Sunday, December 20, 2015

Quebec public sector unions hold one day strike to protest slow negotiations

Last Wednesday, tens of thousands of Quebec public sector workers participated in a one-day strike. The streets of downtown Montreal were clogged with demonstrators.

The walkout was held to protest against lagging contracts with the Quebec provincial government.
The streets of downtown Montreal were clogged with demonstrators Wednesday afternoon, as Quebec public sector workers staged another one-day walkout to protest against lagging contract talks with the provincial government. The strikers included teachers, white-collar workers and caretakers. Jacques Letourneau, president of the CSN claimed that the strike was the largest since 1972 with more than 400,000 taking part. The strike was province-wide even in the northern Quebec Inuit territory of Nunavik where teachers were picketing outside in minus 15 C weather. The Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux(CSN) or Confederation of National Trade Unions is the second largest union in Quebec. Its structure is quite decentralized.
While the CSN defended the strike as necessary to put pressure on the government to reach agreement more quickly, Martin Coiteux, Quebec Treasury Board President, questioned the necessity of the action noting that much progress had already been made with more than 30 settlements reached with unions in various areas on non-salary issues. The public sector workers have been without an agreement since April. This the fourth time many unions have gone on strike as members of the CSN voted earlier this fall to have six rotating strikes to pressure the government to reach an agreement.
The Quebec government and the CSN are far apart on salary. The government has offered a five percent increase over five years but the unions are asking for almost twice as much in a three-year contract. This is the fourth of six strikes. Several different unions have joined in a Common Front over the last two years but others have not joined. A new strike is being discussed for December 21.

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