Quebec Government Escalates Anti-Social Offensive

Another Ministerial Order Against Quebec Health Care Workers

We keep the system functioning against
all odds.

On October 16, Quebec's Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dube, signed a new ministerial order which impacts health care workers, in this case nurses.

The government says that its action will alleviate the staffing crisis in nursing by adding 3,000 full-time nurses. This is to be accomplished through offering bonuses over a year which would be paid to any nurse who signs a full-time work agreement by December 15. The base bonus is $15,000 and rises to $18,000 in areas with the most severe shortages. It is $12,000 for nurses currently working for private agencies or retired nurses who come to work in the public sector on a full-time basis. No explanation is given for the lower amounts for these nurses.

Besides hoping to appeal to nurses working for private agencies and those that come out of retirement to go back to full-time work, the vast majority of the new full-time nurses targeted are those already working part-time who will receive the bonus for changing their status to full time so long as they agree to brutal working conditions without complaint. Many part-time nurses have not been interested in increasing to full-time because with mandatory overtime a full-time nurse works much more than full-time hours. The bonus is meant to entice part-time nurses to increase their hours to full-time plus whatever else comes with that.

The thanks we get is inhuman decrees.

This latest decree will not solve the crisis because it is anti-social and anti-human. To get the premium, nurses must sign individual contracts which supersede collective contracts negotiated between the union and the government. The individual contract forces the nurse to agree to unacceptable conditions that are in violation of the collective agreement, including provisions that the government recently agreed to in new collective agreements on which the ink is not yet dry.

As well, the bonuses come with so many exclusions, exceptions and conditions that not all full-time nurses will be eligible and many workers will find themselves having to pay back portions of the bonus when exercising their collective agreement rights including personal leaves (see the interview in this issue for examples). Luring workers with money to aggravate their conditions is unconscionable and will only make the crisis worse.

This is what all the government decrees have done throughout the pandemic, allowing employers to violate negotiated conditions on scheduling and work assignments and increasing the use of mandatory overtime. Thousands of nurses have left their jobs due to the untenable conditions.

The staffing crisis must be solved in a manner that favours the people on the basis of the solutions put forward by workers, which is first and foremost to provide working conditions that ensure that nurses are healthy and safe so that they can provide the care that patients need.

Workers' Forum firmly supports the nurses who are challenging this Ministerial Order and demanding that the government negotiate instead of dictate.

This article was published in

November 19, 2021 - No. 109

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