Posts tagged ‘Montreal Teachers Association (MTA)’

January 27, 2017

Comparing Sick Days and Special Leave Days in Teacher Contracts Across Canada

With Provincial negotiations finished, the local Teachers Unions are now consulting their members about negotiations over local contracts with school boards. Below is a table put together by Royal West teacher Katharine Cukier comparing sick day (provincially negotiated in Quebec) and special leave day (locally negotiated with school boards) provisions in collective agreements across Canada with those of teachers in the English Montreal School Board.

WonkaDolbecTo put the information in this table in context, a few words about salary. In recent years there have been two rigorous comparisons of teachers salaries across Canada. The BC Teachers Federation’s document compared the top and bottom of the payscale of teachers across Canada in two categories in 2013/2014. In three of the four comparisons Quebec’s teachers were dead last in terms of salary. A similar comparison covering the same year by Statistics Canada echoed these results finding Quebec’s teachers at the bottom of almost every category of comparison.

However, looking at the top and bottom of the payscale does not tell the whole story. There is also the issue of the number of steps in the payscale. While most provinces have between 10 and 12 steps on teacher payscales, Quebec has 17. To understand just how much this impacts teachers in Quebec, one can compare the earnings over 25 years based on the payscales in current collective agreements. Doing so reveals the following:

In comparing Quebec’s situation with respect to sick days and special leave days there are a few points to consider:

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January 12, 2016

Quebec’s proposed deal with public sector workers: a hollow victory for unions?

After months of mobilization and negotiation, union leaders are more interested in claiming victory than in actually achieving it

By Robert Green | Published January 5, 2016 by

Prior to the holidays, teachers, parents and students in Quebec received some hopeful news: the Common Front, consisting of unions representing over 400,000 of the province’s half a million public sector workers, had overcome their final hurdle and arrived at an agreement on salaries. The news was filled with stories of satisfied union leaders trumpeting the fact that they had persuaded the government to move from their initial offer of 3 per cent in salary increases over five years to an increase of between 9.15 per cent and 10.25 per cent per year.

It may therefore come as a surprise to readers to learn that many public sector workers are preparing to vote against the deal. Delegates for the federation representing health care workers, which represents nearly one-quarter of the Common Front’s membership, have already voted to reject the deal. The FAE labour federation, which represents 34,000 teachers in the province’s French school boards (but is not a member of the Common Front), is recommending that its members reject a similar deal.

Why are Quebec workers, who have been without a contract since last April, skeptical of the proposed settlement? Because, on closer inspection, the deal on offer is not at all the victory that the Common Front leaders are claiming.

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December 30, 2015

Sign the petition demanding equal treatment for teachers in Quebec’s English School Boards

Petition text:

QPAT (Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) has let its members down especially the 70% of us who are women. We, the 8000 teachers in the English school boards in Quebec are the only teachers and public sector workers in Quebec without an important equity feature in our contract. The ANNEX XXXV  on family-work reconciliation (or similar letter of understanding) is found in the contracts of the 100,000 francophone school board teachers (FSE and FAE)  and in the contracts of all CEGEP Teachers, nurses, and health care workers – 330,000 Quebec public employees with whom we made up the Common Front. This important recognition asserts that. The bargaining parties encourage the local parties to facilitate the conciliation of parental and family responsibilities with work-related responsibilities, when determining and implementing working conditions.

The members of QPAT, the majority of whom are women balancing work and family responsibilities deserve to have this very 21st Century recognition of their rights and their lives in their contract. It would encourage  management to be more responsive and sensitive to accomodating family needs of teachers with our work conditions.Please sign if you support QPAT teachers (all teachers in the English Public School System in Quebec ) sharing in the rights of the francophon majority and if you support the advancement of women`s rights in the workplace.

To sign the petition click here

To read Katharine Cukier’s open letter to Richard Goldfinch click here

October 27, 2015

Measuring up to the Rest of Canada Part 1: Quebec vs New Brunswick

October 25, 2015

Those present at the meeting for the Montreal Teachers Association’s strike vote heard a number of remarkable things from our union leadership. QPAT’s chief negotiator, Olivier Dolbec, for example described the various times teachers had been legislated back to work as victories in which teachers came out ahead. Dolbec’s central piece of evidence for this claim was that the back-to-work legislation of 2005 won us our current limits on class size.

