January 15, 2020

The Workers' Movement in 2020

It Is Up to Us!

Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive in Ontario
Challenges Facing the Movement for the Right to Education in Ontario
All Out to Support Education Workers' Ongoing Strike and Work-to-Rule Actions!
Aims of Ford Government's e-Learning Initiatives Exposed
Legal Challenges to Anti-Worker Legislation

Quebec Government Steps Up Anti-Social Offensive
All Out to Support the Fight of Public Sector Workers for Their Rights and for Public Services the People Need
Nurses Speak Out and Take Action Against Untenable Conditions
Interview, Nathalie Savard, President, Union of Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Respiratory Therapists of Northeastern Quebec 

The Workers' Movement in 2020

It Is Up to Us!

Unite to build the defence organizations and independent voice
of the working class!

With this issue Workers' Forum begins publishing in 2020. The year promises to be momentous for the working class as many sections are in motion to defend what is theirs by right. The realization that "It is up to us to defend our rights!" has seized the imagination of many. Gone are the illusions that some institutional force directed by the ruling elite and connected with their state machine will defend workers' rights. "It is up to us!" to build our defence and advocacy groups and voice of the present and for a future fit for human beings. No one else will do it.

Our duty and social responsibility as workers arise from the concrete conditions, human relations and problems as they present themselves. No fudging of the conditions and relations we face will do. No distortion of the tasks at hand is acceptable. The working class is taking up its leading role in society by making demands that provide society with a new pro-social aim and direction for the economy, a force with the numbers, desire and resources to defend its rights in the here and now.

The ruling elite of the financial oligarchy are a spent force at each other's throats for power and constantly at war to build their global empires to seize the social wealth workers produce. They see workers as a necessary evil, a cost to their amassing of private wealth; they view workers as things they can exploit, deprive of human rights and toss away as so much scrap so the rich can live in luxury and privilege. The rich oligarchs cannot solve any of the political, economic or social problems confronting the people and country because they do not want to do so. Real solutions would result in their loss of power and privilege and the empowerment of working people. Real solutions demand the recognition and defence of the rights of all and a new direction for the economy to meet the needs and well-being of the people and to humanize the social and natural environment.

The destruction and closure of production facilities such as GM in Oshawa and throughout the forest industry, Lowe's seizure of RONA and subsequent shutting of stores, the recurring economic crises and endless aggressive wars, the use of scientific technique such as software apps, automated vehicles, contract work and human trafficking to force workers into precarious employment and deprive them of their rights are all unacceptable and must cease. Workers are the essential human factor in the economy and the producers of all social wealth; they must set the aim of the economy to guarantee their well-being and security. The economy is our economy and the workers must have a voice, a say and control over its aim and direction.

Workers' Forum is more than the voice of the working class to break the silence on the living and working conditions of the working people; Workers' Forum is an organizing tool, a forum around which workers and their allies can inform others of their actions with analysis to defend their rights, to meet and engage in discussions to sum up their activities, to find their bearings, draw warranted conclusions and plan and organize their coming activities.

It is up to us to build and disseminate Workers' Forum, to write articles and reports of what the working class is facing and doing, to gain subscriptions and financial contributions and make Workers' Forum a powerful organizing tool for the working class.

It is up to us to make 2020 a year of momentous change towards empowerment of the working class!

Haut de page

Opposition to Anti-Social Offensive in Ontario

Challenges Facing the Movement for the
Right to Education in Ontario

Nearly 200,000 teachers and education workers have entered a new phase of their resistance to the Ontario government's program to restructure education so as to cut back on investments in K-12 education and seek out ways to turn the delivery of public education into a lucrative business. They are joined by hundreds of thousands of students who want to improve the quality of their education so that they can make a contribution to their society. They are also joined by parents of students and the general society which views the Ontario government's changes to K-12 education as arbitrary and an attack on the youth and the most vulnerable in society.

In this sense the majority of Ontarians stand opposed to the direction the government is taking which certain unions' own internal polling numbers reveal clearly. The challenge is how to deal with a majority government which represents a minority and is hell bent on imposing its dictate and criminalizing those who refuse to sell out their conscience and their responsibility to society and the younger generation as professionals.

