33,000 CSQ-affiliated school support workers are on a one-day strike

School support staff in Quebec held a virtual protest in front of the National Assembly May 4, 2021. Workers held a strike to protest the lack of a collective agreement. (Stephane Giroux/CTV News)

Some 33,000 CSQ-affiliated school support workers are on strike all day Tuesday in Quebec, with 19 French-language school service centres and two English-language school boards affected.

These school daycare workers, school secretaries, custodians, specialized workers and special education technicians are hoping to increase the pressure to make progress in negotiations with employers to renew their collective agreement.

Eric Pronovost, president of the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS), affiliated with the Centrale des syndicats du Quebec (CSQ), has already announced that the walkout will not be punctuated by picket lines. He says the goal is to show that without support staff, the school network cannot function.

Pronovost added there was no intention to delay academic learning for students, who are having a special year because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Pronovost and CSQ President Sonia Ethier will hold a news conference Tuesday morning in front of the National Assembly along with three opposition MNAs, Marwah Rizqy of the Liberal Party (PLQ), Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of Quebec Solidaire (QS) and Veronique Hivon of the Parti Quebecois (PQ).

Job insecurity is the main issue in the dispute. Many support staff state they work broken hours or work only a few hours a week, sometimes seven to 10 hours a week, because, according to Pronovost, rather than hire staff, school service centres prefer to subcontract.

The FPSS is warning the Quebec government that if it does not come up with a satisfactory agreement for school support staff soon, there could be more walkouts. The union won a five-day strike mandate from its members in January.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2021.

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