No agreement has yet been reached between the government and the staff working within the Cree and Kativik school boards (SB) as part of the negotiation for the renewal of collective agreements. What explains this delay?
Negotiations at the tables in the North for the different categories of Cree and Kativik SB personnel have this particularity: they always end later than those taking place in the south of the province. Two main reasons explain this temporality: one being inherent to the negotiation structure and the provisions of Law 37, the other relating to employer strategies aimed at extending deadlines, whether to reach a satisfactory settlement or on the signing process itself.
The current round of negotiations is not, in this sense, very different from previous rounds. While agreements have been reached in the South, settlements at the tables of the North are not yet within reach.
Structural Reasons
To fully understand the pace of negotiations in the North, we must first look at the provisions of the Act respecting the negotiation regime for collective agreements in the public and parapublic sectors which specifically affect the Cree and Kativik SBs. Several provisions governing negotiations in the education sector do not apply to these SBs, which instead benefit from their own collective agreements and therefore, by extension, their own negotiation tables and management negotiation committees. These tables are, however, linked to what is agreed at the national level on certain matters, including salary and salary scales.
Historically, this configuration for the tables in the North resulted in the establishment of coordinated requests with the tables in the South, combined with a series of requests specific to their environments.
The Employer Slowdown
Although the delays at the negotiating tables in the North are partly explained by the legal and organizational context, the fact remains that the management parties regularly opt for a waiting posture. In other words, the search for mandates often seems more problematic, even on so-called “local” matters or even specific to their environments. The argument of the “rhythm specific to the North” is regularly put forward in the interventions and feedback from the management parties, round after round.
Excessive Delays
“This “wait and see” posture can sometimes lead to almost unreasonable situations. As usual, during the previous round, the northern agreements were agreed upon by the parties at the tables several months after the southern agreements, i.e. in the summer of 2022. The agreements, however, did not come into force until the end of December 2022 for the staff of the Kativik School Board and at the end of March for the staff of the Cree School Board,” explains the president of the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec (AENQ-CSQ), Larry Imbeault .
In the latter case, the long delays at all administrative and governmental levels will have meant that the agreements for teaching, professional and support staff expired four days after their entry into force. “Of course, we strongly hope that such a situation does not happen again this time, and everything will be done to avoid it,” he adds.
On the Side of the Teaching Staff
As was the case during previous rounds of negotiations, a significant portion of the demands are coordinated with those of the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ). “A certain consistency is favored with regard to the vast majority of the provisions of collective agreements surrounding the task, the remuneration, or even the composition of the class. It would be deplorable, even possibly unfair, if it were otherwise,” says Larry Imbeault.
In this sense, following the endorsement of the agreement in principle by the members of the FSE-CSQ, a fear lies in the fact that the management side wishes to wait for the texts which have yet to be drafted. “We are obviously opposed to this approach, firmly believing that fruitful discussions can be carried out on the basis of the principles which compose it,” he adds.
Alongside national issues, there are also very local issues which have led to the formulation of specific requests to each school board, for example regarding administrative premiums, provisions on housing, school councils or even violence in schools. If discussions are progressing at an acceptable pace at the table of teaching staff of the Kativik School Board, it is quite different at that of the Cree School Board. For this reason, the union side sent, upon returning from the holiday period, a request for the appointment of a conciliator to the Ministry of Labor.
On the Side of Professional Staff
The demands lists for professional personnel for the Cree and Kativik SBs were designed in a context of labor shortage and with an eye toward attraction and retention. “Many requests were common with the tables in the South since the problems are shared. The agreements in principle reached in December 2023 at the tables of the South would also make it possible to resolve numerous union demands,” explains the president of the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ), Jacques Landry.
“In this context, we have indicated to the management party in recent weeks that we were ready to focus on the specific demands of the North in order to reach an agreement in principle as soon as possible. We are still waiting for a position from the management side on this announcement,” he adds.
The FPPE-CSQ hopes for a satisfactory agreement in principle quickly for the professional staff of the Cree and Kativik SBs. “We want to prevent our members from being deprived of salary increases as well as improvements in their working conditions to which their colleagues in the South already have access, as was the case during previous rounds of negotiations,” explains Jacques Landry. He adds that this situation is unacceptable and specifies that “we will see to adjust our negotiation strategy accordingly in order to avoid it being prolonged unnecessarily”.
On the Side of Support Staff
The pernicious effects of the employer’s use of the “rhythm of the North” argument are strongly felt at the negotiation tables, both on the side of the Cree School Board and the Kativik School Board. “To this day, after almost a year and a half of negotiations, we are still faced with a total closure on all demands likely to improve the working conditions of our members. However, all of the demands were presented and texts were submitted. In other words, all the groundwork has been completed,” explains Larry Imbeault.
For its part, the employer side does not share any details of its own coordinated requests with the South, which are also part of the regulations between the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ), the Management Negotiating Committee for the French School Service Centers (CPNCF) and the Management Negotiating Committee for English-speaking school boards (CPNCA). “Despite putting forward a principle of coordination with the employer parties in the South, the employer party in the North still sticks to very broad principles, preventing any substantive discussion from taking place,” concludes Larry Imbeault.

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