Government compromise is drawing near: Will we know how to react?

Thursday, March 22, 2012


With already several weeks of strike action under our belts, we are continuing to step up symbolic actions, protests and blockages – we have reached a point where strike actions are taking place every single day! Teachers, community groups, families, unions and several world organizations have already rallied in support of students in the struggle for educational justice. The right to education movement has gone beyond the simple issue of tuition hikes – it has made it possible to clearly express that we are fed up of sitting back while our collective future is defined by the demands of the political and economic elite.

The Liberal government is stubbornly silent, apart from sporadic declarations supporting SPVM violence, or a few empty sentences on the students’ responsibility to pay their “fair share”... But we know better. The government is refusing to negotiate in the hope that their silence will lead us to despair, that our movement will lose steam and fizzle out. The government can’t hold up much longer. When, in a La Presse article dated March 10th, a Montreal Public Safety spokesperson publicly demands that the government promptly resolve the conflict because striker action is disrupting public order to such an extent that it is becoming problematic, it means that, together, we have succeeded in causing a constant and undeniable disturbance. Under these conditions, it is a safe bet that Charest is getting ready to make an offer. We should, hover, be prepared – this offer will likely be a far cry from meeting student demands.


Resist the urge to accept a "cut-rate agreement"

Despite the strength and scope of the movement we have created, many will see this first offer as one we can't refuse, and will encourage us to water down our demands; in other words, to be more "reasonable." Some student associations may jump at the offer, generating headlines like "The Strike is Over" and encouraging us to follow suit. Some people may even go so far as to assert their authority to try to persuade other associations to accept the offer.  In short, once negotiations are underway, it won't take much to give the impression that the movement has reached its end, pressuring associations that have fought with so much resolve to accept an offer that falls well below our demands. These scenarios are not mere speculation: this is precisely what happened in 2005 when the student federations (FECQ and FEUQ) signed an agreement in the absence of representation from several student associations at the negotiating table.

In response to these organizations, to newspapers, to the government that expects to bait us with half-measures, we must make clear our demands: we haven't been striking for weeks only to return to our classrooms under any old condition. The right to education cannot be reduced to a debate over numbers in which “$1,625 is too, too much, but $700 is fine.”  We will not stand to see our demands bartered against more regressive policies in other areas. In short, we must to be able show the government that we will not budge on our demands, that we will not be satisfied with solutions that undermine the struggle for social justice and the just redistribution of wealth for which we are, as we speak, fighting.  For this reason, we will not accept a “lesser hike.”

As of now, let it be repeated in every public forum so that it resonates in every General Assembly in Quebec: On march 22nd, the student movement will take second wind – and Charest is not prepared for this – where our demands are so clear and our exasperation so flagrant that no half-measures will be accepted. We are done with these so-called “social compromises” that the government imposes on us, budget after budget, in favour of a small minority. Today, let us roll up our sleeves to tackle the next crucial phase in our battle for educational justice. Let March 22nd be a new start, so that our struggle becomes the first victorious step towards a more global transformation of society.

Let us demonstrate that social backwardness is no longer acceptable and that, from now on, by hook or by crook, it is Charest’s turn to back down.

Let it be heard that we will accept no less than a full withdrawal of the government in its plan to hike tuition fees.