Responses from Public Sector Unions

Printed below are responses to the government offers by a number of public sector unions.

The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) represents 160,000 public service workers. It noted that "the wage parameters remain the same as in the last offer: 1.75 per cent in 2020, 1.75 per cent in 2021 and 1.5 per cent in 2022. The lump sums for the first and second year are slightly increased [...] Short-lived measures will not attract and retain employees [...] In refusing once again to take the necessary steps to improve the networks, the Legault government is jeopardizing services to the population. We cannot accept this."

Danny Roy, Vice-President of the Federation of Professionals (FP-CSN) added: "Entire days of discussion dedicated to the implementation of solutions to counter work overload are not reflected at all in this new offer. In addition, there are too few additional resources to address attraction and retention issues. This is unacceptable."

The Union of Quebec Government Professionals (SPGQ), made up of 20,900 public sector specialists, including 3,000 in health and education, pointed out: "The government has offered an increase, which could reach a maximum of one per cent over three years, that is tied to an increase in the consumer price index. Unfortunately, this has very little chance of materializing. Quebec's economic situation in 2021, despite the variants and the restrictions and closures still in effect, would have to return to the level of 2019, before the pandemic. This in our view seems unlikely. If this condition is not met, union members will have to say goodbye to a possible increase. In short, this proposal is nothing but hot air."

SPGQ President Line Lamarre added: "In fact, the first condition in the economic clause reads as follows: 'if the gross domestic product (real GDP) of Quebec as measured by Statistics Canada for the year 2021 is equal to or greater than 98.70 per cent of Quebec's actual GDP for the year 2019.' If, and only if, this condition is met, can staff get an increase of up to one per cent if inflation exceeds five per cent.

"The Minister also proposed lump sums for union members [...] On the one hand, a sum of $1,000 for the year 2020 alone is offered only to those at the bottom rung. Many people will therefore be deprived of it. As well, a bonus of $0.66 has also been offered for each hour worked between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. After taxes, this represents only about $600 in members' pockets, a non-recurring amount. Plus, this amount does not apply to the pension plan."

Sonia Éthier, President of the Quebec Labour Congress (CSQ), which represents 200,000 workers in education, early childhood and health care, said: "After careful analysis, we can only conclude that the offers presented to us on Wednesday [March 31] are smoke and mirrors. This tabling is more of a media stunt on the part of the government than a real willingness to seriously negotiate. In fact, we have found nothing that even remotely resembles a real openness to improving the working conditions of our members [...] the government is inflating its offers with hypothetical and temporary sums, but refuses to grant significant financial margins to improve sectoral working conditions."

The Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec (FIQ) and the Alliance of the Professional and Technical Health and Social Services Staff (APTS), which are negotiating their salary conditions together, also affirmed that the government is maintaining the status quo.

"One thing is clear: nothing has changed in the last 10 months. The expectations of the 131,000 members of the APTS-FIQ alliance are high and, for the time being, the government's proposal does not reflect any seriousness on the part of the Treasury Board Chair or the salary recognition these people have a right to expect. Worse still, there's no willingness on the part of the Legault government to close the pay gap that puts the health and social services network workers at a disadvantage compared to other Quebec wage earners.

"These salary offers of a five per cent increase over three years, on the table today, were rejected last spring by the delegates of the two organizations."

The APTS, which also represents those employed by Youth Protection Services (DPJ), working with young people and families in great difficulty, said that the Treasury Board Chair "did not hesitate in cutting the mobile leave needed by workers who are subjected to violence and aggression on a daily basis and who are confronted with nameless tragedies. And when they say they are creating a 3.5 per cent bonus, they cleverly hide the fact that in order to take advantage of it, workers will have to give up some of the bonuses they're already receiving.

"But that's not all, when we break down this bonus, we see that it is actually comprised of a permanent part of 1.5 per cent and a temporary part of two per cent that will disappear in two years. Through such underhanded manipulations, Ms. LeBel is contributing to further devaluating the vital work that over 10,000 professionals and technicians are doing with children and their families."

(Quotations translated from original French by Workers' Forum.)

This article was published in

April 14, 2021 - No. 28

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