After a week of mixed results, the strike movement carries on

ADEESE, the education student association at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), surprisingly voted down a proposed unlimited general strike at its general assembly on February 5. After a recount, the official tally was 343 for and 396 against, with 22 abstentions.

This loss was particularly disappointing since the 5,000-member association is the largest yet to vote on the strike this year, and has been among the most active participants in the campaign for paid internships. As a result, some might be wondering whether the previous provincial government, under the Liberal Party of Quebec, effectively managed to placate the juggernaut association — or the movement as a whole — with its offer of compensation for the final student-teaching internship.

The Comités unitaires sur le travail étudiant (CUTEs), or Student Work Unitary Committees (SWUC), have criticized the government’s $3,900 compensation as an inadequate half-measure, calling instead for the proper remuneration of all student internships and the protections offered under Quebec labour law.

But students at Cégep de Granby also voted against a proposed one-day strike this week.

On the other hand, AGEFLESH, representing the 2,000 humanities and social science students at Université de Sherbrooke, voted narrowly in favour of 3 one-day strikes (February 8 and 20, and March 8), as well as a one-week strike to take effect as soon as a minimum of 20,000 students in three different regions of the province is attained.

At its own GA on February 6, the Vanier College Students’ Association (VCSA) became the first cegep student association to vote in favour of the strike. The 8,700 students at the anglophone institution in Montreal will walk out for a half day on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 20.

vanier college
General assembly of the Vanier College Students’ Association (VCSA). Photo: Bruno Le Héritte

And AFESPED, the political science and law students’ association at UQAM, voted in favour of a three-day strike from March 6 to 8. Furthermore, it voted for a referendum over three days next week (February 12 to 14) to decide on an unlimited general strike for its 2,000 members.

A referendum allows members unable or unwilling to attend a general assembly to participate in voting, but eliminates the possibility for collective deliberation and debate — which are essential to a healthy, participatory democracy.

Next week, in addition to AFESPED’s referendum, there will be one at Cégep Limoilou in Quebec City. There are also more GAs scheduled to vote on the strike, including AFESH (social science at UQAM) and AEEHAUM (art history at Université de Montréal).

The AESFQ (student midwives at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières), who voted in favour of an unlimited general strike almost a month ago, will be eagerly awaiting the results — and hoping for a more substantive commitment from their peers.

For an updated list of the student associations going on strike, please visit the “Who’s on Strike” section of this website.

Featured photo: ADEESE general assembly (by Camille MB)