This might be an interesting point if it were true. In fact the current limits on class size were the central element in the 2010 negotiations that convinced teachers to vote in favour of a negotiated settlement. The 2005 strike resulted in teachers being legislated back to work with the exact provisions government had put on the table prior to the strike. In other words, this strike did absolutely nothing to move government from what it was intending to do all along. One would think that QPAT’s chief negotiator would have his facts straight on such matters.

As if this was not enough to cast serious doubt on the judgement and integrity of our chief negotiator, Mr Dolbec then stunned the room with this remarkable statement:

“This is – and I challenge anyone in the room to say the opposite – this is the best collective agreement for teachers AROUND THE WORLD”

WHS teacher Robert Lavoie has taken up Mr Dolbec’s challenge. In this the first of a multi-part series Mr Lavoie presents a thorough comparison of the collective agreement of Quebec’s teachers with that of New Brunswick’s.

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September 21, 2015

Is striking an effective tactic for Quebec’s teachers?

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
–  Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity

By Robert Green

There is no question that the teachers of Quebec are angry. Already the lowest paid teachers in Canada, the government’s current salary offer would see Quebec teachers falling even further behind with their inflation-adjusted salaries decreasing by about 7% over 5 years. Of even greater concern is the fact that government is proposing to rid our contract of nearly every clause that protects our working conditions and the learning conditions of our students, from limits on class size to a range of supports for students with special needs.

It is an understatement to suggest that the teachers of Quebec want actions that will pressure government to back away from its most regressive proposals. Most teachers are ready to make personal sacrifices in pursuit of that goal. The question for Quebec’s teachers is: what sort of action will actually be effective in achieving this goal?

A grassroots push to work-to-rule

Last spring the members of the Montreal Teachers Association passed a motion in their annual general meeting stating that the action the members wanted to pursue was a work-to-rule campaign. The sentiment expressed by many MTA members was that the large number of unpaid hours worked by Quebec’s teachers was an enormous source of power. Given that teachers are not paid for enough hours to adequately do their job, withdrawing the volunteer labour done by teachers was seen by many as an effective way to create pressure within the system while avoiding the spectre of back-to-work legislation. Working to rule may not be as effective for other public sector unions but there was a strong sentiment that teachers were in a unique position to create real pressure with this tactic. There was also a feeling expressed that it would be far easier to build and maintain public support through a work-to-rule campaign than through a strike action which would create major inconveniences for families.

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February 15, 2015

A Revitalized Teacher Union Movement

By Bob Peterson | Published in Volume 29 No.2 – Winter 2014/2015 of rethinking schools

If we don’t transform teacher unions now, our schools, our profession, and our democracy—what’s left of it—will likely be destroyed. I know. I am from Wisconsin, the home of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.

In 2011, in the wake of the largest workers uprising in recent U.S. history, I was elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). Unfortunately, that spring uprising, although massive and inspirational, was not strong enough to stop Gov. Walker from enacting the most draconian anti-public sector labor law in the nation.

That law, known as Act 10, received support from the Koch brothers and a cabal of national right-wing funders and organizations. It was imposed on all public sector workers except the police and firefighter unions that endorsed Walker and whose members are predominantly white and male.

Act 10 took away virtually all collective bargaining rights, including the right to arbitration. It left intact only the right to bargain base-wage increases up to the cost of living. The new law prohibited “agency shops,” in which all employees of a bargaining unit pay union dues. It also prohibited payroll deduction of dues. It imposed an unprecedented annual recertification requirement on public sector unions, requiring a 51 percent (not 50 percent plus one) vote of all eligible employees, counting anyone who does not vote as a “no.” Using those criteria, Walker would never have been elected.

Immediately following Act 10, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature made the largest cuts to public education of any state in the nation and gerrymandered state legislative districts to privilege conservative, white-populated areas of the state.