The situation is different from the last major conflict with the Ontario government in which the McGuinty Liberals were in a minority situation and collaborated with the Progressive Conservatives to try to get the neo-liberal program of the rich imposed through legislation instead of reaching a negotiated settlement with the teachers and other education workers. In this case the government has a large majority and does not have to negotiate with other sections of the ruling class in the form of the opposition to impose the dictate of the rich. The government acts with impunity which is why working people are finding ways to hold it to account. Court challenges are one front of struggle but must not be used to demobilize the active fight of education workers by leaving decisions to the courts on what is just or unjust. Rulings that have affirmed rights are routinely violated by governments which seek the same results by making adjustments. They clearly do not prevent future governments from doing the same.

The official opposition in the Legislature presents itself as the voice of the working people -- in this case education workers -- but its aim is not the same as the aim of the workers' movement which it seeks to divert into supporting its electoral fortunes. They are worried that if they take a clear stand in defence of workers' rights, especially if strikes ramp up and the government imposes back-to-work legislation, they will lose the support of the ruling class. In other words, they have shown they cannot be relied upon to contribute seriously to this fight for the right to education. Their self-serving electoral ambitions do not permit it.

This is a challenging situation in that it reveals the failure of the democratic institutions to permit the will of the majority to be expressed and become the law of the land. Instead working people are told that all they need to do is vote for a more labour-friendly party in the next election, while in the present nothing can be done other than lobby those who have shown their concern for justice is eclipsed by a concern with coming to power to deliver justice.

Life experience has shown that rights are affirmed by transcending the limits placed on the thinking and actions imposed on the workers' movement by the rulers whose aim is to serve the rich. The parties which form the cartel party system of government disempower the majority by dividing the ranks of the working people between different factions of the rulers and on every conceivable basis. Most importantly, they deprive the working people of their own reference points based on the right to suitable wages and working conditions. On the basis of their own concerns, not those of the rich, the working people must wage the fight in the court of public opinion. They must oppose the neo-liberal nonsense that austerity is necessary, that they represent a cost rather than a source of value for the society, and that pay-the-rich schemes lead to prosperity. By building their steadfast resistance to the anti-social offensive they not only affirm their rights but also work out how to hold governments to account.

Workers' Forum calls on Ontarians to vigorously support the teachers and education workers and demand the government reverse its cuts and withdraw its anti-worker legislation. Do not permit the criminalization of those who fight for rights!

Haut de page

All Out to Support Education Workers' Ongoing Strike and Work-to-Rule Actions!

Picket at Thorold Secondary School, January 8, 2020 on the year's first one-day OSSTF strike.

As of January 13, all of the four unions representing teachers and education workers in Ontario are at some stage of strike actions to oppose the Ontario government's restructuring of public education and the violation of their rights to collective bargaining. While the government is fighting to erode education and privatize its delivery, Ontario's educators are fighting to defend their right to have a say over the direction of education so that it serves the needs of the youth, rather than the demands of the rich.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) has been carrying out strike action, both work-to-rule and rotating weekly one-day full withdrawal of services, since December 4, 2019, with all their members working in K-12 and adult education having participated in, or set to participate in, at least two days of full work withdrawals. OSSTF members have also been involved in informing their communities what their fight is about through leafletting and holding information pickets. Their work-to-rule actions thus far have forced the government to postpone the standardized Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), which was to be held in January. Their rotating strikes continue each week with five districts going out January 15.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation (ETFO) has stepped up its strike actions since implementing its first phase of work-to-rule. As of January 13 its members began withdrawing from all extracurricular activities such as sports and school clubs outside of school hours as well as other administrative duties including those related to the implementation of standardized testing (known as EQAO). Members arrive at school and leave according to the requirements of their contract, rather than being at school for the many hours before and after like they normally are to prepare for their classes or lead voluntary activities for students. ETFO has also announced that it will begin rotating strikes starting January 20, unless there is progress in negotiations.

