SHERBROOKE, Quebec — Some 1,000 public sector workers in Quebec and their supporters marched and rallied here May 13 outside the convention of the Coalition for Quebec’s Future (CAQ), the province’s governing party. They are demanding better pay, protection from inflation and improved working conditions for 600,000 workers in schools, health and social services, and higher education.
Quebec’s Common Front, which includes the Quebec Federation of Labor (FTQ), the Council of National Unions (CSN), and the Alliance of Professional and Technical Health Personnel (APTS), organized the action. Its theme was, “Together as one.”
The contracts for government workers expired March 31. The Quebec government has so far offered wage increases of 9% over five years, well below the inflation rate, as well as a 1,000 Canadian dollars ($742) lump sum payment that isn’t rolled into wages.
The Common Front is asking for either a CA$100 per week increase or the consumer price index plus 2% for the first year of the contracts, whichever is more advantageous to workers, then CPI plus 3% for the second year and CPI plus 4% for the third.
The crowd was loud and angry, as the CAQ government had just proposed giving all members of Quebec’s National Assembly a CA$30,000 raise. Protest organizers set up tables for unionists to make signs on the spot.
Lisa Desprès, who works as a technician in special education at the Saint-Camille de Cookshire school in the Hauts Cantons, wore boxing gloves to back up her sign, which read, “We’re going to fight for the services offered to our children.”
Anne Marie Marcinkowska, a medical secretary and CSN member at Montreal Children’s Hospital, told the Militant she was so angry at the government “offering peanuts to its workers that I decided to come out to my first demonstration in 29 years.”