Strike Vote Informer: vote and reasons for strike explained

Dear Colleagues,

A week from today, we will be taking a vote at our general assembly to go on strike for up to five days. In the coming days, we will be providing you all the requisite background information through this Strike Vote Informer newsletter series. Today, we will explain the coordination of the strike vote, the meaning of the motions, and why a strike vote is being called at this moment.

How will the strike vote mandate work?

Between now and May 11, all public sector unions of the CSN will be voting on the same strike motion. Within this process, a union will achieve a mandate to strike if a) they vote in favour of the motion and b) their respective union federation, in our case, FNEEQ, gets a double majority outcome; this means the majority of all votes cast at the 46 FNEEQ Cegep-teacher unions and the majority of those unions (24 or more) obtain a majority outcome in their local votes.

If a local union votes against the strike and the double mandate is achieved by the federation, that local union does not have a mandate to go on strike. However, that union may choose rally with the federation through a rally vote (item 7 on the GA agenda). A successful rally vote means that the union will rally and go on strike along with the federation, despite originally voting against the strike. If a union is successful in the strike vote (which we hope will be the case for JACFA), the rally vote will not be necessary.

Who will decide which five days to strike, if the mandate is obtained?

Because the strike mandate explicitly stipulates coordination with CSN federations, the dates of the strikes will be determined by the coordinating committee of the CCSPP of the CSN. Depending on what is most strategically advantageous, the strike may be province wide (“national”), by sector (e.g. health or education), or by federation.

Will we definitely be on Strike for 5 days, if the vote is successful?

No. Depending how the negotiations go, and how the government respond to the strike mandate, we may go on strike from 0 to 5 days. Usually, with mandates approved and the prospects of strikes imminent, negotiations pick up pace. That is precisely the point of strike votes, to add the requisite pressure for the government to move. In 2015, we voted for six strike days, but went on strike for three before a deal was reached and approved.

Why are we choosing to go on strike now? particularly given the challenges of Covid?

The negotiations have been stalled for months, and our collective agreements have expired for more than one year. The government has offered us very little in response to our salary demands, and very little money for the sectoral demands that address real issues in health, education, and social services. While the pandemic has made mobilization more challenging, it has also laid bare the many problems that have been festering the public service long before the pandemic, and compounded by years of government “austerity” and underfunding. The pandemic has also underscored the urgency with which we need to resolve many of the issues. We simply cannot wait for the next round of negotiations, in two to three years. The government has thus far shown that it will not listen to reason. And thus, we are left with little choice but to demonstrate our resolve with a strike mandate.

What are the outstanding issues? What about the latest government offer on April 1?

None of the outstanding issues mentioned in our recent Négo Updates (link to sectoral and central table updates) have been resolved. On April 1, the government proposed a new offer. But it contained no substantial improvements. At the central table, on salary, they only offered slightly improved lump sum payments, a concept which JACFA has resolutely and explicitly rejected in a GA motion. They also offered the possibility of partial inflation protection, of a 1% salary increase, but only if annual inflation surpassed 5%! In the past 25 years, Canada’s inflation rate has never surpassed 5%! At the sectoral tables, there was no new money offered. You can read Info-Négo from FNEEQ (in English and in French) that gives a more complete overview of the government’s latest offer, in English and French.

In upcoming editions, we will address strike pay, scenarios for picketing, and prospects of decrees.

We hope to see you on the 20th.

In solidarity,

The JACFA Executive