News | CEGEP professionals strike to protest salary cuts

SPGQ calls on Quebec government to prove education is a priority

On Monday August 22, CEGEP students across Quebec started their first day of classes. For some, however, classes got off to a late start as professionals at 16 CEGEPs staged a half-day strike to protest cuts to their salaries.

Speaking to The Daily in French, Stéphane Gosselin, a representative of the college professionals belonging to the Syndicat des professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ), explained that once CEGEP teachers have acquired a certain number of years of experience on the job, they can advance to the rank of professional.

“Seventy per cent of our categories of employment will be experiencing a drop in salary by 2019. We can’t accept that. […] No one will want to become a professional!”

Gosselin explained that when he became a professional in 1990, he was making roughly $10 an hour more than a teacher, which he said made sense considering that professionals develop programs, supervise teachers, and have more experience, as well as less vacation time.

Now, however, the situation has changed – SPGQ members who reach the rank of professional will now have their salary reduced instead.

“Seventy per cent of our categories of employment will be experiencing a drop in salary by 2019,” Gosselin said. “We can’t accept that. […] No one will want to become a professional!”

This is a serious problem, he stressed. These professionals play an essential role in CEGEPs by supporting both students and administrators. Orientation counselors, student life counselors, communications counselors, administrative workers, and several other types of employes are adversely affected by this situation.

“We realized that the more women there were, the less [professionals’] salaries increased. […] It’s discrimination against women who are college professionals.”

Furthermore, it appears that gender discrimination may be impacting the government’s treatment of this issue.

“We realized that in 1990, most of the professionals were men,” Gosselin said. “Now, we’re at 75% women. We realized that the more women there were, the less [professionals’] salaries increased. […] It’s discrimination against women who are college professionals.”

As contract negotiations with the provincial government reached an impasse months ago and ministerial representatives are allegedly refusing to return their calls, the college professionals of the SPGQ decided to launch their half-day strike last Monday. According to Gosselin, more strikes will take place this fall if the province remains intransigent on this issue.

“I don’t understand why the government is doing this,” he said. “ What must we do to fix this problem – this unfairness? […] Couillard says education is a priority – well, let him show it. Let him give the treasury minister a mandate [that would help resolve this impasse].”

At the half-day strike at Montreal’s Cégep de Saint-Laurent, the atmosphere was cheerful, with a small crowd of SPGQ members surrounding the main doors and holding placards highlighting the importance of the roles they play in the education system.

“Couillard says education is a priority – well, let him show it. Let him give the treasury minister a mandate [that would help resolve this impasse].”

One sign read, “Without us, no orientation.” Another read, “Without us, no support for learning.” As students arriving for their first day of classes approached the building, the demonstrators cheered, often earning smiles and even answering cheers in return.

In an email to The Daily, the Student Association at Cégep de Saint-Laurent (AECSL) affirmed their support of the strike and the SPGQ’s struggle for equitable pay, framing this dispute within the broader context of the provincial government’s controversial austerity measures.

“Moments of intense mobilization like the 2012 strike and the spring of 2015 are certainly short-lived, but the determination of the students and workers remains intact. The government must know that its attacks will not go unanswered.”

“The AECSL vigorously opposes the Couillard government’s austerity measures,” explained Nicholas Arthur Dufour, the association’s archivist, in French, “and affirms its solidarity with the workers of the public sector who are fighting against the [degradation] of their working conditions.”

While the association hadn’t officially called on its members to join the strike, Dufour explained, many students nonetheless participated, because “everyone recognizes that [the professionals’] work is essential for making the CÉGEP a good environment in which to live and learn.”

“Many times, the AECSL has fought back against neoliberal attacks on education and social programmes,” he said. “Moments of intense mobilization like the 2012 strike and the spring of 2015 are certainly short-lived, but the determination of the students and workers remains intact. The government must know that its attacks will not go unanswered.”

“We’re determined, we won’t give up, and we’re working hard to reach an agreement.”

Gosselin echoed this sentiment, telling The Daily that despite the SPGQ’s frustrations, he and his colleagues still feel that last week’s strike made a positive impact, by generating media attention and increasing public support. As for the future, he remains optimistic:

“We’re determined, we won’t give up, and we’re working hard to reach an agreement.”


Comments posted on The McGill Daily's website must abide by our comments policy.