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Health workers stage 15 minute walkouts
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Health care workers across the province responding to calls by the FTQ and its public-sector affiliated unions SCFP-Québec, SQEES-298, SEPB and UES 800 took fifteen minute breaks from their jobs at their respective locations in tribute to front-line health workers. A central demonstration was also held by the SCFP (Canadian Union of Public Employees) on Thursday at the FTQ headquarters on Cremazie in support of the walkouts.

The general public had also been invited to take part by standing with health care workers for those 15 minutes and many did in several locations. The demonstrations took place at 10 a.m. Among health care workers, to date, at least 18,000 have contracted COVID-19 and 12 have died.

In a statement, the FTQ called on the government — as well as the population it serves — to not remain indifferent to the sacrifices made by frontline workers.

“We want to show that in the health care and education sectors, people are leaving by the thousands because the working conditions are not good,” FTQ negotiations coordinator Marc Ranger said to The Suburban in an exclusive interview.

The FTQ is the largest trade union federation in Quebec, representing more than 600,000 workers.

The organizers hoped that the demonstrations would serve to remind the provincial government that four public sector unions representing some 400,000 workers have been negotiating to renew their contracts for a year, but so far to no avail. According to the FTQ, the average salary for public sector employees stands at $36,155.49.

“The government is wiling to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure, they need to invest in human resources. We are at a critical point right now.” Ranger told The Suburban.

School board elections are on

Anglo school board voters are going back to the polls for the first time in six years on December 20. Well some of them anyway.

Elections of chairs and commissioners were supposed to take place on November 1, but since all positions to be filled by elections were located in red zone territories, the balloting was halted.

After the widescale acclamations of school board commissioners and chairs earlier this month, only a handful of posts remain contested, and Quebec’s education ministry is now working with Élections Québec to get the process rolling again in the contest of Covid-19 safety measures.

More than 88% of positions were acclaimed. More specifically, out of the nine chair positions to be filled, six were acclaimed and took office on November 6. Two positions will require votes and one position remains vacant and a new election process will be undertaken at a later date. Of the 95 commissioner posts to be filled, 83 were acclaimed, with 7 facing election and 5 remaining vacant that will also be subject to a new election process at a later date.

In the Greater Montreal area that means retired teacher and education activist Chris Eustace facing off against former commissioner Judy Kelley for chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, along with commissioner races for divisions 2,3 and 4. At the EMSB, incumbent Julien Feldman is facing challenger Irwin Rapoport for Ward 3, the only election at that board. At the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board in Laval and the north shore, all council seats were acclaimed except for the chair, which will be contested by Noémia Onofre De Lima and Paolo Galati.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced that the process will be adapted to limit the number of people on the premises of polling stations. To promote social distancing, extra days for advance polling (December 12, 13) and an extra one for the vote (December 19) are being added and time slots during which polling stations are open will be modified.

Mail-in voting will be permitted for voters domiciled in CHSLDs and private seniors’ residences, who can vote on their own. Mail-in voting will replace mobile polling stations and will also be made accessible to categories of people other than those to whom mobile voting is usually accessible, including persons returning from a trip abroad for less than 14 days; persons diagnosed with COVID-19 and still considered to be a carrier; persons showing symptoms of COVID-19; persons who have been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 for less than 14 days; and persons waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Newly elected Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) president Marlene Jennings called the decision “a blatant attempt at voter suppression” suggesting the government is endeavoring to ensure failure for elections “by intentionally impeding access to the voting process.” The government position “is completely illogical,” Jennings said. “In September, the government postponed school board elections in red zones… The government must reconsider this folly. This makes no sense.” If the government refuses to change course, she says, it must broaden mail-in voting to ensure wide public participation in the elections.

LBPSB candidate Judy Kelley called the announcement “a truly disrespectful and disgraceful slap in the face to English School Boards in Quebec…(the) Education Minister thought it wise to announce that our School Board elections will now be held on December 19 and 20 in the middle of an almost lock-down, red-zone, pandemic, because he can.”

Her opponent Chris Eustace took a different tone: “I am delighted...(It is) good news that these elections will proceed in the near future. As almost everyone is aware, the time is overdue for big changes in the system, the status quo is over.” Eustace said he “will continue to support school board reform Bill 40 as I did Liberal Bill 86... Both bills granted more decision-making power to schools and those who are closest to our children: Governing Boards, parents, teachers, principals, professionals and support personnel.”

“I’m glad the team came back in the second half,” Lakers coach Karim Ladicani said. “It was only a five-point difference, and that only happened in the last few minutes of the game. The only thing we can do is practice hard and come back stronger next game.”