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Legault gives himself a raise, but won’t pay teachers

November 8th,2023 | Opinion

It’s disheartening to hear that teachers in the Hills are already feeling burnt out, and we haven’t even hit December yet.

Even more disheartening is that MNAs in this province are more concerned about their own bank accounts than the state of education in Quebec. 

This week’s planned one-day strike by the Common Front union in Quebec – the union representing more than 420,000 public sector workers, including teachers, health professionals and social services workers – could have been avoided if politicians valued teachers as much as themselves. But when MNAs gave themselves a $30,000 raise this summer (and an added bonus for ministers) and only offered teachers and other public sector workers a 10.3 per cent raise over five years, it’s clear where their priorities are. 

Wakefield teacher Jen Bardell used the word “vilified” in a recent Valley Voices article published in this newspaper arguing that, while MNAs will be figuring out how to spend their extra $30K, teachers still don’t have dental insurance, personal days and they earn just six sick days a year. 

Union representatives with the Common Front have called the government’s latest offer a “slap in the face” and argue that the 10.3 per cent increase doesn’t cover inflation projections released by Desjardins, which estimates that inflation will rise by 17.7 per cent between 2022 and 2027. 

Speaking with teachers and educators on the picket lines at area schools Nov. 6 – both French and English – there is one common message they are trying to send to the government: “We’re tired and we need help.”

Yeah, no surprise there. 

Wakefield teacher and union representative Shannon Langlois told the Low Down that she hasn’t seen a normal school year since 2018: before the pandemic cancelled classes for months and forced students to learn online; before a province-wide teacher’s shortage had one quarter of Quebec’s classes being taught by unqualified staffers; and before a West Quebec bus strike handcuffed parents and teachers for months last spring. 

It’s been one thing after another for education in this province, and instead of getting schools the resources they need – special needs support, recruitment help, increased benefits, smaller class sizes and more money – the government is too busy giving themselves a significant pay bump. 

The suits should stop planning their vacations and start figuring out how to pay teachers and public sector workers more because, if there isn’t a solution soon, classes may be shut indefinitely. The Common Front union has already planned three consecutive strike days on Nov. 21-23, while 65,000 French teachers with the province’s French school board will walk off the job for an unlimited strike beginning Nov. 23. 

Last summer, Premier François Legault voted to give himself a nearly $62,000 raise, but now he won’t give teachers, healthcare or social services workers enough to cover inflation.

As the Common Front put it, it’s “pathetic.”

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At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

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