Unions File Complaint Against Governance by Decree in Health and Social Services

In a press release issued on November 17, several unions active in the health and social services system announced that they have filed a complaint with the Administrative labour tribunal for obstruction of union work. They are asking for an end to what they call "the government's abusive and systematic use of the state of emergency and of decrees of working conditions." They say that this action is undertaken because of the urgent need to act to relieve the unbearable pressure that rests on the shoulders of care professionals and in order to offer the Quebec population access to better health care and services.  

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The complaint was issued under section 12 of the Labour Code. This article reads: "No employer, or person acting for an employer or an association of employers, shall in any manner seek to dominate, hinder or finance the formation or the activities of any association of employees, or to participate therein." The unions filing the complaint are the Federation of Health and Social Services (FSSS-CSN), the Quebec Health Federation (FSQ-CSQ), the Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec (FIQ) and the FIQ-private sector, the Quebec Service Employees' Union (SQEES-FTQ) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The press release states: "The strategy of the Minister of Health and Social Services to place himself above labour laws and to unilaterally dictate the working conditions of care professionals did not have attraction or retention effects, maintain the leaders of the five unions representing nursing and cardio-respiratory care personnel."

The leaders of the five organizations say they recognize the government's willingness to invest a billion dollars to reverse the effects of the staff shortage and working conditions crisis, but denounce its refusal to have frank discussions with the unions to find solutions to continue to offer essential services to the population, which is forcing them to use legal action.

"The complaint filed by the unions denounces the government's circumvention of the negotiation process, the statement says. The unions point out that the issue of staff shortages in the health and social services network has nothing to do with the health emergency, because the crisis in working conditions and the resulting shortage existed long before the pandemic. The use of a ministerial order in this context is unjustifiable."

"Disregarding collective agreements and labour laws and persisting in making unilateral decisions without feedback from the field: enough is enough! For us, only working together is a guarantee of success, whatever the minister may think," conclude the leaders of the five organizations.

This article was published in

November 19, 2021 - No. 109

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