Consequences of Ministerial Orders for Quebec Health Workers

The Quebec government's Ministerial Orders within an overall state of emergency have given Quebec employers in the health sector a free rein over workers' working conditions. Even before this leeway, employers in seniors' homes, in hospital and health care in general were extremely abusive, some examples being the use of mandatory overtime, staff mobility -- which in itself is proving to be a factor for spreading the virus in various health establishments -- lack of personnel, etc. These are conditions which health workers were denouncing long before the pandemic. The most recent move has been the refusal, in a growing number of workplaces, to allow workers to take their scheduled holidays. In one such establishment, the summer holidays of the entire staff of caregivers were cancelled.

In one case, a nurses' aide's holidays were cancelled at the last minute. She states that if she refuses to work, she can be fined from $1,000 to $6,000. She adds: "We do everything we can to save lives, to keep our residents out of harm's way, to make sure nothing happens to them, but no one looks after us." Concerning this very serious problem of the need for health workers to take some time to rest, Nancy Bédard, President of the Interprofessional Health Care Federation (FIQ), states: "If everything depends on our collective efforts and solidarity to overcome this situation, it's not by wearing out its own workers that the government will achieve this."

The Quebec government must stop considering that workers are expendable. It must acknowledge what the workers have always upheld, that the working conditions of the health workers are the conditions for the safety and health of the people they are caring for. Acting as generals sending unarmed troops as cannon fodder into battle is a thing of the past. It is definitely not the way to deal with problems such as these which call for collaboration with frontline workers who, for their part, are more than willing to cooperate on the basis of their experience and their needs, especially in terms of working in as safe an environment as possible under the circumstances.

What part of this does the government not understand?

This article was published in

Number 35 - May 19, 2020

Article Link:
Consequences of Ministerial Orders for Quebec Health Workers - Pierre Soublière


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