Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

The labor center has sent a letter to its member unions reminding them to be “flexible” in distributing benefits from its national strike fund. Members of the CSN have criticized in recent weeks the rigidity of the criteria imposed in order to have access to these benefits for loss of salary.

Slogan for flexibility launched by the CSN for access to the fund strike | Strikes in the public sector in Quebec

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In recent weeks, members have criticized the rigidity of the criteria for accessing lost wages benefits. (Archive photo)

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It has often been repeated in recent weeks that the teachers of the school network on strike would not receive financial compensation because their union, the Federation autonomous education authority (FAE), did not have a strike fund.

However, we talk less about those who can benefit from such a financial reserve. This is the case of the members of the Confederation of National Unions (CSN) which set up the Professional Defense Fund (FDP) several decades ago.

These striking union members are lucky at first glance. However, to have access to this fund, they must comply with a series of rules that some consider complex and restrictive.

To be entitled to an amount of $315 from the FDP, each striking member must meet two criteria.

He must picket for approximately six hours per strike day or for the number of daily hours normally worked. In addition, he must do so for an entire sequence of five days of strike (or at least three days in the event of settlement with the employer party).

Strikes in the public sector in Quebec

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In other words, a striker who has only partially completed these requirements, who has for example been on picket duty for three or four days in a block of five days, will not receive benefits from the CSN strike fund at the end. some exercice. He will have to be satisfied with the daily amount provided by his local union if it has such a strike fund.

These rules seem too restrictive in the opinion of certain union members in the college sector who shared their testimony with Radio-Canada.

Unreasonable, exaggerated: these are the terms used by Matthew Leslie, professor of English literature at Collège Champlain Saint-Lambert, to describe the six hours of daily picketing required during the first days of strike in November. Six hours is just too much!

He considers this requirement unrealistic, not only because it is winter but above all because he has to deal, like many others, with a child of primary school age whose school is closed due to the labor strike. Autonomous Federation of Education (FAE).

I couldn't take my six-year-old daughter with me, it was unthinkable, he said .

I want to show my support for the cause and picket, but it just wasn't manageable.

A quote from Matthew Leslie, professor of English literature at Collège Champlain Saint-Lambert

Marianne Di Croce, professor of philosophy at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, confirms that several members found this obligation very demanding, especially with regard to work-family balance, and that 'a certain discontent was expressed among the strikers.

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Marianne Di Croce, professor of philosophy at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, in an interview with Radio-Canada in the summer of 2023.

It was very difficult , for older teachers or those with reduced mobility as well, as for parents, explains Ms. Di Croce, who is part of the organizing committee of the local mobilization.

Others criticize the fact that picket days cannot be combined.

It's all or nothing, it's a bit absurd, says a professor from a CEGEP in Montreal who prefers to remain anonymous. It’s a policy that is unforgiving and shows no understanding for parents, he adds.

A professor who teaches at the Cégep régional de Lanaudière agrees. The formula is very discouraging. It's demotivating. We don’t want to go picketing when we see these rules, he said. He also prefers not to speak publicly openly for fear of a perceived lack of solidarity and reprisals from his union.

Paradoxically, if these restrictions are intended to maximize the participation of strikers in strike activities, as the CSN indicates, it is clear that the eligibility criteria have rather the opposite effect for some.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Although usually very mobilized, the professor from a CEGEP in Montreal whom we spoke about above simply made the decision not to participate in the activities picketing, especially since he considers that this exercise is futile, even useless, his CEGEP being in a fairly isolated area which offers little visibility to the strikers who are picketing in front of the establishment.

I find the strike fund almost inaccessible. I have the impression that my union contributions are being used improperly, he confides, quite frustrated.

That doesn't give us the desire to participate, summarizes Matthew Leslie in the same spirit. Also finding the rules too complicated to respect, he decided to stay at home with his daughter rather than go to the picket lines.

As for the professor from Lanaudière, after completing the first picket block, he began to hesitate before continuing the experiment. I have reached a point where I tell myself that I will not continue the picket, he told us at the beginning of last week. But he changed his mind over the next few days due to a change in tone from his local union. So he is on the picket lines this morning.

Almost unanimously, the CEGEP teachers consulted by Radio-Canada found their local union quite severe and rather intransigent in terms of respecting picketing rules during the strike period from November 21 to 23.

For example, some deplored the repetitive taking of attendance or the tight control of access to the bathrooms or to a place where one could warm up.

Christian Bernier, president of the Cégep de l'Outaouais Teachers' Union, himself agrees. It's true, the message [at that moment] was to respect the rules of the FDP rather rigidly.

But now, given what we have heard on the [picket] lines, a slogan of flexibility [has been sent], he hastens to add while recalling that the majority of his members feel privileged that such a strike fund exists.

Indeed, last Monday, the CSN sent a letter to all steering committees of its unions on strike in anticipation of the new strike period scheduled for December 8 to 14. Radio-Canada obtained a copy of this missive.

This indicates that it will be important to show solidarity among you, to exercise a certain flexibility in your local decisions and, above all, to encourage all the members of your union to participate actively, to the maximum of their capacity, to their conflict.

The objective is not the six hours [of picketing] per se but rather to maximize these next few days to organize activities and get people talking about us.

A quote from Extract from the letter sent by the CSN to the committees directors of its member unions on December 4

It is mentioned that strike activities lasting four to six hours will be considered.

The current week of walkout therefore bodes differently. In recent days, strikers from several CEGEPs have also received a message from their local union indicating that picket periods had been reduced from six to four hours.

This is particularly the case at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme. The reduction in requirements relieved several members, relates Marianne Di Croce. According to his information, approaches had been made to the CSN to relax the picketing rules following certain criticisms made by members.

The professor of a CEGEP in Montreal finally made the decision to maintain his mobilization in light of these new directives. They seem to have understood that this was greatly exaggerated. From what I understood, they had received a lot of complaints and feared demobilization.

In fact, that can mean accepting that a teacher who has to picket with his children works a little fewer hours, because we understand difficult family situations, interprets Christian Bernier, from Cégep de l'Outaouais. .

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In addition to being president of the Union of Teachers of the Cégep de l' Outaouais, Christian Bernier also teaches literature there. (File photo)

At the CSN, we assure that the rules of access to the FDP have not changed but that they have been recalled and that they were also adopted democratically in the general assembly by each of the unions of the CSN during strike votes held last fall.

We recognize that it is inevitable that the precise understanding of the FDP eligibility rules may vary slightly from one union to another given the number of unions involved. This is why […] we have reiterated the applicable guidelines in terms of eligibility, writes Yvan Duceppe, treasurer of the CSN.

Questioned to know what are the valid justifications which allow a member to be entitled to relaxation, the CSN prefers to rely on the autonomy of its local unions. We leave it to them to determine [it].

The treasurer of the CSN recalls that his union organization is the only one to have a fund of strike of the magnitude of the FDP.

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