Having decimated labor law and defunded public education, Walker proceeded to expand statewide the private school voucher program that has wreaked havoc on Milwaukee, and enacted one of the nation’s most generous income tax deductions for private school tuition.

Under these conditions, public sector union membership has plummeted, staff has been reduced, and resources to lobby, organize, and influence elections have shrunk.

People familiar with Wisconsin’s progressive history—in 1959, for example, we were the first state to legalize collective bargaining for public sector workers—find these events startling. And they should. If it happened in Wisconsin, it could happen anywhere.

And it has. In New Orleans, following Katrina, unionized teachers were fired and the entire system charterized. Following Wisconsin’s lead, Tennessee abolished the right for teachers to bargain collectively. In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled its expired contract with the teacher union. In city after city, privately run charter schools are dominating the education landscape.

Fortunately, teacher union activists across the country are revitalizing their unions and standing up to these relentless attacks. And this growing transformation of the teachers’ union movement may well be the most important force in our nation to defend and improve public schools and, in so doing, defend and improve our communities and what’s left of our democratic institutions.

The revitalization builds on the strengths of traditional “bread and butter” unionism. But it recognizes that our future depends on redefining unionism from a narrow trade union model, focused almost exclusively on protecting union members, to a broader vision that sees the future of unionized workers tied directly to the interests of the entire working class and the communities, particularly communities of color, in which we live and work.

This is a sea change for teacher unions (and other unions, too). But it’s not an easy one to make. It requires confronting racist attitudes and past practices that have marginalized people of color both inside and outside unions. It also means overcoming old habits and stagnant organizational structures that weigh down efforts to expand internal democracy and member engagement.

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January 25, 2015

MTA Referendum: Is NOW the time to propose extending term limits?

By Robert Green

Next week members of the MTA will be asked to vote on an amendment to the union’s constitution that will result in the electoral terms of MTA executive members being extended from one year to two years.

calvin-on-term-limits-for-dadsOstensibly this is being proposed by MTA President Peter Sutherland as a cost-saving measure for the union. While this measure, if approved, will certainly lead to the union saving on the cost of annual elections, there are several questions MTA members should be asking themselves before deciding how to vote.

The first question is why now? We are currently in negotiations for a new contract. Is this the time to come forward with a referendum that will potentially divide the membership? At this time when the stakes are so high for teachers and the future of education in Quebec, is this not the time that Mr Sutherland should be focusing on enhancing the collective power of MTA members? In proposing this referendum he seems to be focusing instead on enhancing his own power as MTA president. Even if one believes that this proposal is valid as a cost-saving measure, what would be the harm in waiting until after negotiations are complete in order to have this debate?

While it is undeniable that if approved by the members this proposal will save the union money, it is also undeniable that this proposal will reduce the degree of democratic accountability for our union leadership. Crucially it will mean that Mr Sutherland will not have to face the possibility of an election in the year following these negotiations. Thus far the MTA’s leadership has provided little vision as to how teachers can actually succeed in these negotiations and avoid repeating the debacle of 2005 when we were decreed back-to-work. By proposing this referendum now, instead of after the negotiations our current leadership will enjoy the benefit of not having to face the possibility of being held accountable for what transpires in these negotiations for almost two years.

Related to the issue of regular democratic accountability, is the issue of raising the MTA’s fees. Given our declining membership the MTA is in a financial crunch. Either we will have to make deep cuts to spending or we will have to increase the fees that teachers pay. The small savings that would occur if this referendum passes will not change this fact. Mr Sutherland knows very well that this is the case. He also knows very well that a referendum to increase fees will not be popular with the membership, particularly in the absence of any sacrifices being made by the union president with respect to his $92k+ salary.

To stand for election the same year that one is proposing to raise fees is not an attractive proposition for anyone. Indeed the last time the MTA leadership attempted to raise fees was six years ago, before the president’s post was being regularly contested in election. Since this time no MTA president has dared to raise fees, instead choosing to eat into the union’s accumulated surplus. In other words the possibility for annual elections served as a real disincentive for our union leadership to propose fee increases. MTA members should be asking themselves if eliminating the possibility for annual elections will not be making it easier or more tempting for our union leadership to propose raising fees.

