MONTREAL — Under the slogan, “Sound the alarm for public services,” over 1,000 teachers, nurses and other government workers simultaneously rallied at the Quebec National Assembly in Quebec City and at Premier Francois Legault’s office here in downtown March 31.
They insist the government stop using the pandemic as an excuse to refuse to meet demands for better working conditions, wage increases and to improve education, health and other services.
The two-city demonstration was coordinated so that union leaders speaking at the Quebec City protest could be seen and heard live on a giant screen by chanting unionists with union flags in Montreal. The united action involved government workers from Quebec’s two main union federations, the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) and the Quebec Federation of Labor, as well as the teachers and nurses unions.
Quebec’s 550,000 public sector workers have been working without contracts since they expired in 2019. The government won’t negotiate seriously. In the name of fighting coronavirus, it has used Quebec’s health emergency laws to nullify contracts of hundreds of thousands of teachers and nurses, imposed forced overtime, canceled vacations and taken other measures against the workers.
“Instead of respecting our contribution, they have chosen to violate our rights,” nurses union president Nancy Bedard told the rally in Quebec.
“Right now our government is trying to increase our workload without any further remuneration,” said teachers union leader Kathleen Usher. “We are breaking, our public schools are at the breaking point.”
On March 30, some 10,000 teachers, professionals and support staff in the junior colleges carried out a one-day strike. Unions for 73,000 French and English preschool, elementary and secondary school teachers have announced a strike for April 14. The nurses union has threatened a general mobilization if the government doesn’t end the emergency suspension of its union contract.