit on their T4 slip might be $6,861 each year, while a Cree School Board teacher’s benefit is estimated at $3,821, the AENQ says.
So a housing value on par with the Cree School Board could mean $2,000 less in income taxes that Nunavik teachers would be required to pay each year.
The housing tax benefit is not written into the teachers’ contract, D’Astous said, but the union committed to making changes to it a prerequisite to any new agreement.
A spokesperson from the KSB and the education department could not be reached for comment by press time.
Negotiations continue next week, when D’Astous said there could be an “open window” to reach to an agreement.
“I believe that [Quebec’s education ministry], the KSB and the AENQ, have the obligation to strive to reach a deal that will bring some hope for the parents of Nunavik,” D’Astous said.”
“In Nunavik… the challenges are so numerous and huge that there is also an obligation to start respecting each other and really working together.”