An Unlimited General Strike gives students maximum leverage to make their demands heard. It is a way of getting the government to listen to students, while giving students real leverage when it comes to negotiations. It is a way for students to gain visibility, both in the media and among the public, to debate and to let their demands be known. Students who oppose the tuition increases may have great arguments, but these arguments can’t spread and take hold until a substantial movement captures popular attention.
Furthermore, the fact that students collectively decide not to attend school during a strike prevents those who want to participate in protest actions from facing academic penalty. But most importantly, when facing an Unlimited General Strike, the government is under pressure to quickly solve the conflict, due to several reasons:
- Whether classes go on or not, labour contracts with university/CEGEP faculty and staff still have to be respected. The same applies to paying for equipment and building maintenance. Thus, the strike costs the state millions of dollars per day;
- The strike threatens to extend the semester, but that also costs additional dollars;
- The strike threatens to cancel the semester; however it would be impossible to coordinate the institutional congestion generated by a whole cohort of students that would not graduate. Accommodating a double cohort would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
- The education system is a crucial part of the economy and it requires human capital (graduates) in order to survive. The socioeconomic cost of withholding graduates for a session would be enormous. No government wants to be responsible for this.
Article extracted from ASSÉ/CLASSE’s Ultimatum Newspaper, May 2012