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La Presse canadienne June 27, 2012
by Alexandre Robillard
Québec – The Minister of Education, Michelle Courchesne, calls unacceptable the pressure tactics threatened by CEGEP (college) professors, who are currently negotiating the terms of the special resumption of classes set for mid-August.
Mrs. Courchesne stated today in a press conference that intensive negotiations are under way with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux [CSN - trade union federation].
In addition to limiting demonstrations, the special law passed by the government, Bill 78, mandates a resumption of classes August 17 to complete the winter semester that was interrupted by the student conflict.
The main stumbling block for teachers is the additional staff required to teach the college classes that were disrupted when students opposed to the tuition fee increase went on strike.
The vice-president of the Fédération nationale des enseignants du Québec [FNEEQ-CSN - Teachers’ federation, affiliated with the CSN], Micheline Thibodeau, said today that, failing an acceptable agreement, union members could resort to pressure tactics. “What we are considering are pressure tactics concerning the respect of our collective agreement”, she said in an interview.
Mrs. Thibodeau ruled out a strike, since this action is illegal outside of negotiations to renew a collective agreement. “We do not have the right to strike and we do not intend to go on strike”, she said. She explained that “several hundred” temporary teachers would be needed to ensure that all the courses are able to run.
According to FNEEQ-CSN, solutions were found to reduce the cost of measures to support the resumption of classes, initially estimated by the union at $70 million. Mrs. Thibodeau indicated that the union’s demands are now less than $40 million.
While declining to comment on the progress of the negotiations, Minister Courchesne nonetheless lambasted the union. “We live in a society that is egalitarian, we live in a society that is democratic, we shouldn’t be governing ourselves through threats, from groups like those who take the liberty of doing that”, she said. “That, for us, is something that is not acceptable”.
The president of the colleges federation, Jean Beauchesne, stated that from his point of view the discussions with the unions were arduous. “The gaps are very wide”, he said. “I won’t go into the details because I don’t want to negotiate in public, but we are still very, very far from an agreement. The gaps in terms of additional resources being demanded are very, very wide”.
Mr. Beauchesne stated that hiring short-term teachers is complicated in certain specialized fields such as mechanical engineering technology. “There are rarefied fields, it will be difficult”, he said.
Bill 78 allows institutions to spread out the resumption of the winter 2012 semester up to September 30 of this year, before the start of the fall semester. Mr. Beauchesne stated that the colleges have a financial capability of $10 million to provide for special measures.
In all, 14 colleges have to organize a resumption of the winter semester. Teachers from only one institution, affiliated with the Centrale des syndicats du Québec [CSQ - trade union federation], have reached an agreement on the resources they need for August 17, said Mr. Beauchesne.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
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