François Legault asks teachers to stop the strike for the children, union calls it “emotional blackmail”

By The Canadian Press

On Friday morning, before going into question period, Premier François Legault asked teachers to stop striking for the sake of the children.

The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) reacted saying it rejects Legault’s “emotional blackmail”.

“Mr. Legault, FAE teachers reject emotional blackmail. What hurts public schools is the deterioration of the system, which has been exacerbated since you came to power,” the union reacted on social networks.

Some 66,000 FAE teachers have been on unlimited general strike since November 23. Representatives of FAE-affiliated unions are meeting on Friday to assess the state of negotiations with Quebec and weigh their options.

“What’s happening right now is bad for our children,” Premier Legault pleaded during a press scrum at the National Assembly. I have a hard time living with the fact that we have kids who aren’t in school.”

He urged teachers to abandon their pressure tactics, saying he had already committed to improving the salary offer and adding classroom assistants.

Legault said he couldn’t agree to the teaching unions’ main demand – to reduce class sizes – because “we don’t have enough teachers to do that”.

“What we’re proposing in exchange is to add a second person to the classrooms,” he said.

The Premier clarified that he had no plans to use special legislation to force teachers back to work, preferring instead to implore them to “think of the children”.

“We can’t hurt our children, they’re the most precious thing we have,” he declared. “We have to stop this strike, it’s going to harm our children’s success. We’ve already had the pandemic, so we have to stop this now, please.”

In addition to the FAE, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), which represents 95,000 other elementary and secondary teachers and is part of the common front, is scheduled to strike from December 8 to 14.

On Friday, Legault also called on nurses for more “flexibility”.

He gave the example of the bonuses the government wants to give nurses “in certain places, because we’re short of them”.

“What the unions are telling us is: ‘No, if you give bonuses, you have to give them wall-to-wall, even to nurses in places where we don’t have recruitment problems’. That doesn’t make sense. We need to go back to the ABCs of good management,” he insisted.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 1, 2023.

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