Quebec Public Sector Workers Fight for Their Rights and the Rights of All

Government Disinformation to Justify Refusal to Negotiate with Workers

On February 3, Christian Dubé, Quebec's Minister Responsible for Government Administration and Treasury Board President, sent an open letter to the media regarding the renewal of the collective agreements of some 500,000 public sector workers. The letter bears the arrogant title "The priorities of Quebeckers at the heart of the negotiations."

Nowhere in the letter does one find even the slightest reference to the concerns and demands that public sector workers have been presenting, not only during this renewal of their collective agreements, but over the last 20 years. Workers and their unions have and continue to raise the alarm that public services are at a breaking point, as a result of untenable working conditions as well as the conditions for the delivery of services; teachers (see interview below) have been raising the issue of how they continue to suffer. The demands put forward by the workers and unions renewing their labour contracts are aimed at addressing the situation through an immediate and significant improvement in public sector working conditions and wages.

In an irresponsible and even criminal manner, the Quebec government continues to deny this state of affairs, replacing it with what it has defined as "the priorities of Quebeckers." According to the government, Quebeckers' priorities are their ability to pay, the conditions facing care attendants and new teachers which require improvement, and the need to overturn traditional negotiation methods by establishing government-controlled discussion forums in parallel with negotiations (or rather their absence) to which "additional sums" are to be allocated, according to the government's goodwill.

According to the Treasury Board President, this all emerges from the mandate given to the Coalition Avenir Québec during the October 2018 Quebec election, through which it was brought to power by garnering only 38.5 per cent of the registered vote, while 34 per cent of eligible voters did not even cast their ballot. Rather than political discussion on the problems facing Quebec society, that election saw an extreme level of sectarian attacks by the cartel parties against each other. The letter reads: "[...] the government was elected to make changes that meet the priorities of Quebeckers. [...] During the October 2018 election, Quebeckers clearly expressed their desire for change by breaking with almost half a century of alternating between the Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois. Voters expressed a desire that elected members be creative; to dare to explore new avenues to meet the important challenges facing us."

The Government of Quebec is creating a serious risk for workers and the public by seeking to perpetuate and worsen the crisis affecting social programs and public services. It is doing so in favour of the state dictate it represents as the party-in-power, in favour of its schemes to eliminate negotiations with workers, all in the service of private interests. We cannot accept that its sectarian interests supplant the efforts of public sector workers and their unions to make their voices heard and speak in their own name for the renewal of collective agreements.

Can the government explain to us who these "Quebeckers" are who would be examining the state of affairs of public services from the perspective of "their ability to pay," based on how neo-liberal governments decide on their budgets? Quebeckers are public sector workers, their families, and all those who use public services and depend on them during their lives. They are aware of the crisis affecting social programs and public services because for decades now they have been experiencing it and asking that it be resolved to the benefit of the workers and the services themselves. To achieve this, their voices and mass actions in defence of their claims are essential.

The Quebec government must back down and sign collective agreements which include wages and working and retirement conditions acceptable to public sector workers, the very people who are doing the work for us all.

This article was published in

Number 5 - February 12, 2020

Article Link:
Quebec Public Sector Workers Fight for Their Rights and the Rights of All: Government Disinformation to Justify Refusal to Negotiate with Workers


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