Status of the negotiation tables for professional staff
We had a short vacation at the tables, actively negotiating until the end of July and then quickly resuming in mid-August, hoping to reach agreement with management on several important points.
Despite several negotiating sessions, the list of issues on which agreement has been reached is very short. Several hours were spent discussing the employer’s demands and priorities, and it’s difficult to discuss union priorities.
All the employer demands presented in the detailed filing at the beginning of April remain in play. These include a much slower and delayed progression through the ranks for people who are not working full-time, regardless of the reason. There’s also the willingness to assign people on disability to any temporary task and granting more power to the employer’s doctor. The employer also wants the union to refrain from criticizing the school system publicly. Furthermore, management wishes to severely attack employment security in the English-speaking sector, proposing that those whose jobs are abolished be obliged to accept another job anywhere in Quebec, starting in the second year of layoff. This obligation is currently limited to positions available within a 50 km radius.
Overall, we find that management is unwilling to adopt concrete solutions to make working conditions more attractive, to ensure the retention of current professionals, and to encourage young professionals to choose the school system. Instead, the employer’s strategy is to muzzle the unions to prevent them from speaking out on working conditions within the system, and to give school service centres and school boards more leeway to deal with the shortage of professionals rather than trying to curb the exodus. Rather than trying to attract more professionals to schools and centres, the solution is to punish employees for not working full-time. Needless to say, we don’t share this vision at all, and it’s often discouraging to listen to the employer side at the table.
Quite to the contrary, since October 2022, the union side has been putting forward some fifty proposals to raise the profile of the work and expertise of professionals. Many of these solutions are cost-free for the employer, requiring only a review of certain practices. However, the employer is determined to protect its management rights at all costs and is not open to our ideas. We propose, among other things, to define and extend the right to teleworking, propose a four-day work week, recognize more leave for family responsibilities, refund professional association fees for all members, recognize the value of graduate degrees, etc.
At best, the employer replies that it understands our demands but that they are not realistic in the current context, and in the worst cases, it is simply closed without explanation. The only areas where we can see a breach opening concern union demands that could be in line with employer priorities, such as the mentoring of trainees.
The situation is very similar at the Cree and Kativik negotiation tables. Although the pace of negotiation is slower, we are making the same observations in relation to employer positions. All the specified employer demands are still in play. Furthermore, despite detailed presentations and discussions on a number of union demands, we received no hint of any intention to open up. This is particularly the case with our demand for recognition and flexibility on teleworking, which the employer doesn’t seem interested in giving up its right to manage. However, we have demonstrated with concrete examples that such advances in flexibility would undoubtedly lead to greater retention of professionals.
Against this background, we are starting a busy fall at the negotiation tables. We meet once or twice a week, and the negotiating team is increasing its efforts to reach a satisfactory agreement on the sectoral elements. However, we understand that we need to step up our mobilization if we hope to see significant results, which are slow in coming.
Feel free to contact your union if you have any questions or comments about the negotiations. We need you!
Your negotiating team