Nunavik teachers, school support staff vote for strike mandate
“We believe this gives us more power in negotiations,” union president says
Nunavik teachers and school support staff have voted in favour of a strike mandate.
The Association of Employees of Northern Quebec, which represents teachers and support staff at Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, said its members showed overwhelming support of the mandate during a Wednesday vote.
Teachers voted 85 per cent in favour, while support staff voted 96 per cent for a strike mandate.
The union has been negotiating a new contract for those employees since their previous contract expired in March 2020.
“The government doesn’t want to invest enough in improving our work conditions or the education of our students,” said AENQ president Larry Imbeault. “They’ve hardly given us any answers.”
“We believe [this strike mandate] gives us more power in negotiations.”
The union is looking for a 1.75 per cent salary increase for its members in the first year — in addition to an hourly minimum for the lowest-paid employees — with a salary increase of 2.05 per cent in the second year and 2.20 per cent for the third.
Salary negotiations are happening between the government and the AENQ’s parent union, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec.
For its part, the AENQ focuses on more local issues, like regional disparities and benefits.
Imbeault said the union has asked for rent subsidies for long-term residents, as well as a paid travel and food cargo allowances for those employees.
François Beauchemin, an AENQ negotiator for its teacher members, said the school board is also trying to clamp down on how teachers use a weekly five-hour block of time that’s reserved for “work of a personal nature,” which as is stands, teachers can decide where and when to complete.
“Now they want to take that out and assign how teachers use their entire 32-hour work week, and maybe more,” he said. “That’s a no for us.”
Beauchemin said the school board is already seeing growing staffing shortages in its schools, and he hopes a new contract with better working conditions will be a draw for new applicants.
Despite the Wednesday vote, the union doesn’t have plans for any strike action just yet, while negotiations continue next week.
“We want to give them a chance to improve their offers,” Imbeault said. “We’ll see how it goes.”