On January 13 the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) launched its first phase of work-to-rule actions. It has made clear that if the government does not back down on its moves to deteriorate publicly funded education it will begin full strikes, rotating or otherwise. OECTA has announced its members will hold a province-wide strike Tuesday, January 21.

On January 11, the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) announced that its members have given the union a 97 per cent strike mandate and will begin a selective withdrawal of services starting January 16.

There are two other groups of unions that represent education workers that are not on strike or carrying out work-to-rule actions at this time. One, the Education Workers' Alliance of Ontario (EWAO) represents, among others, education workers' associations in Dufferin-Peel, Halton and Waterloo Region and the Association of Professional Student Services Personnel. EWAO currently has a tentative agreement with the government and its members are holding ratification votes. The other group, the Ontario Council of Educational Workers, made up of workers represented by the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Unifor, Ontario Public Service Employees' Union and Service Employees International Union, among others, is still in negotiations.

Overall, recent actions bring upwards of 190,000 Ontario teachers and education workers into job actions to reject the direction that the Ford government wants to take Ontario's education system.

One-day OSSTF strike, Sault Ste Marie, January 8, 2020.

Haut de page

Aims of Ford Government's e-Learning
Initiatives Exposed

The Ontario government has claimed that it wants to bring in e-learning courses, which will be mandatory for students to graduate, as a way of preparing them for the modern world and for post-secondary education. However, on January 13, the Toronto Star reported that it had obtained confidential documents that clearly reveal that the overall plan of the Ontario government is to use e-learning to cut funding to school boards and to sell e-learning courses to other jurisdictions and to international students. This includes creating a new entity to maintain and create a catalogue of "gold standard" online courses in English and French so that "maximum revenue generation may be realized."

The plan, directed by the Ministry of Education, is "to develop [a] business model to make available and market Ontario's online learning system to out-of-province and international students and examine feasible options for selling licensing rights to courses/content to other jurisdictions."

Under the heading "cost saving and revenue generation," the document noted that "the system does not generate any revenue for the province" and warned "costs for creation of online learning tools and resources may be duplicated across multiple delivery partners." This itself is pure disinformation. Educated youth generate billions in revenue for the businesses they work for. This must not only be recognized but new arrangements are needed to realize the wealth created through education as public revenue.

The plan showed that the Ford government had originally thought to make e-learning courses optional while at the same time slashing funding to public boards, essentially forcing them to gradually offer a minimum number of e-learning courses that would increase over time.

The government did not dispute the authenticity of the internal document, which is not dated but was written between March 16, 2019 and summer's end, according to time references in the text.

"We remain committed to building a world-leading online learning system to strengthen Ontario students' competencies in the modern economy," Education Minister Stephen Lecce's office said.

"We are proceeding with developing and implementing a made-in-Ontario program that will ensure student flexibility, technological literacy and a vast selection of courses, through two mandatory courses over the lifetime of a student's high school career," the statement added.

The confidential document stated the plan was for the education ministry to "closely monitor uptake of online learning over the first four years of implementation, assess the feasibility of making online learning mandatory for credit accumulation" toward an Ontario secondary school diploma.

"School boards will be required to meet progressively increasing minimum targets for student enrollment in online learning courses; optional enrollment at the individual student level," the plan stated.

The plan calls for $34.8 million less in funding to school boards in the school year starting September 2020, $55.8 million less in 2021, $56.7 million less in 2022 and $57.4 million less in the 2023-2024 school year.

After that, there would be "continued cost saving of $57.4 million annually with full catalogue of online 'gold standard' courses," the plan predicted.

Haut de page

Legal Challenges to Anti-Worker Legislation

Education unions initiate legal challenge to Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, December 12, 2019.

Unions in Ontario have launched a number of court challenges to the Ontario government's Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act that was passed on November 7, 2019. The legislation violates the right of nearly all public sector workers to negotiate their wages by imposing a one per cent wage cap on new compensation as well as new provisions for the government to violate privacy and operate with impunity.[1] Workers affected by the Act, also known as Bill 124, include those employed by the provincial government, Crown agencies, school boards, universities and colleges, hospitals, non-profit long-term care homes, Children's Aid societies, social service agencies and the electricity and energy sectors.

