By Robert Green
Part one of this article looked at what Quebec’s three teachers federation – QPAT, FSE and FAE – are doing to keep their members informed of ongoing developments in the province affecting the interests of teachers. Specifically, it compared the website and newletter of each of the organizations. In both cases QPAT’s work did not compare well to either of the Francophone unions.
This article will compare the various public awareness campaigns organized by the three teachers federations and consider the question of union finances before offering some concluding remarks.
For many teachers the importance of their labour federation is not only in the negotiation of the provincial contract, but also in the ability of these federations to launch ongoing public awareness campaigns to raise the profile of teachers and defend public education. Here again we see significant differences between the three federations.
Evidence of ongoing campaigns on the FSE’s website is relatively sparse. That said there are two examples. The FSE has a campaign on students with special needs and another less developed campaign on raising the profile of the teaching profession. Both of these, however, date back to 2010. There is also some information about the reform dating back to 2008.
The FAE’s site is filled with examples of ongoing campaigns. For example, on the issue of the integration of special needs students, it has founded “La Coalition pour une intégration réussie” involving an impressive number of organizations including the Quebec Association of Pediatricians. The FAE’s “Platforme pédagogique” features an extensive critique of Quebec’s pedagogical reform as well concrete suggestions for fixing the problems with Quebec’s curriculum. Its site also features campaign materials on such things as violence against teachers and problems with the new report cards. It even produced this youtube video on the new report cards:
The only evidence of ongoing campaigns on QPAT’s website is a link to a petition on class composition and a page of information on the integration of special needs students leading up to a demonstration in Quebec city. Both of these were posted in the spring of 2011.
Another interesting comparison would be to look at how responsible each of these unions is with their members’ hard earned money. Although this information is not publicly available for the French unions, it would be interesting to know:
- If their union Presidents are being paid over $108,000 as QPAT is proposing to do in its upcoming budget?
- If they spend over $600,000 on the salaries of their 6 “professional staff” as QPAT is proposing to do in its upcoming budget? (This amount includes the Executive Director’s salary but not the $280,000 budgeted for the salaries of “office staff”)
- If their union office features a workout room with fitness equipment, as QPAT’s does?
- If their delegates from Montreal are routinely treated to hotel rooms during multi-day meetings taking place in Montreal, as QPAT’s are?
While it may be that such practices are common amongst the other federations, they nonetheless seem highly questionable in a context where year after year teachers are having their real wages eroded by inflation and their schools increasingly underfunded. While we make do with dwindling pay and dwindling resources in our schools, our provincial association seems to somehow remain above the austere reality of its members.
A rather obvious conclusion that can be drawn from the comparisons in both parts of this article is that compared to members of either of the two French teachers federations, members of QPAT are not getting very good value for their money. There are a lot of rather high salaries being paid with very little in terms of tangible results to show for it: a website with no current information; a newsletter that neither informs nor empowers; a glaring lack of ongoing campaigns.
A second conclusion concerns QPAT’s alliances. Currently QPAT allies itself with the FSE. This alliance has historic roots going back to the time before the FAE was formed. However, a cursory comparison of the two federations reveals that the FAE is doing much more to defend the interests of teachers. The FAE seems to run far more ongoing campaigns aimed at shifting public opinion. Further, its newsletter and website seem to be aimed far more at encouraging the participation of its members in the union itself. Perhaps it is time QPAT consider working more closely with the FAE and supporting its campaigns.