Quebec Common Front Calls for Defence of Public Services
Demonstration by Quebec public sector workers in Trois-Rivières, September 6, 2023
Quebec's public sector workers who provide services directly to the population include the nearly 600,000 workers in the health and social services and education sectors. They represents some 7.5 per cent of the Quebec population.
All these workers have been negotiating their contracts since March 31, 2023. What's more, workers in the health and education sectors, in addition to having to defend their demands within the limits imposed by the bargaining framework, while the government constantly pushes back, also have to deal with two bills that modify their working conditions and intensify the private sector's takeover of these sectors: Bill 15 in health and Bill 23 in education.
In health and education, the main demands are to reduce the ratio of patients and students for whom workers are responsible. In health care, whether under the theme of Humanizing Care and Services, put forward by the Federation of Health and Social Services (FSSS-CSN), or the demand of the Interprofessional Health Federation of Quebec (FIQ) for a safe patient-to-staff ratio, "a vital social project on which the safety of patients and care professionals depends," workers' organizations in this sector are demonstrating their level of awareness and confidence that their working conditions are decisive in protecting the population's health.
Quebec teachers and their colleagues are making the same demand. By recognizing the needs of young people, whether in terms of mental, social or physical health, or in terms of pedagogical support, education workers are also assuming their social responsibilities by demanding that the government establish conditions that enable them to meet these needs.
It is this awareness on the part of workers in health, social services and education that clashes head-on with the interests of those who control Quebec's wealth. At a press briefing on September 8, Premier François Legault said, "I do have some concerns about the disruptions announced by certain unions who will have the right to strike at the end of September."
This threat refers to public sector unions seeking strike mandates in the face of the government's refusal to negotiate working conditions and wages with them that would enable them to offer and deliver health care and education that meet the needs of Quebec's population.
The Common Front, which represents 420,000 workers and is made up of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), the Quebec Labour Federation (FTQ) and the Quebec Labour Congress (CSQ), will be consulting its members between September 18 and October 13 to vote on whether to strike. In addition, the Common Front is organizing a national demonstration on Saturday, September 23 to mobilize the population around its demands.
As for the other unions not part of the Common Front, such as the FIQ, which represents 80,000 nurses, their extraordinary Federal Council of September 6 and 7 declared that strike preparations are well underway. This pressure tactic has not been used by care professionals for 20 years.
The Autonomous Education Federation (FAE) is currently seeking an unlimited general strike mandate from its 60,000 teachers.
The people of Quebec must throw their full weight behind the just demands of public sector workers, because the services they provide and the care they deliver concern society as a whole.
This article was published in
Number 52 - September 22, 2023