On December 12, 2019, all four teacher and education worker federations were the first to launch challenges. These were: the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF).

Given the content and timing of the legislation, in the midst of negotiations for the renewal of collective agreements in the education sector, the unions contend that Bill 124 is a direct attack on free collective bargaining in the education sector, and a violation of sections 2(b) and 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantee freedom of expression and the freedom of association. In addition, the legislation violates the duty of the Crown to bargain in good faith.

On December 17, 2019, the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) announced it was launching its own challenge to the legislation and later that day ten more unions joined, representing more than 250,000 Ontario workers. The ten were: the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare; United Steelworkers (USW); Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC); the Society of United Professionals (IFPTE) Local 160; Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE Ontario); Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175. Additional unions and organizations representing public sector workers in Ontario are expected to join this coordinated challenge or pursue their own separate legal challenges to Bill 124 in the coming weeks.

Who Said What

Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL): "The workers of this province, represented by their unions, will not allow Bill 124, which erodes the Charter rights of every worker in Ontario, to stand uncontested," said OFL President Patty Coates. "The OFL stands in solidarity with the education unions that have recently launched their challenges to the application of Bill 124 in the education sector, as we escalate the opposition to this government's continued attack on the Charter rights of all Ontarians. Together, we are launching an aggressive campaign to demand the Ford Conservatives repeal this unconstitutional legislation."

Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA): "As the union representing registered nurses and health-care professionals in Ontario, ONA believes Bill 124 discriminates against nurses and all Ontarians," said ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. "This legislation is nothing but a continued attack on the right to free collective bargaining without interference, as was affirmed in 2015 in a Supreme Court of Canada ruling. More alarming is the fact that this legislation could likely deepen the already serious nursing shortage in Ontario, and have negative effects on health care and public safety."

"This legislation is an attack on nurses and an attack on women," said McKenna. "By forcing front-line nurses and health-care professionals to accept compensation increases that fall below the rate of inflation, this bill will only worsen what is already a serious nursing shortage in Ontario and worsen hallway health care."

SEIU Healthcare: "For workers in equity-seeking groups - racialized workers, workers with a disability, Indigenous, and women workers, collective agreements are essential to ensuring fairness in the workplace," said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare. "For the government to set limits on bargaining undermines the rights of workers who already face systemic discrimination across the board."

United Steelworkers (USW) District 6: "Families in our province have relied on negotiations for decades to secure their working conditions. This has resulted in the establishment of the middle class. Middle class families are the backbone of our province and country, and it is fundamentally wrong to strip them of their collective bargaining rights," said Marty Warren, Director of USW District 6. "The USW and its engaged membership are aggressively pushing back on this one-sided legislation. Justice must be upheld for Ontario's working families."

AEFO: "The Charter exists to protect the rights of Canadians, even when those rights are not convenient for governments," said AEFO President Rémi Sabourin. "That is the backbone of our democracy."

ETFO: "Bill 124 violates the democratic rights of all workers in Ontario's public sector," said ETFO President Sam Hammond. "No employer should be permitted to undermine employees' fundamental rights without facing the strongest possible challenge. The Ford government should recognize these rights and repeal Bill 124 immediately."

OECTA: "Given the timing of Bill 124, and the haste to get it passed into law, it is clear that it targets teachers and education workers," said OECTA President Liz Stuart. "This legislation effectively ties the hands of both the employer and employee representatives who are currently negotiating collective agreements. This is unacceptable, and in our view, it is unconstitutional."

OSSTF: "Governments should not lightly infringe on the civil rights of their citizens," said OSSTF President Harvey Bischof. "They should rely on tried and tested bargaining processes that lead both parties to creativity in the process, and stability thereafter. There is no current economic or fiscal crisis that requires such an extraordinary interference in that process."

