Why an Unlimited General Strike?
Through years of negotiations, demonstrations, and marches, students across Quebec have told the government that tuition hikes are unacceptable. The government has failed to change course. Tens of thousands of students are now joining an unlimited strike because all other options have failed, while, as the history of the Quebec student movement shows, unlimited general strikes work.
Most recently, in 2005, the government sought to cut $103 million from financial aid. By March 15, over 230,000 students were on strike – over half of Quebec’s student population. On April 1, the Minister of Education, Jean-Marc Fournier, agreed to restore all $103 million in cuts.
Similarly, in 1996, a strike beginning on October 24 and numbering around 100,000 students at its peak lead Education Minister Pauline Marois to reverse a planned 30% fee increase, reinstating a tuition freeze on November 18.
In building toward a massive, unlimited strike this winter, Quebec students are joining a global network of movements fighting similar battles for the future of higher education. As recently as November 2011, a nationwide strike in Colombia forced the president to retreat on reforms that would have partly privatized universities. Similar struggles are ongoing in California, the UK, and Chile.
Around the world, unlimited general strikes work because of the economic pressure they exert on governments. The state cannot afford the delay in the annual influx of new full-time workers, or the additional classrooms and instructors needed to accommodate a cohort of students repeating a semester, just as a new cohort arrives. Neither can governments afford to hold back an entire year of incoming students.
How does an unlimited strike work?
Once a special General Assembly of SSMU, AUS, or another student society votes for a strike mandate and the strike is initiated, the striking body will meet weekly to re-approve the continuation of the strike by majority vote. In other words, no single strike vote binds us to an unlimited walkout, but typically the strike is renewed until student demands are met.
During a strike, a strike council made up of all interested students plans and coordinates daily activities. Workshops, community breakfasts, rallies, marches, movie screenings – without classes or exams to worry about, anything is possible.
What effect will a strike have on the semester?
The semester will not be lost. Because the costs of accommodating the additional students in the following semester are too high to the government, at no time in the long history of Quebec student strikes has a semester been canceled. Classes will resume where they left off once the strike is over, extending the end of semester and exams by a couple of weeks, if necessary. Classes may be condensed, and some evaluations re-arranged. For graduating students, a strike may delay but does not threaten the conferral of degrees.
Why Should We Strike? 23 Answers for Students (Free Education Montreal)
A history of student strikes in Quebec (The McGill Daily)
Student Strike FAQ (SSMU)