Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik December 14, 2016 - 4:00 pm

Nunavik teachers union calls on commissioners to intervene on stalled talks

“It’s the employees who are suffering"

SARAH ROGERS
The union that represents teachers and support staff at the Kativik School Board has asked school board commissioners to help revive stalled negotiations between the two parties. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
The union that represents teachers and support staff at the Kativik School Board has asked school board commissioners to help revive stalled negotiations between the two parties. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

The union that represents teachers and support staff at the Kativik School Board has asked school board commissioners to help revive stalled negotiations between the two parties.

Nunavik teachers and support staff under the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec (AENQ) have been without a contract since March 2015, though the union first tabled its demands to renew their collective agreements in October 2014.

All the while, the school board has been in talks with Quebec’s education department.

The KSB wants to be able to negotiate working conditions for teachers, professionals and support staff itself—it’s right under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement—although those negotiations have always been handled by the Quebec government.

“We have nothing against what they’re asking—it’s just their way of doing things that we don’t agree with,” said AENQ President Larry Imbeault.

“We let some time pass, we gave them a chance to let them settle the issue. So we said there’s nothing more we can do. That’s why we decided to go to court.”

This past fall the AENQ filed a complaint with Quebec’s labour board.

Following a hearing, the judge ordered the school board to file its proposals in 30 days, Imbeault said.

But that deadline has come and gone, and Imbeault said the union is still waiting.

Meanwhile, the roughly 400 teachers and some 350 support staff in Nunavik are the only groups in the province still waiting to negotiate their collective agreements, he said.

A separate union representing professionals working for the school board is in the same position.

In a Dec. 14 statement provided to Nunatsiaq News, the school board said it has demanded benefits for Inuit employees be included in the offers, which the province has yet to agree to.

“These benefits are essential to closing the gap between the working conditions for Inuit and non-Inuit school board employees,” the KSB said in its statement. “This gap is the result of long-standing inequalities, which the KSB wants to correct and that concern, amongst others, housing benefits, excursion/outing benefits for Inuit employees, transport of food allocation and leave for medical appointments.”

But Imbeault said employees are frustrated with the long wait.

Nunavik teachers and support staff now wear black T-shirts to work two days a week, which display the number of their collective agreement.

This the first time in the two-year negotiation period that the AENQ has reached out to the 15-member council of commissioners to intervene, Imbeault said.

“We strongly believe that our members, KSB employees, have waited long enough. We want to negotiate,” the union wrote in a Dec. 13 letter to the commissioners.

“You must intervene so that the negotiations start as soon as possible.”

As part of contract negotiations, Nunavik teachers and support staff asked for a 4.5 per cent salary increase a year over a three-year period, which has been agreed on but won’t be implemented until the agreement is signed.

For its part,  Quebec has asked for higher teacher-student ratios, changes to parental leave and cuts to employee pensions plans.

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