CUPE: "This challenge is about defending workers' rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," stated CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. "When the Ford Conservatives demand that we must all do our part, instead of targeting working people the government should be taxing profitable corporations and the wealthiest in our communities. Charter Rights matter, Human Rights matter, Workers' Rights matter."


1. For full information on the legislation see TML Weekly, August 31, 2019 and TML Weekly November 23, 2019.

Haut de page

Quebec Government Steps Up Anti-Social Offensive

All Out to Support the Fight of
Public Sector Workers for Their Rights
and for Public Services the People Need

Unions representing the 500,000 Quebec public sector workers attempting to renew their collective agreements in a way that favours them and public services report that the Quebec government and management bargaining committees have tabled their sectoral offers, which concern working conditions. The central offer, which deals with monetary issues such as wages and pensions, was filed at the end of 2019 and is considered a provocation by the workers. The wage "offer" would see wages increase by even less than the cost of living over five years. The unions have now also filed their sectoral demands.

The unions report definite common features of the sectoral offers of the Quebec government and its bargaining agents. According to the unions, they consist mainly of nice-sounding phrases about the importance of social programs and public services and proclamations of respect for public sector workers. They are without concrete proposals, especially in response to the demands put forward by the workers and their unions for drastic improvements in working conditions and services.

Several unions also report that when the health, education and public services authorities' bargaining committees met their union counterparts to table their offers, they asked that the unions and the workers stop speaking out publicly against the bad conditions in the sector. They equated the workers' speaking out with badmouthing the public sector. This, according to the employers' representatives, is why workers leave the sector and why so few are joining it.

Although the offers do not contain concrete proposals, according to the unions the offers suggest that the government wants to increase what it calls "flexibility and mobility" of the workforce, especially in relation to absenteeism for health reasons, moving workers around, even forcing workers to work while sick or face disciplinary action, reducing sick leave, and so on. These measures are already part of workers' daily lives but it seems that the government is seeking to enshrine these attacks in collective agreements.

Workers report that it is clear that the government does not acknowledge nor does it care that public services are at a breaking point and that workers are experiencing a crisis at the workplace which is spilling into their lives outside of work and which deeply affects the public services.

There is a world of difference between the pay-the-rich schemes that are immediately put in place by various governments -- including the provision of massive amounts of public funds -- when private monopolies say they are in crisis, and the government’s attitude towards the crisis in public services. Public money is poured into the monopolies without investigation because neo-liberal governments consider private monopolies as the creators of society's wealth and that everything should be subordinated to their demands. They do not recognize that it is the workers who create society's wealth.

Public sector workers are considered a cost to be reduced, which puts workers and those who receive public services at great risk. Neo-liberal governments consider public services and public sector workers an encumbrance to be eliminated through privatization. This is unacceptable and must not pass.

It is no surprise then that workers are facing more diversions, new tactics that the government is inventing to avoid negotiating with them on the basis of their demands and the needs of the services. One of these is a proposal by the government for so-called discussion forums, outside of negotiations, to which not even all the unions will be invited. The government has identified three topics for the discussion forums: educational success; access to care for people in long-term health care facilities or receiving home care; and the overall health of public sector workers. It has indicated that additional money for the workers may be available through the forums and that the discussion will be centered on the working conditions of the most vulnerable workers. What is going to be the process of discussion and decision making? How will whatever comes out of these forums be legally binding?

So far, the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ), the Quebec Interprofessional Health Federation (FIQ), and the Alliance of the professional and technical health and social services staff (APTS) have announced that they will not participate in these forums and are demanding that these issues be dealt with through negotiations and on the basis of workers' demands. The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) indicated that it considers the forums a way of taking attention away from the real problems that are facing public sectors workers and public services as a whole.

This issue of Workers' Forum will begin to inform the readers about the demands of the public sector workers.

Clearly, there is a need for public opinion to be mobilized to fully support the public sector workers and to demand that the government stop its dirty manipulations to negate the rights of these workers and the critical need for drastic change to defend and improve social programs and public services according to the needs of modern Quebec.

