Firm Opposition to Rule by
Quebec Workers' Demands for Solutions to the Crisis in Health Care
While health care workers in Quebec are insisting their demands be met
to deal with the health care crisis which is aggravated in the
conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, government executives are
attempting to strengthen rule by decree to deprive workers of any say
over their working conditions and the direction of their sector and of
the economy. This is part of the state restructuring that has been
going on for over 30 years and is being intensified, using the pandemic
as a pretext, to impose the will of narrow private interests.
Already, health and social service
workers are subject to ministerial orders that
give the government and employers the power to
declare their existing collective agreements
null and void and to unilaterally change working
conditions, under the pretext of facing the
public health emergency. These orders have been
used many times since they were issued in March
2020 and they have created havoc in workers' lives, leading to resignations and workers
becoming sick and unable to work because of
their untenable conditions.
At this time, the close to 550,000 Quebec
public sector workers are trying to renew their
collective agreements. This includes about
260,000 workers in health and social services.
All collective agreements in the public sector
expired on March 31, 2020. Negotiations began a
year and a half ago and only one tentative
agreement has been reached so far.
care workers report that the Quebec government is demanding that unions
agree that instead of having negotiated and enforceable working
conditions that allow workers to do their jobs safely and in a manner
that permits them to provide quality care, they should endorse some
"recommendations" to be made to the Ministry of Health and Social
Services, which will then issue ministerial directives over which
workers and their unions have no control.
example is the effort of the Quebec Health Federation (FSQ-CSQ) to
renew the collective agreements of its members. The FSQ-CSQ represents
5,000 nurses, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists in
the Montreal, Laval, Gaspésie and Northeastern Quebec regions.
Among the issues that government negotiators propose be handled through
ministerial directives are staff-to-patient ratios and private hiring
agencies, two of the main issues of concern for workers in the sector.
Important issues on which workers are fighting to assert their needs
and their rights are to be declared out of their reach.
government's January 21 comprehensive settlement offer was unanimously
rejected by FSQ-CSQ's Federal Council on February 7. The council is
comprised of delegates from all member unions.
One of the main reasons for the rejection of
the offer is the firm opposition to rule by
decree and the demand that the Quebec government
must meet the demands set by workers to
immediately improve working conditions and the
delivery of services, which will contribute
to alleviating the crisis.
Among such demands are the immediate
improvement of wages, which have been either
frozen or barely maintained at cost of living
adjustments for over 15 years, making it
impossible to retain and attract workers in the
sector; the elimination of mandatory overtime
which is rampant and creating chaos in the lives
of workers, wrecking their health and family
life and the services they provide; the general
improvement of working conditions with a humane
work load, stable teams and stable schedules;
the establishment of staff-to-patient ratios which
enable workers to provide quality service to the
people; the reduction of the use of private
hiring agencies which are extremely costly to
the public health care system and the investment
of those monies in the public system to improve
the conditions in line with the demands of
are expressing the strong conviction that their decisive say in
the determination of working conditions is key to humanizing their
conditions and the delivery of the services. They have waged
several mass actions to oppose the ministerial orders and government
dictate in negotiations and are determined to have their demands
This article was published in
Volume 8 - February 19, 2021 - No. 8