A crowd of red toques—the colour of the Fédération autonome de l'enseignement (FAE), representing 34,000 teachers in 800 primary and secondary schools across Quebec—appeared in the quiet streets of downtown Gatineau (Hull), Quebec on the night of December 9.
Gatineau teachers, members of the FAE, had been picketing all day—the first day of a three day strike—and gathered at a Centre for Adult Education to march on a meeting of the School Board a few blocks away.
Although not officially part of the Quebec Common Front, the FAE is fighting the same battle over salary. But unlike many of the sectoral tables of the Common Front, there has been no attempt to come to agreement with FAE teachers on non-salary issues, which include class size and reducing the teaching ratio for special-needs students.
So the FAE chose to strike for three consecutive days to turn up the pressure. And some of their members will be camped out in tents in front of the Ministry of Education in Montreal for those three days. Other actions like the march on the School Board in Gatineau are no doubt planned across Quebec.
The leaflet handed out at the Gatineau action was titled: “Lost PD Day vs. Christmas Party” and stated that: “the School Board has tried to eliminate or mitigate the effect of a legal strike by cancelling our January 6 PD Day…the right to strike, one that comes at great cost to teachers, and recognized as being at the heart of our Labour Code, has precisely the objective of exerting effective pressure in order to conclude a collective agreement… by illegally changing the school calendar with the goal of cancelling out the intended effects of this strike, the employer is guilty of an abuse of the law and a profound lack of respect towards its teachers… it will therefore not come as a surprise that teachers will not be celebrating with the representatives of the employer at Christmas time.”
In Gatineau on the evening of December 9, the party was in the streets. Music played, and placards read “Le gouvernement abandonne l’école publique” (“Government is abandoning public school”), and children placed sticky notes on the door of the Education Centre saying “Notre force, nos membres!” (“Our strength is our members”).