Haut de page

Nurses Speak Out and Take Action
Against Untenable Conditions

Healthcare workers begin negotiaitons with Quebec government, October 24, 2019.

Putting into practice their motto "We're done working ourselves sick!," nurses who are members of the Quebec Interprofessional Health Federation (FIQ) spoke out and took action at the beginning of January against untenable conditions in emergency rooms in Quebec. On January 5, FIQ nurses in Montreal held sit-ins on two different shifts at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and a sit-in at Santa Cabrini Hospital to highlight the crisis that exists in emergency rooms for workers and patients. This happened after nurses had been repeatedly forced to work mandatory overtime, sometimes triple shifts, to deal with the crisis in the emergency rooms. At the beginning of January, occupancy rate at the emergency rooms was 139 per cent at Santa Cabrini, 160 per cent in the whole Montérégie region, and 129 per cent in Montreal. At Maisonneuve-Rosemont, the emergency room has been in non-stop crisis for over a year.

While the nurses were holding their sit-ins, FIQ representatives went to the media to expose the situation and demand immediate solutions that are favourable to the nurses and the patients, for which they have been advocating for years. They made the point that the crisis in Quebec's emergency rooms is not a matter of a sudden seasonal increase in patients coming in with flu (although this problem also exists), as nurses have been pointing out for a long time. The problem, they said, is a systemic overall deterioration in the health care sector, in which formerly exceptional measures such as mandatory overtime have become the norm and referred to now as a "management tool." Such measures are being taken instead of dealing with the problems in the health care sector. For example, FIQ representatives pointed out that various hospital administrations have started to call in nurses who are on leave for various reasons, and retired nurses, in an effort to deal with the crisis in the emergency rooms and elsewhere, and have made this into another "management tool." They point out that even when more full-time nursing positions are created, which is one of their demands, this is not a solution on its own because only a small percentage of nurses are going to take these jobs because they fear that if they take regular full-time employment they will just face more pressure to stay at work for mandatory overtime. Addressing the problems would include giving a key role to the nurses and other health care workers to determine what is needed to establish appropriate conditions for workers and patients in emergency rooms.

In terms of measures to alleviate the crisis, nurses are pointing out that wherever their demand for an adequate nurse-to-patient ratio has been tried as a pilot-project, immediate improvement was noticed for both nurses and patients. The government is, to say the least, dragging its feet on the implementation of these much needed ratios.

The nurses are holding their actions in conjunction with trade unions such as FIQ tabling their sectoral demands to the government and management negotiating committees on health care. The FIQ document is itself entitled "We're done working ourselves sick!"

The document delineates two negotiation priorities:

- health and safety at all levels of the system: an essential requirement for health care professionals;
- attraction-retention: obtain winning conditions for health care professionals.

According to the document, FIQ's negotiation objectives are:

- organizing the work to ensure health care professionals' and patients' health and safety;
- enhancing health care professionals' practice and expertise;
- accessing quality positions;
- restoring work-personal life balance to preserve health care professionals' psychological health; and
- equipping the teams to respond better to health care professionals' needs.

Among the concrete measures proposed are a reasonable and safe workload, safe health care professional-to-patient ratios, stabilizing the work teams, and eliminating the use of mandatory overtime as a management method. They also include demands related to days off, scheduling and organization of work time over which nurses must have a say. In the unhealthy context in which more and more nurses are getting sick, both physically and psychologically, the FIQ wants to obtain a commitment that health care professionals' rights will be properly respected by facilitating access to salary insurance benefits, real support for rehabilitation and their return to work. FIQ also wants a review of the administrative and legal procedures so that the handling of contentious cases (contesting employers' decisions by grievances or other procedures) is simplified and sped up.

To access the FIQ document, click here

Haut de page

Interview, Nathalie Savard, President, Union of Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Respiratory Therapists of Northeastern Quebec (SIISNEQ)

Workers' Forum: Where is SIISNEQ at in the process of renewing its members' collective agreements?

Nathalie Savard: SIISNEQ represents 1,200 nurses, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists on Quebec's North Shore and in Northern Quebec. Our members' collective agreements expire on March 31. For us, the upcoming negotiations bring to mind the importance of finding solutions so as improve health care.

