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Unions affiliated with a Quebec labour alliance representing around 420,000 public sector workers have now reached tentative deals on salaries with the provincial government. Members of the FAE teachers union march in Montreal to begin their strike, on Nov. 23.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

A union representing about 40 per cent of Quebec’s teachers ended a month-long strike Thursday, and hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers have reached a proposed agreement on pay and benefits with the provincial government, after intense negotiations during the holidays.

The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), which represents more than 66,000 teachers, had been on an open-ended strike since Nov. 23, keeping around 800 schools closed.

The union’s leadership announced on social media Thursday evening that they will recommend their members approve a tentative deal reached with the government the day before, making it an agreement in principle. Members will vote after the holidays, the union said, and in the meantime all pressure tactics, including the strike, will be lifted.

No details of the agreement were shared publicly. In a statement Wednesday, Quebec’s Treasury Board said the deal “will make it possible to offer better services to students and promote their academic success; in particular with improvements to the organization of work, workload, class composition, professional autonomy and remuneration.”

The FAE declined to speak with media Thursday.

A separate, larger group of four unions, known collectively as the common front, announced in a statement earlier in the day that it had reached its own “proposal for an agreement in principle” with the government, which it will present to delegates over the next few days.

Common front members include teachers, education support staff, lab technicians and many other types of public workers. They held 11 days of strikes in November and December, part of an escalating labour conflict that has shut down schools and delayed health care procedures throughout the province.

Before the holidays, the common front threatened to start an open-ended strike in early 2024 if no deal was reached with the government before the new year.

“In terms of wages, the objectives of the common front were based on two key principles: protecting our 420,000 workers against inflation and obtaining a certain general catch-up in wages for all workers,” union leaders said in their statement, which does not detail the terms of the agreement.

In a separate statement, Quebec’s Treasury Board said the tentative deal covers five years, 2023 to 2028, and “takes into account the improvement of the working conditions of state employees and the organization of work through greater flexibility in collective agreements.”

The proposal touches on remuneration, pensions, collective insurance, regional disparities and parental rights, the Treasury Board said. It added that no details would be made public until union members have voted.

The proposed deal comes after negotiators reached several other tentative deals in the past week at sectorial tables, which determine working conditions in the various jobs held by union members. These tentative agreements will also be presented to common front delegates in coming days.

If delegates approve of the proposals, the union will then present the terms to their members, who will then vote.

Leaders representing the four common front unions – which are known by their initials, CSQ, CSN, APTS and FTQ – said they would not speak with media before presenting the proposal to their respective members.

Gavin Sewell, a parent of an eight-year-old student at a Montreal CSN-affiliated school who missed days of learning this fall because of strikes, said the common front announcement appears to be good news.

“I have no concern about the strike continuing. My only concern is that the teachers and the service workers are not being appropriately paid,” Mr. Sewell said. “As long as the increase in pay and benefits actually put them noticeably ahead of inflation, I think it’s great.”

Separately, about 80,000 nurses and other health care professionals represented by the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) said Thursday afternoon they had made an offer to the government and were waiting for a response. The union, which is not part of the common front, did not respond to a request for comment.

The last proposal to the province’s public-sector unions announced publicly by the government in early December, provided for a 12.7-per-cent pay increase over five years, up from an offer of a 10.3-per-cent increase presented in October. It was rejected by all the unions.

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