Nunavik teachers strike for ‘improved’ collective agreements
‘Things have to change now!’ education workers chant outside the Kativik school board office in Montreal
MONTREAL — Nearly 50 education workers belonging to the Nunavik teachers’ union protested lagging contract negotiations outside the Kativik school board’s head office in Montreal Wednesday.
Union leaders representing Kativik Ilisarniliriniq teachers and support staff pressed the school board and provincial government for collective agreements that improve working conditions in northern communities.
“We are fed up that negotiations are going nowhere,” said Larry Imbeault, president of the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec, the union representing Nunavik teachers.
Teachers, education professionals and support staff of Kativik Ilisarniliriq also held a one-day strike in Nunavik’s 14 communities, picketing outside the region’s schools.
The union says the two sides have failed to reach an agreement after more than 25 rounds of negotiations.
While the employee association’s parent union, Centrale des syndicats du Québec, is negotiating salary increases, the association demands rent subsidies, cargo allowances and paid travel to address disparities in benefits for local and out-of-region hires and staff shortages, Imbeault told Nunatsiaq News.
“Teachers that go to work in Nunavik stay less than a year and a half, on average. There’s a big problem with retention and attraction because [schools] have to hire more and more non-legally qualified teachers,” Imbeault said.
Kativik Ilisarniliriniq has one psychologist and two social workers for its 17 schools in 14 communities, according to the president of the West Montreal school boards professionals union, Carolane Desmarais.
“Nunavik students are entitled to quality services like all other students in Quebec. For that, the government will have to make an effort,” she said.
Other regional factors, such as the high cost of living, impact learning outcomes, said Hélène Sabatié who taught in Inukjuak and Kangiqsujuaq for four years.
“It’s very difficult to have a stable internet connection which makes it complicated for the students and for our research,” she said.
“It costs around $145 per month, yet we don’t have it at home or in class, and it’s at our expense.”