The Social Strike of 2015 and Why You Should Care
The current budget cuts imposed by the neo-liberal government are jeopardizing the social measures that allow for a land of equal opportunities, one where there is an actual possibility of upward social mobility.
In the past few weeks, a lot of students associations at Concordia have been announcing General Meetings concerning the national strike movement. A General Meeting is a democratic assembly of members of undergraduate departments that vote on motions concerning their association’s activities or positions, a way for the elected Executive Committee of a student association to account for the opinion of the student body they represent.
The issue at hand, however, as opposed to the Maple Spring strikes of 2012, is of greater importance. The strike concerns not only post-secondary education, but also to the whole of society and its individuals. Quebec is one of the most egalitarian societies in North America because of the quality of its social services available to every citizen in need in the province.
The current budget cuts imposed by the neo-liberal government, however, are jeopardizing the social measures that allow for a land of equal opportunities, one where there is an actual possibility of upward social mobility. The government threatens these measures through the concept of the free user, an ideology where corporate interest supersedes the common good. Cuts are planned in many areas of public life.
In CULTURE, the cuts target the biggest public media institution, Radio-Canada, trashing hundred of jobs not only in the production of shows, but also in the promotion of emerging artists. We even lost one of the richest historical costume collections of North America—the corporate interest deemed it of little value.
In ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES, a lot of government-funded research projects and surveillance programs, ensuring the preservation and protection of our very fragile natural resources, are targeted.
Heck, our government even allows for short term, destructive resource extraction plans, selling our collective natural treasure with little regard to environmental consequences. The examples are many, including Plan Nord, Île d’Anticosti, the TransCanada Pipeline projects and schist gas fracking. All are made with short-term profits in mind and little concern for the population and our health.
In WELFARE, the cuts and raises in fees will undoubtedly affect those already struggling with a tight budget. A lot of the measures target women, who not only have lower-paying jobs on average, but often have to take care of children. Cuts in day care centres, employment insurance and social service jobs all seem to mainly target women. Elders and people of colour, already socially vulnerable, will also suffer the most from these cuts.
In HEALTHCARE, the cuts and new laws will aim to make the interaction between doctors and their patients more akin to business and their clients, with an emphasis on productivity. Older people, or people with complicated health problems, will be the ones suffering the penalty of these corporate solutions, hurried into the system like numbers on a bill.
In EDUCATION, the dramatic consequences of austerity measures can already be felt. Classes are getting bigger, teaching assistants are getting rare and students can no longer expect constructive criticism on their papers because of the shortage of faculty members. Moreover, the number of classes available is reduced.
The quality of education is jeopardized as teachers and their assistants see their responsibilities increasing and their security vanish. As for researchers, the government is cutting their funds. This allows for full private control of research focus, funding only research with potential commercial applications—in effect, a full-blown commercialization of education.
The upcoming strikes of Spring 2015 have far-reaching implications. They do not only concern students, but also public service workers’ unions. Thousands of students have voted in favor of a strike, eager to voice their concern about the consequences of austerity measures for the whole of society.
Politics is not just checking a box every four years. A strike is a way to show the government that their measures do not correspond with the ideals and needs of the citizens they are supposed to represent.
It is imperative that you get informed and that you voice your opinions, because nobody’s going to do it for you.