Through the Quebec Health Federation, of which we are a part, we have submitted our offers to the employers. At the sectoral level, that is to say at the level of working conditions, it is clear that compulsory overtime and the use of private employment agencies to provide workers in the sector must be ended, and that the employer must respect the terms of employment of our members. When you are a nurse, licensed practical nurse or respiratory therapist, you have a 35, 36 or 37.5 hours per week position. We expect to provide this service and provide it in a safe and healthy work environment without being constantly burdened with additional tasks. However, we often see our members not taking their breaks, shortening their meal breaks, and a lot of pressure is put on them to work overtime at the end of their shift. It is important that the negotiations contribute to resolving these difficulties, so that people are able to do their work well. Working conditions must be those that respect their work because they care for human beings who are suffering, and often their families as well. We must regain this human dimension that we have lost over the years, through all the budget cuts, all the job cuts in the health care sector.

We have solutions to propose to the employers, creating full-time positions, taking the money that is spent on private employment agencies and reinvesting it in the health network, measures necessary to retain our young people, 10 per cent of whom leave the profession in their first five years at work, supporting them by creating mentoring positions. There are great things that can be done but there must be a will to do them. We are facing a government that made us a really ridiculous offer before Christmas in terms of wages, seven per cent over five years, when what is necessary is to improve the public profile of public services.

WF: What has emerged from the employer sectoral offers that have been presented to you?

NS: When the government tabled its sectoral proposals to our federation, representatives of the management committee told us that unions speak badly of the profession, and that this makes it difficult to attract people to the profession. It is not a serious argument. Young people are quite capable of forming their own opinions when they come to do internships in the health institutions.

We feel that this is a government that wants to come in and take an axe to certain working conditions, such as sick leave and statutory holidays. The employer is saying that it cannot provide sick leave because there are not enough people working, so they are looking to reduce sick leave. They seem to want to attack our vacation time too.

We have very opposite positions. We have to find a way to attract young people to the profession. Young people are very interested in their quality of life. We cannot ask people to submit to conditions of modern-day slavery, it will not work. This is not how we will reduce sickness and absenteeism in the network.

The employer speaks to us about mobility and flexibility while we are looking for team stability. The treatments are complex and people develop specialties. They have to develop good quality skills and good follow-up with patients.

It is even more difficult to recruit people in remote areas. We are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit on the North Shore and in Northern Quebec. We have our specialties in our regions, in oncology, hematology, our mother-child centres, etc. and it is increasingly difficult to maintain these services due to a lack of nurses, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists. If we are not able to promote the profession, will we still be able to provide the services? Is the government heading towards shifting services to the private sector? This is the real question. We made a choice as a society to create a public health service accessible to all. The situation we are in must change now.

WF: Do you want to say something in conclusion?

NS: The Coalition Avenir Québec government has promised not to act the same as the Liberals did in terms of health care. They say that the reign of Barrette is over. [Gaetan Barrette was the Health Minister under the previous Liberal government who stepped up the anti-social restructuring of health care in Quebec -- WF]. And yet the negotiations began with the same tone. We are not against devoting funds to improving the conditions of care givers, but in the health sector we must take care of everyone. We have to take care of everything, not just one job category, we have to solve the problem of the network as a whole, in order to be able to provide services.

Solutions have to be found and negotiations have to take place, or else it will be a mobilization that takes place. For us this is a priority in 2020. We must mobilize our troops and make Premier Legault and the Minister of Health understand that we are here to keep a quality public network and that for us health care in the remote regions is very important. It is a priority to provide quality services to the people who live in these regions, in this large territory, so that they do not need to go to Quebec City and Montreal for treatment.

I hope that the year 2020 will a good one for our members, that we settle things. I salute them, they have their profession at heart and I wish them the best. The negotiations must ensure that the negotiating parties can come to an agreement and resolve the difficulties that these people have been experiencing for too long.

Haut de page

(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)



Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  office@cpcml.ca