The stakes have never been higher for Quebec’s teachers. Nearly every aspect of our working conditions are currently under attack by government. If MTA members want to send a message that Mr Sutherland should be focusing on enhancing our collective power rather than his own personal power as MTA president, they should vote no in this week’s referendum.

October 25, 2014

EMSB elections: One retired teachers union President questions another at NDG candidates meeting

By Jim Wilson

wilsonI attended the school board  candidates meeting in NDG this week. One of the candidates running on the Team Angela Mancini slate is former President of the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) Ruth Rosenfield. Considering that she uses her union background as being a qualification to be a commissioner, I questioned  her  record of financial transparency as a union president.
I made following remarks at the public meeting. Firstly, that Ms Rosenfield used the union contingency funds to pay herself in one year $40,000 in overtime. Secondly, that she arranged for the same contingency fund to provide  a member of the executive with  an interest free loan. Ms. Rosenfield made no effort to deny these charges. Thirdly, despite some members demanding clarification of union spending, pointing out that documents provided [by the union] were incomplete, and amongst other things formally demanding to be given access to view the itemized Amex bills paid by the MTA dating back five years. Rosenfield’s view is that once the financial review is accepted at the annual general meeting, the books are closed and members are no longer entitled to access any information on previous years.
In a perverse manner, Rosenfield’s  actions mirrors those of  the school board, school taxes increase as enrollment falls , so as the number of teachers decreased, their dues increased to provide for higher  MTA staff salaries and benefits. However, would this similarity of practices be considered as  a good reason to elect her?
Jim Wilson
May 19, 2014

We Need a Union Capable of Fighting and Winning in the Court of Public Opinion: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 4

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency. The third post looks at some of the ways we could improve our health insurance and asks members to consider whether the $300,000 QPAT removes from the plan annually is not a back-door fee increase.

austerityAnother important reason I’m once again running for MTA president is that I believe our union leadership needs to do much more to speak out in defense of public education and the integrity of the teaching profession. An effective media strategy can be a powerful means of creating pressure on the employer that can translate into real gains for our members and for public education.

Yet our current leadership seems utterly uninterested in engaging issues in the public sphere.

This was exemplified with the arrival of the Charter of Values as the central issue of public debate in Quebec. Given that this proposed legislation had such direct and severe consequences for teachers, I expected our unions to speak out. Here was an opportunity for the newly elected Mr. Sutherland to show that he could stand up for teachers and defend us in the public sphere. Sadly, unions representing teachers in English school boards were the last in Quebec to weigh in on the issue.

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May 15, 2014

We Need Better Health Insurance, Not a Back Door Fee Increase: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 3

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency.

Another reason I am running is to push for badly needed changes to our health and dental insurance. The mere mention of our insurance elicits enormous frustration from the teachers at my school. There is a widespread perception that this plan does not provide good value. The vast majority of teachers with the ability to register on their partner’s insurance plan all seem to do so.

healthUnfortunately neither the leadership of the MTA nor QPAT seem at all interested in working to make improvements to our insurance. While I believe that a thorough investigation into the problems with these plans needs to be done, there are two things that could be done immediately to improve these plans. The first is to actually consult the members on the cost and composition of the plan.

Our union leadership loves to tell us that these are our plans and that we have complete control over them. Yet since these plans have been established the members have never been formally consulted on their cost and composition. Perhaps members would be willing to remove the coverage of certain items in order to reduce fees? Or perhaps the members would be willing to pay more for additional coverage? Or perhaps the members would like to replace the coverage of certain items for improved coverage on others? The point is there is no way of knowing any of this as long as we have a union leadership that is unwilling to put in the work to consult the members. How are we ever to improve the members’ satisfaction with these plans if we never ask them what they think? What good is membership control if the members are never given an opportunity to exercise that control?

