Student negotiator pressured into signing offer he “did not agree with”

Thousands throng the streets to reject latest government offer

New details have emerged over the 22 hour negotiation session between the Quebec government and members of the four student associations last weekend.

A document released online by Antoine Bouchard, a student who claims to have close ties to the Coaliation large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), states that government representatives purposely created a “sentiment of urgency” to push through discussions and pressure students into signing a document they did not agree with.

Bouchard told The Daily that the document was obtained from Philippe Lapointe, the student negotiator for CLASSE. The author of the document is unknown, but Bouchard said that it was emailed to members of CLASSE last night.

“The final text was not exactly what we had discussed,” the document reads. “Several points were changed, and it appears that the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) worked harder than the students during the final moments of negotiations.”

According to the document, government negotiators approached student representatives individually during breaks. At one point, Lapointe was allegedly brought back to the negotiating table alone to “speed up the process.”

Pierre Pilote acted as the government’s chief negotiator throughout the weekend’s negotiating process.

“By isolating the representative, the government could then easily bring him into a state of emotional fatigue,” the document reads. “During the final signing of the document…he was therefore much less aware and capable of critical thought.”

Representatives from the government, trade unions, and CREPUQ rejected a request from the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), one of the four student associations participating in negotiations, to rest before the final signing of the agreement, the document says.

“After 22 hours of negotiations that were only broken up by short pauses, we should have demanded a suspension of talks,” the document continues. “The student movement has been on strike for 12 weeks; another day of strike would not have been catastrophic. The sentiment of urgency was created by the government because they were looking for an easy fix.”

After negotiations ended on Saturday, student representatives returned to Montreal to submit a document they thought was “bitterly disappointing,” states the document.

The offer maintains a $254 annual tuition fee hike over seven years, but would also form a 19-member provisional council tasked with finding cuts in university ancillary fees equal to the cost of the increase. For the fall 2012 semester the government will cover the cost of the tuition increase.

On Sunday, Martine Desjardins, the president of FEUQ, said that it was likely that students would not accept the new offer after a disagreement between Line Beauchamp, the Quebec education minister, and the student associations emerged.

Students associations have characterized the recent offer as a moratorium on fees while Beauchamp said that the offer was an “agreement.”

According to La Presse, Beauchamp said on Sunday that there was “no guarantees” that the amounts students pay would be lowered. Any reduction in tuition would depend on the work of the provisionary council, she said.

Later on Sunday night, roughly 2,000 students marched through downtown Montreal in protest the latest offer to student associations. The Facebook event for the demonstration was titled: “Demonstration against the government’s offer: freeze or strike.”

Students marched peacefully for four hours until their numbers dwindled down to around 100. Police pushed the remaining marchers off the road as they walked north on Berri from Maisonneuve. An officer on the scene later confirmed to The Daily that the demonstration was never illegal.

The CEGEP de Valleyfield is set to vote on the offer today. A member of CLASSE, they are the first student association to do so.

—with files from Henry Gass