The hourglass leading us to an indefinite general strike continues to tick and there doesn’t appear to be any progress at the bargaining tables. For both the population and the teachers, it is difficult to navigate, because each makes public statements with the aim of hurting the other. In the meantime, it is the students, parents and teachers on the ground who will have to pay the price for this dialogue of the deaf.
On the one hand, the unions seem to maintain their positions. Some of the demands being made are downright unrealistic, and I’m not even talking about the salary issue here. Asking for a reduction in the number of students per class is utopian when we are experiencing a shortage of teachers. We can ask for more services for struggling students, but the government can’t magically make support staff appear. What are the counter-offers proposed by the trade union movement? We do not know. They say they want to negotiate and avoid a strike, but they are already preparing a demonstration for November 23. This can give the impression that the dice are loaded.
On the other hand, we are faced with a government that says it has no money, but never seems to lack it for frivolous spending or for companies that come to seek public funds. There are a number of zero-cost solutions that could be considered to improve the working conditions of teachers.
I wonder if we are not playing into the hands of the government, which will save hundreds of millions of dollars in wages during these strike days. Are we funding our own increases?
Unfortunately, we are all caught between two bureaucratic giants who blame each other for the lack of progress. Everyone says they are ready to negotiate, but nothing moves.
And if the solution is transparency?
We hire an unbiased mediator who will organize meetings every day and supervise the negotiation sessions so that they are effective. We retain the services of a stenographer who will write down all the content of the exchanges. We publish the report of these meetings at the end of each day.
Like many of my colleagues and contributors, I would like to have access to what is discussed during these sessions. Who made an offer? How was the response? What was the counter offer? What compromises did both sides offer? As a teacher and taxpayer, I believe I have a right to know.
If we were informed of the content of these exchanges, this negotiation would probably go more smoothly. Everyone would see who is showing goodwill or not. Right now we are in the dark and have to trust each other’s word. Unfortunately, both camps have opposing narratives, so it’s impossible for us to know who’s lying. Probably both.
I will be on the picket next week if the negotiations do not break the deadlock, because I believe that my profession is devalued and that the government has a duty to improve my working conditions. However, I hope that my trade union federation will do everything in its power to avoid reaching this stage.
Show taxpayers and teachers that you have everyone’s education and interests at heart, not just your own.
It’s us; citizens, parents, students and teachers who will have to live with the consequences of their stubbornness. We deserve better.
Simon Landry, Professor in the metropolitan area
Author of the book Education in Quebec in the 21st centuryeditions of Tullinois