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May 10, 2014

For an MTA that is More Transparent and Democratic: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 2

By Robert Green

In part one of this series I explained that the first reason I am once again running for MTA president is that little has changed in the last year with respect to the union’s partisan leadership style. MTA members need a union leadership that is respectful of diverse views and committed to encouraging participation.

An equally important reason that my hat is in the ring this year is that there has also been little change on the question of financial transparency and respect for the MTA’s constitution.

transparentOnce again this year a member has requested to see the union’s Visa statements. Once again the member is being denied. This should be a matter of great concern to every member of the MTA because, after all, this is our money we’re talking about. We need an MTA leadership that will run the union according to the highest standards of financial transparency. More than that we need an MTA leadership with nothing to hide!

However this is about much more than financial transparency. It is about whether or not the union’s constitution is respected. Mr Sutherland insists that his actions do not violate the constitution because he has convinced his loyal followers in the reps assembly that it is within their power to “interpret” the constitution. This argument might hold water if there was anything vague or unclear about the wording in the constitution.

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May 4, 2014

Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President! Part One: We Need a Union That Favours Participation not Partisanship!

I was really hoping to take a year off from MTA elections. Though I knew Mr. Sutherland was firmly entrenched in the small clique that’s been running the MTA for years, I hoped that the MTA might become different under his leadership. At least different enough to justify taking a year off. And while in some ways he is certainly an improvement over his predecessor, there is still far too much that remains of the old MTA and its undemocratic and ineffective ways. Teachers need an alternative.

banner2The first sign that little would change with Sutherland at the helm of the MTA came at the beginning of the very first reps assembly. Here was an opportunity to set a new tone and the very first thing Mr. Sutherland did was to launch a very personal attack on an individual member known for her dissenting views within the union. The attack involved a misrepresentation of why this member’s complaint against the MTA at the labour relations commission had been rejected. As I wrote in my blogpost “Setting the Record Straight About the Complaint Against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission“:

Although reporting such an event to the members is entirely appropriate, it should be noted that the MTA leadership has a history of reporting events involving the Labour Relations Commission only when it suites their political interests. Rulings against the MTA, or members being paid-off in out-of-court settlements are often not reported to the membership.

It should also be noted that the member in question, Cecile Doucet-Greene, was identified by Sutherland in his presentation of the matter and had been provided no prior notice whatsoever that her case would be the subject of discussion. Given that the reps assembly agenda is set several days in advance, Sutherland and the other members of the executive had all the time in the world to notify Ms Doucet-Greene of the fact that her case would be discussed. Had this simply been about informing the members in good faith, such notice would have been provided. The fact that it wasn’t illustrates that this was an ambush, made in bad faith to score cheap political points.

It’s fine for the MTA’s leadership to disagree with elected members of the reps assembly, but playing these sorts of vindictive games is just petty. It renders the tone of the MTA’s meetings so toxic that well intentioned members don’t want to even attend let alone participate in discussions. Mr Sutherland had an opportunity to change the union’s partisan institutional culture. He has instead chosen to doubled-down in perpetuating the old culture which valued loyalty and loyalty only.

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November 20, 2013

QPAT, Pay Gaps and the Scent of Bovine Excrement

An open letter to QPAT President Richard Goldfinch by Jim Wilson

Mr. President,

Quebec’s teachers are the lowest paid in Canada –oh, and the highest taxed too.

You sometimes state that QPAT goes back to 1864—that was PAPT, but just go back to the PAPT in the 1980’s  and compare it with today’s QPAT.

At that time, PAPT had a membership of about 8,000, as does QPAT today, but there were some staffing differences: there was a president, and 4 executive assistants. Today, QPAT has a president, an executive director and 5 executive assistants; a 50% increase in the hired help. The only person, who remains from that time, is the present executive director, Alan Lombard, who has been in charge of the staff. Has he been so incompetent that he needs more staff for an organization that is the same size as in past?  Maybe he operates like a school board –as student numbers decline, hire more board staff.

