An estimated 150,000 people marched through downtown Montreal on Saturday afternoon to denounce Quebec’s Liberal government and its austerity agenda.
The event was organized by a self-described “common front” of union organizations, including the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ).
The unions say they brought their members from around Quebec into the city with the use of approximately 250 buses. The protesters—including public and private workers—converged on the corner of Parc Ave. and des Pins Ave. at around 12 p.m. and began marching shortly afterwards, along with supporters from student unions.
The large group marched slowly toward the offices of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, then proceeded to McGill College Ave. There, a stage was set up for various union representatives to deliver speeches, including Jacques Létourneau, president of the CSN.
Létourneau denounced the Liberal government over its austerity measures, and said that Saturday’s gathering was one of the largest in Quebec union history.
He went on to challenge the Liberal government to acknowledge the contribution that his union members make in Quebec society when negotiations resume.
“The Liberal government will have to clearly understand the determination of workers in this fight for social justice, for equality and for recognition of the work we do,” Létourneau said.
In a release published on its website, the CSN specifically criticized the government’s plans for a two year salary freeze for public-sector employees, and what it describes as a “meagre” salary increase of 3 per cent over five years.
After the speeches, the crowd was treated to a musical performance by francophone musician Yann Perreau, who said that the demonstration was the start of “l’automne chaud”, a term being used by unions to describe ongoing strike and protest actions in Quebec.
A media relations officer with the Montreal police told The Link that the demonstration was peaceful, and that no arrests were made.