Demand for Government to Assume Its Social Responsibilities and Negotiate in Good Faith
Common Front action outside CAQ caucus meeting in Jonquière, September 8, 2023
The Quebec government prides itself on the claim that Quebec is a society based on the rule of law. Labour relations laws exist that are said to provide a place for negotiation and stipulate that the parties "must negotiate in good faith and without undue delay." They also provide for the use of strikes -- "the concerted cessation of work by a group of employees" -- as a means of pressure "to bring the other party to change its position with regard to the negotiation of a collective agreement."
Yet on September 8, coming out of a caucus meeting of the governing Coalition Avenir Quebec, the Premier of Quebec François Legault spread outright disinformation about the demands and solutions put forward by Common Front workers, and more specifically by those in the health care sector. He said he didn't want to negotiate in public, although his government also refuses to negotiate at the bargaining table, and served the public sector workers an ultimatum that he wants "the collaboration of the unions" with "as little disruption as possible this fall."
As he often does, Legault tried to pit health care workers against "Quebeckers," saying that he is "the manager of Quebeckers' money" and raising "Quebeckers’ taxes" is out of the question. This means that meeting the needs of workers and the population is not possible, or that doing so would go against the "Québécois" of whom he claims to be the defender -- even though the reality is quite the opposite: improving working conditions and implementing the solutions put forward by public sector workers through their unions can only result in better health care for the entire population.
Refusing to negotiate in good faith, especially with workers who provide such essential care to society, is socially irresponsible and unacceptable. Acting in this way always brings to mind former Liberal premier Jean Lesage's famous phrase: "The Queen does not negotiate with her subjects." It's an admission of who is really represented in the current system of representation. Queen or not, by its own laws the government as employer must negotiate in good faith.
Remember that the Interprofessional Health Federation of Quebec (FIQ) has filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization against compulsory overtime, to put an end to this discriminatory management practice against care professionals, most of whom are women, and which undermines their health, safety and dignity. It is up to the workers themselves to determine what violates their dignity and their physical and mental integrity. It is a question of human rights, just as it is a social responsibility to put an end to the anarchy that reigns in public services. In this vein, as the FIQ's slogan says, "There are limits," and assuming our social responsibilities means ensuring that the government cannot indefinitely undermine these human rights, all while flouting its own rules.
This article was published in
Number 52 - September 22, 2023