What is an open-ended general strike ?
A student strike is a voluntary and collective cessation of activities in order to assert claims that would not be addressed otherwise. The word “open-ended” points to a confrontational stance with the government. It does not mean that the strike is limitless, but that its length is undetermined in advance. This means that the strike goes on until demands are met or until students decide to stop the strike; generally students meet every to decide wherever they continue to strike or not. As for the word “general,” it means that the strike involves a large movement that includes a significant number of student unions in Quebec, giving it strength and credibility.
Why should we go on strike to oppose tuition hikes ?
An open-ended 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 population, 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 penalization. But most importantly, when facing open-ended general strike, the government is under pressure to quickly solve the conflict, because the possibility of canceling a term is unthinkable, economically and logistically, especially because of employee salaries. The education system is a crucial part of the economy and it requires human capital in order to survive. It would be impossible to coordinate the institutional congestion generated by a whole cohort of students that would not graduate. That is why an open-ended general strike is such a powerful weapon.