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Gabrielle Duchaine July 26 2012
The return to classes mandated by the special law (Bill 78) is off to a rough start. Following the student protests, it is now the professors’ turn to wield the spectre of pressure tactics. Forced to work many more hours than usual to make up for time lost during the strike, they are demanding help with teaching… and with catching their breath.
Less than one month from the resumption of classes, teachers at CEGEPs affected by the strike estimate that they come out 300 teachers short in the Quebec government’s plan for an orderly rollout of intensive semesters of autumn, La Presse has learned. The teachers’ union confirms that the quality of teaching with suffer from the shortage of personnel.
“What we’re being offered is entirely insufficient to ensure follow-up and support of students,” deplores Micheline Thibodeau, vice president of the Fédération nationale des enseignants du Québec-CSN, which represents 13 out of the 14 CEGEPs whose winter semester was cut short because of the conflict. After months of picket lines maintained by students, it is now the turn of the teachers to employ pressure tactics.
“Let us be clear: we will be there for our students. We will not strike, but we are thinking of other ways to make ourselves heard to the government,” said Thibodeau. Without additional help, she fears union members will be burned out and unable to deliver the support and the quality of teaching that students deserve.
According to the Federation of CEGEPs, which is participating in the negotiations with teachers, the Quebec government proposes adding 94 full-time equivalent posts to assist instructors, who will see their workload increase significantly. The teachers’ union will ask for 400, which is a gap of 306 bodies and some $15 million.
The new teachers, however many of them there are, will fill in for teachers on maternity leave or who are retiring, but above all they will help to lighten the workload of permanent staff, who will have to take on the delivery of two semesters before Christmas. If the student strike does not restart, the first semester will begin mid-August, and the second in October. In some CEGEPs, courses will be given on nights and weekends. In others, the winter break will be shortened.
“We’re going to need help if we’re going to do quality work. It’s that that worries us the most. Many students have difficulties and we’re going to be moving very fast in class. We don’t want to leave students behind, or see them drop out, because we are short for time,” said Thibodeau.
According to the Federation of CEGEPs, the 94 new positions should be enough to prevent this situation. ”And if we find out that we are short of people, we will give additional hours to those who are already posted,” says the federation’s president and director general, Jean Beauchesne. According to him, the teachers’ demand for 400 new positions is inflated. ”It’s difficult to hire that many people,” he says. ”Take, for example, a teacher’s assistant in engineering. Most engineers are already working. They are not waiting by their phones for a teaching job at a CEGEP.”
There are also disagreements about costs: $25 million instead of $8 or $9 million, Beauchesne says. This is also an inflated sum, according to him. The college of Bois-de-Boulogne, the only CEGEP associated with the CSQ (Centrale des syndicats du Quebec) out of the 14 affected by the re-arrangement of the winter semester, reached an independent agreement to cover supplementary costs of $500 000, which is four times less than it costs the average CEGEP to take in 400 students. Union president Mario Beauchemin is fully satisfied: “We have been able to re-hire temporary teachers who were with us last year to cover for teachers taking leave without pay or maternity leave. They will greatly help to support students,” he said. Note that the college of Bois-de-Boulogne is one of the CEGEPs affected by the strike that counts the fewest full-time students.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.