Education workers join Montreal rally calling for new contract
Union representing Nunavik workers cites education specialist shortage, poor living conditions as issues to be addressed
Car horns and music blared in the parking lot of a Quebec government building in downtown Montreal Wednesday at a rally by unions from around the province representing education workers seeking a new contract.
Approximately 30 people were at the rally.
Outside the Education Ministry building, Carolane Desmarais, president of the Union of Professional Education Personnel of Nunavik and West of Montreal, handed out blue flags that read, “Pros de l’éducation en négotation,” meaning education professionals in negotiations.
“It’s an added challenge,” she said in French, regarding negotiating a contract for Nunavik’s teachers. “It has been years since we have had psychologists in Nunavik [schools], and we know all too well that it’s not because of a lack of need.
“We need to find a way to reach these people and have them integrate into the communities long-term.”
The education workers’ provincewide collective agreement with the Quebec government expired last year.
In negotiations, the federation representing 19 teachers’ unions from French and English-language school boards across the province is also calling for smaller class sizes and improved teaching for special-needs children.
According to Quebec Education Ministry information, positions for 180 psychologists, 176 speech therapists and 192 psycho-educators in Quebec schools remain unfilled.
Desmarais said living conditions faced by professionals working in Nunavik present one of the hurdles.
“When people decide to make the great leap and contribute, they often come to an apartment that often does not have clean water,” she said. “If they have kids, those living conditions won’t help our professionals integrate into the communities.”
Another problem, she said, comes with teachers who are actually hired from within the region.
“A vast proportion of teachers hired in Nunavik are not certified teachers,” she said, adding those teachers must be supported by academic advisers in their teaching methods, class management, and their empathetic approach to the communities.
“We owe it to students in Nunavik to have equal chances [like] the rest of the population,” Desmarais said. “And now we are in a context where we can’t offer them equality of opportunity, and it only perpetuates feelings of injustice.
“We need to be able to give the tools for the communities to become empowered, so that they reach their full potential.”
In Nunavik, the previous tentative agreement between Kativik School Board and the union representing about 130 employees that was ratified in April 2022, expired at the end of March this year.