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Members of the FAE teachers union march to begin their unlimited strike, on Nov. 23, in Montreal.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Hundreds of Quebec schools could stay closed until the holidays if negotiations don’t progress, the leader of a major teachers’ union on strike says.

The Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) started an open-ended strike last Thursday, joining hundreds of thousands of other public-sector workers who held a three-day walkout last week.

Although discussions are continuing with the Quebec government, including negotiation sessions Monday and Sunday, little progress has been made, according to Benoît Giguère, the FAE’s vice-president of labour relations.

“We don’t want to go there, but it could go until Christmas,” he said in an interview Monday.

The FAE represents more than 65,000 teachers in 800 elementary schools, high schools and other institutions throughout the province who have been without a contract since April 1. It is looking for better working conditions, including more days off and the addition of more classes dedicated to students with special needs, along with better pay as they still earn less than their peers in the rest of the country.

Most Quebeckers support the FAE’s demands, according to a Léger poll conducted on behalf of the union and released Monday.

Sonia Lebel, Chair of Quebec’s Treasury Board, said Sunday night during an interview with Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle talk show that it was necessary to consider the reorganization of work and services during negotiations.

She gave an example from last fall when thousands of teachers were still missing in the days before the start of the school year.

“It’s because the assignment is done too late,” Ms. Lebel said, referring to the allocation of teachers’ positions.

Mr. Giguère said that discussions stall because this is an issue for local branches to negotiate. He also said factors such as teachers moving in the summer, which are out of the union’s control, and a persistent teacher shortage in the province would continue to create staffing problems at the beginning of the school year.

Quebec’s Treasury Board did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Separate negotiations continued Sunday between the government and a “common front” representing about 420,000 other public-sector workers in education, health care and social services from four unions known by their initials: CSQ, CSN, APTS and FTQ.

François Enault, first vice-president of the CSN, said in a text message the unions held a meeting Monday night and would make an announcement Tuesday regarding next steps after workers held a total of four days of strike during two separate walkouts earlier this month.

The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, representing some 80,000 nurses and other health care professionals, also held a two-day strike last week.

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