Forum: How was the No Mandatory Overtime action in your area?
Tremblay: The day was very successful. There was no mandatory
overtime worked in our area and we are 4,300 health care professionals,
nurses, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists. It's a
first. So far, mandatory overtime has been used 350 times in our area
since January. Our day of action shows that when the employer is
willing to make an effort, it's possible to avoid mandatory overtime.
There must be good planning. When we are shortstaffed, it can be
difficult to find people to fill in, so management uses mandatory
overtime to keep the same people on shift, the easiest thing for them
We hoisted our banner
"Mandatory Overtime Has Gone On
over Autoroute 25 to notify the public that we were holding a day
without mandatory overtime. There was a citizens' demonstration in
front of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital with the banner "Nurses
Angry -- Citizens in Solidarity!"
WF: Can you briefly explain what problems
are caused by mandatory overtime in your area?
For years we've had budget cuts and management hired part-time
workers. They are starting to hire for full-time jobs again, but a lot
of workers don't want them because they're worried that if they work
five days, they will end up doing five days with mandatory overtime.
They fear being held hostage longer and more frequently.
Mandatory overtime causes a lot of problems for workers
as well as
patients. It affects alertness, causes fatigue, burnout. We have a huge
rate of absenteeism. If I'm not mistaken, we're close to a rate of 15
per cent for long-term disability absenteeism in the Montreal's east
end. We're not talking about day-to-day life here, about calling in
for the day. Burnout is largely the result of mandatory overtime.
When they cannot find someone for mandatory overtime,
the workload. If you're in the emergency room, for example, and you
have to take care of eight patients instead of four, you cannot be as
vigilant. The ratios are smaller in the emergency department, because
the cases and care are complex, it requires greater vigilance. This
is where the issue of safe care comes in. This means that at some
point, the patient may not be receiving the proper treatment or may not
receive it within the required time frame. Let's take the example of a
Long-Term Health Care Facility (CHSLD ) where there is instability,
where people are tired, and the ratio is increased to the point that at
times a nurse could have 75 patients. You are supposed to give people
their medication at 8 am, but how can you do that if you have 75
patients to take care of? One patient may receive medication at 11 am
and another at noon. The interval for the medication is not respected.
Medication is not meant to be taken in this haphazard manner. So the
population is also being held hostage with regard to their care.
WF: What are you proposing to remedy the
ET: We have
proposed a work-time reorganization. It’s a project initiated by us,
which would be applied to the eastern part of the island. It’s an
eight-day work schedule covering a two-week period, with full-time
conditions, meaning a bank of sick days, a full-time pension, benefits,
etc. We would work two four-day weeks with a weekday off. Anything over
eight days of work in that two-week period would be paid overtime.
Right now the project is being tested in the emergency department. The
employer is open to it, but for the moment is not ready to pay overtime
beginning on the ninth day. People working in emergency are keen on it.
It’s not full-time work. It’s more than part-time, with employees being
given full-time conditions.
WF: Do you want to say something in
"Mandatory overtime is the problem,
never the solution."
ET: We are asking all workers to support
because it is their cause. What we provide are services. This not a
commercial enterprise. People have the right to good quality services.
That's why we have ratio projects, to determine how many patients a
nurse should have to be able to provide quality care. Where ratio
projects are being tested, where the workload has been lightened, it
has been demonstrated that there are fewer injuries; patients are left
alone for less time, particularly in CHSLDs. The same goes for
intensive care, if you have safe care, chances are you will recover
more quickly; there is less chance of error, etc. There are investments
to be made
at the beginning to ensure savings further down the line.
Under current conditions, the employer has every
interest in keeping
the problems under wraps. There is a hidden understanding that your job
is at risk if you reveal what the employer is doing. We defend the
right of our members to say what is happening. To date, we have had 10
disciplinary warnings for refusing to do mandatory overtime.
Yet our code of ethics says that if you are exhausted and do not feel
that you able to work, that you may put people at risk, you have the
right not to accept. We are contesting all the disciplinary warnings.
If we work without mandatory overtime, it's a win-win
situation for all.
This article was published in
Number 13 - April 11, 2019