Over the same period, the demand on teachers has increased, but salaries have lagged. Not that Lombard would have ever noticed; he was too busy looking after Lombard.  Although he was a teacher on syndical leave, he carefully avoided paying any union dues during his decades of working for the union—[how is that for irony]. He changed his pension from the teacher plan to that of an administrator; how did that happen? His ‘loyalty’ to the union cause was best exemplified with an ultimatum that he would  leave almost immediately for an unnamed job, unless he was user204100_pic55146_1275029014allowed to retire, collect his pension and keep his job. He could have retired and taken the mystery job. Why not? Could it be that he had conjured this unnamed job offer as a ploy to double dip? Maybe I am just a skeptic, but his story had a whiff of bovine excrement. Why  can’t he clear the air about the job offer, is it a state secret?   However, some of executive members’ olfactory senses worked differently to mine; concerned about the prospect of his impoverishment they added a RRSP [why is that now removed from a line item on the budget?] His income is more than triple that of an average teacher. Mike Duffy would be jealous.

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October 14, 2013

Setting the Record Straight About the Complaint Against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission

By Robert Green

For those that were hoping that the election of Peter Sutherland as MTA President would lead to a union with less acrimonious meetings and a more open democratic culture where everyone’s views are respected, the first meeting of the MTA reps assembly put such hopes to rest. Rather than setting a new tone of mutual respect, Sutherland chose to use the first meeting for a personal attack on an individual member known for her dissenting views within the union.

The attack came under a vaguely titled agenda item, “legal update”. It involved a complaint that had been filed against the MTA at the Labour Relations Commission alleging that the MTA had violated section 47.2 of the Labour Code which states that “A certified association shall not act in bad faith or in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner or show serious negligence in respect of employees comprised in a bargaining unit represented by it”. The item was ostensibly to report on the fact that the member’s complaint against the MTA had been unsuccessful.

Although reporting such an event to the members is entirely appropriate, it should be noted that the MTA leadership has a history of reporting events involving the Labour Relations Commission only when it suites their political interests. Rulings against the MTA, or members being paid-off in out-of-court settlements are often not reported to the membership.

It should also be noted that the member in question, Cecile Doucet-Greene, was identified by Sutherland in his presentation of the matter and had been provided no prior notice whatsoever that her case would be the subject of discussion. Given that the reps assembly agenda is set several days in advance, Sutherland and the other members of the executive had all the time in the world to notify Ms Doucet-Greene of the fact that her case would be discussed. Had this simply been about informing the members in good faith, such notice would have been provided. The fact that it wasn’t illustrates that this was an ambush, made in bad faith to score cheap political points.

Thus when Sutherland presented the complaint as having no merit and frivolously wasting the money the union had to spend to defend itself, Ms Doucet-Greene lacked the documentation she would have liked to distribute in her defence. I then offered to publish this documentation on this blog so that the members could read the complaint and the ruling for themselves.

Ms Doucet-Greene’s complaint was centred on the process by which a controversial new disciplinary measure, forced transfer, had been added to the MTA’s local collective agreement with the school board. In the document Ms Doucet-Greene submitted to the Labour Relations Commission she summarizes her complaint as follows:

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September 13, 2013

Painting a picture of intolerance

By Michelle Lalonde | Published September 12, 2013 by The Montreal Gazette
Negative reaction to the proposed Charter of Quebec Values ranges from bemusement through bafflement and all the way to fury, as Quebecers try to imagine how the charter would affect their workplaces and lives if it were ever applied.

The handy diagram provided Tuesday when the Parti Québécois finally unveiled its controversial proposal has raised more questions than it answered.

Pictograms indicating which religious symbols would be allowed in public sector workplaces, and which would be deemed too overtly religious to be tolerated in a secular society, have certainly inflamed the debate.

Hijabs, kippahs, turbans and large crucifixes on a necklace are some of the items the charter would ban public service employees from wearing. Smaller crucifixes, earrings or rings that display religious symbols would be permitted, the diagram indicated.

But what of medium-size crucifixes?

How about a big Star of David on a T-shirt? What if a male employee chooses to wear his beard long and moustache trimmed, a look favoured by some devout Muslims? What about a non-believer who simply likes the look of a large dangling crucifix earring? What about tattoos with religious messages and symbols?

Read more: