For Immediate Release
Montréal, March 9, 2017 – The omission from their collective agreement of a work-family balance clause for Anglophone teachers in Quebec is considered grossly unfair and discriminatory, said a group of teachers who are calling on their union, the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT), to correct the omission.
According to two representatives of the Teachers’ Committee on Work-Family Balance, Katharine Cukier and Anjali Abraham, the omission of such a clause is unacceptable, since QPAT inexplicably failed to explicitly negotiate this clause in the 2015-2020 collective agreement, which was reached with the Management Negotiating Committee for English-language School Boards (CPNCA). Representatives of the Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education sit on the CPNCA.
The Teachers’ Committee has circulated a petition that has gathered 50 signatures including teachers with family needs involving young children, children with disabilities, spouses with chronic illnesses and aging parents. A quarter of the teachers who have signed are men.
According to Ms. Cukier, since 2014, QPAT was made aware of the inexplicable omission of a work-‐family balance (WFB) provision in its 2010-2015 collective agreement. QPAT Executive Member Peter Sutherland indicated in 2015 and then in early 2016 that such an absence was an oversight by the QPAT negotiating team, and that it would be corrected in the 2015-2020 collective agreement. This did not happen.
The situation is unacceptable because the WFB is in the collective agreements of unions representing French-speaking teachers, and that of English-speaking non-teaching colleagues. Only English-speaking teachers and bus drivers are deprived of this clause and benefits, which leave them vulnerable to stressful negotiations on a case-by-case with a particular employer, exhausting union grievances, insecurity and financial disadvantages.
Ms. Cukier is an English teacher with 20 years of experience who has a son with severe autism. She experienced difficult situations at work in obtaining WFB arrangements, and considers the omission “disrespectful” towards the 8,000 plus teachers in the English-speaking sector, many of whom are women.
“It is bewildering that our union, which negotiates in cartel with the CSQ (Centrale des syndicats du Québec) would neglect one of the most pressing issues of the workplace when for the past decade. The CSQ has been in the forefront of mobilising the province to take action on work-family balance,” said Ms. Cukier.
For Ms. Abraham, WFB arrangements will make a big difference in her and her family’s life. She is a senior mathematics teacher for 20 years of teaching experience. A WFB arrangement would help her balance marking and lesson preparation, and family care of her two young children when she takes on a full-time teaching load in 2018.
“The omission of a work-family clause means a failure to understand the nature of not only teachers’ work but also the demands of “family work”, and quite often, those of a woman’s work,” she noted. “This is 2017, and this is one of the top women’s issues of our times.”
Both women also find the absence of the WFB clause a failure on the part of the Quebec Government, namely Treasury Board and the Education Ministry, to treat English-speaking teachers equitably.
“The Family Responsibility Annex which is a specific commitment from the Conseil du Trésor du Quebec, is a first, significant step in the right direction to transforming the culture of our workplace and promoting support for families and women,” added Ms. Cukier. “How could Quebec let this slip through?”
The Teachers’ Committee is calling on the Quebec Government to correct the omission and restore equal protection and benefit for English-speaking teachers. It is supported by CRARR in its representations to concerned government ministers, as the situation involves systemic discrimination against women, particularly women with disabled children and spouses, and women of diverse backgrounds who will soon make up an important percentage of teachers.
CRARR is also calling on the government to amend the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to include “family status” as a specific ground of prohibited discrimination, similar to that found in the Canadian Human Rights Act, and human rights laws of Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. In 2010, the Quebec Court of Appeal has stated that the ground of civil status (“état civil”) in the Quebec Charter does not include family situation (“situation parentale”); several labor relations tribunals have since adopted this position.
“Sooner or later, there will be complaints of discrimination and constitutional challenges to the QPAT collective agreement, because the omission of the WFB clause has the effect of discriminating against women with special family needs,” stated CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi.