English teachers in western Quebec vote overwhelmingly for a 5-day strike

English teachers in western Quebec could leave their jobs as early as the middle of next month after voting overwhelmingly to strike.

On Thursday night, members of the Western Quebec Teachers Association (WQTA) voted 95% in favor of a five-day strike mandate after a year of negotiations with the province recently stalled.

“We’re asking for more investment in education, and the government doesn’t seem to want to invest,” said Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers, which includes the AEOQ.

“There is less money in this round of negotiations than six years ago under an austerity government under the Liberals.”

Low pay, heavy workload main concerns

The teachers have been without a contract since last March, and the main sticking points are pay and workload, Yetman said.

Not only do teachers in Quebec have the lowest starting salary in the country, she said, but they also have more rungs to climb than teachers in other provinces before they can reach the top of the pay scale.

Yetman said that while the Coalition Avenir Québec government wants to increase teaching time, the union is looking to reduce it, because teachers already spend a lot of time outside the classroom doing work like correction, lesson planning and student support – an additional burden that has been brought to the center of attention over the past year.

“The pandemic has actually shown that the conditions are not good to start with,” she said.

‘We can do our job better’ with more services and teaching tools, says teacher

Tasha Ausman, who teaches at Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau, says teachers are looking to avoid an increase in their workload and are instead looking for more tools to better serve students learning both in person and in person. line. 1:07

The two parties had started negotiations in January 2020, but these were suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools across Quebec.

They resumed shortly after, but no agreement was reached.

“Really frustrating”

Tasha Ausman teaches at Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau, Que., and said teachers want smaller class sizes and a guarantee that services aren’t cut for students with special needs.

Ausman said teachers can spend an extra 10 to 12 hours a week grading a single assignment, and ultimately it’s the students who will suffer if teachers are given even more responsibility.

“It gets really frustrating for those of us who come to work every day to make sure everyone can learn and everyone has an equal experience,” she said.

“We put a lot of heart into it. But there’s also a limit to how many hours at home at eight, nine, 10 at night you can spend.”

Other local unions in the province are also due to vote by the end of the month on whether to strike. In an email to CBC, the Quebec Ministry of Education declined to comment, citing ongoing negotiations.