More than 2,500 Common Front workers marked the start of the longest public sector strike in the past 50 years by welcoming MLAs on this the last day of the regular session of parliament in Quebec City. It also provided an opportunity to issue a forceful reminder of their demands, and even though the festive season is fast approaching, easing up on mobilization is out of the question until such time as offers that meet their needs are on the bargaining table.

“If the government is seeking to take advantage of current economic conditions to back us into a corner and break our movement, the next few days will give them an idea of what they can expect if they continue their stubbornness. Our movement is not petering out. Quite the opposite is true. The last few weeks have galvanized us, and the public is clearly supportive of workers in our sectors. The last offer was not good enough – we’re continuing to negotiate, and we won’t give in!” said spokespersons for the Common Front:  François Enault, First Vice-President of the CSN, Éric Gingras, President of the CSQ, Magali Picard, President of the FTQ, and Robert Comeau, President of the APTS, at a press conference Friday morning.

“No one wants to strike. It’s just a means and not an end in itself. But again, no one wants to see our sectors continue deteriorating the way they are now. The situation is untenable, and this time, everyone clearly understands that improvement largely hinges on these negotiations. We’re really determined, and our members more so. Our people deserve better, and Quebec deserves better. And that’s what the public is telling the government. The time has come to make the required political choice, which is to create working conditions and a professional environment that finally ensure greater recognition of the work done by employees who educate and those who provide support, accompaniment and care.”

“The objective of the Common Front is to obtain a settlement before the Holidays, and the mandate voted on by members allows for sequential strikes, depending on the needs arising from negotiations. This is the ultimate sequence of strike days that is starting today, and it serves as a final warning. The Common Front has a rock-solid mandate, which received more than 95% support during a vote and calls for an unlimited general strike to be called at an opportune time.”

According to the Common Front, it is clear that the government bears a major share of the responsibility for the decision to go out on strike. Its refusal to make offers to address the urgent needs of workers has created the current impasse at the bargaining tables.

“It’s crazy to think that we got to this point after more than one year of negotiations. And we’re still dealing with the same hackneyed strategies trotted out by the government. First, there was no sign of a true willingness to negotiate and then came some vain declarations made publicly. They subsequently waited for mobilization to reach its peak, which was followed by pressure tactics that precipitated everything in the space of a few weeks. This time, our people are fed up, and they’re not alone! Solutions do exist and it’s time to take on the issues that have shaken our sectors to the core. Enough is enough!”

The government presented a new offer to the Common Front on Wednesday afternoon, which was deemed insufficient on its face. Nonetheless, the Common Front did point out that everything is in place to get negotiations going. Our teams are available at all times, and officials for both parties are available the week of December 18 to discuss where the negotiations are at. The objective is still to get a satisfactory agreement for all workers in our sectors. That will not materialize until working conditions and wages are in line with their expectations!

The Common Front represents 420,000 workers in health care and social services, education and cegeps, who will be on strike from December 8 to 14 inclusive. The conflict affects all school service centres, cegeps and health and social services establishments.