SLC teachers take to the picket line in protest of wages, hours

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Photo: Scott French

Teachers picket outside of Cegep Champlain-St. Lawrence on Monday morning.

The morning following World Teachers’ Day, an international celebration paying homage to the world’s educators, cegep teachers at Champlain-St. Lawrence formed picket lines outside the school’s front entrance. The three teachers’ unions involved in the province-wide demonstration protested what they see as the Charest government’s under-funding of the work of cegep teachers in the province.

“The government keeps adding new tasks through various reforms without any compensation or recognition even,” Constance Crossland, the president of the Champlain-St. Lawrence teachers’ union said.

Crossland pointed to the province’s failure to allocate any of the $70-million recently received federal transfer into teaching. Ten per cent or $7 million will be attributed to teachers’ peripheral duties, like language workshops, which are aimed to increase student success rates but do not reduce a teacher’s workload, according to Crossland.

A call to the Ministry of Education on Thursday went unanswered by press time Tuesday.
Currently, a full-time cegep teacher with three courses per semester is paid for 32.5 hours, although according to SLC math teacher Martin Huard, administrative tasks such as course planning, sitting on committees, and meeting with students can often increase a teacher’s workweek to 40 hours or more.

Crossland explained that teachers have been struggling with administrative tasks since the government initiated education reforms in 1994. Following the reform, teachers are required to balance two approaches to teaching: a more global “program-based approach” and a “competency-based approach,” which focuses on the skills a student acquires. Teachers need to devote more course-planning hours to ensure their classes are meeting both sets of objectives.

According to SLC history teacher Geneviève Ribordy, the onus is placed on teachers not only to meet the objectives but to ensure there is a high success rate in the classroom as well. “The ministry has high expectations and offers no extra means to help or meet these objectives.”

Both Ribordy and Crossland said the lack of resources offered to reduce workloads has very real effects in the short and long terms, which are now beginning to emerge. “People are burning out at a much higher rate,” Crossland said, adding, “You have tired people who do not have enough time for their students.”

Both women agreed newly hired teachers are the most likely to feel overwhelmed by the teaching experience at the Cegep level. “New full-time teachers walk around half-dead. Planning your courses for the first time can be very challenging.”

In the longer term, Ribordy said cegeps will have a harder time attracting new hires as baby boomer teachers begin to retire. “How do we attract teachers to work if we don’t have an attractive job to offer them?”

This is not the first time cegep teachers have been at odds with the provincial government over teaching duties. In 2005-2006, the teachers were legislated back to work following an impasse in collective agreement negotiations. Teachers will not be able to renegotiate their contracts again until 2010.