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Quebec strikes: Union president cuts short trip to Dubai after media attention

MONTREAL — Amid labour conflict across Quebec, a major public sector union has decided that sending its president to Dubai for a global environmental summit wasn't the best idea.

The FTQ said Tuesday that Magali Picard would be returning immediately from the COP28 climate talks, a day after she arrived in the Middle East emirate.

The union initially said Picard would remain at the summit until Monday, but after her absence made the rounds in the Quebec media, she said she would be catching the next flight back to Montreal.

The FTQ is part of a common front of four unions that together represent 420,000 workers in sectors including education and health care.

Common front unions went on strike for three days last week, and on Tuesday they announced they would be back on the picket lines for a week beginning Dec. 8 if a deal isn't reached with the province.

"The FTQ has been participating in various COPs since the very beginning," the union said. "It is important for our organization to be vigilant and protect the rights of workers in the transition to a green economy."

Mélanie Gougeon of the FTQ defended her president on Tuesday, saying that even when she is overseas, Picard "is in constant contact with the negotiation team."

The common front says the strike days scheduled in December will be the final temporary walkouts before members begin an unlimited strike.

Meanwhile, the FIQ, a union representing about 80,000 nurses and other health-care workers, said it would strike between Dec. 11-14.

A separate Quebec teachers union with more than 66,000 members began an unlimited strike last week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2023.

The Canadian Press