Survey says Quebec nurses want better salaries, reduced workload – not bonuses – to address staff shortage

Throwing bonuses at Quebec nurses to address a labour shortage is not the solution workers want, according to a new survey from the province’s largest health-care union.

Instead, nurses say they want improved working conditions and better recognition for their work.

The Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN) released results of the survey on Wednesday, two days before a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health-care workers is set to take effect that could further cripple the struggling healthcare network. 

It surveyed 4,234 union members between Oct. 1 and 8 and asked them in which ways the province could improve physical and psychological health at work to address the current shortage of more than 4,000 nurses across Quebec. 

The vast majority of the respondents (73 per cent) said better salaries are key to addressing the lack of staff, while 63 per cent said they want a reduced workload.

Less than a quarter (24 per cent) of people who responded to the survey said issuing bonuses was the best route to take to bring back more nurses to the health-care network.

"What workers are saying to the government is that if it really wants to address the shortage of staff, it needs to go in a different direction. They have been on the front lines of the pandemic for over a year-and-a-half and are at the end of their rope," said FSSS-CSN President Jeff Begley in a news release.

"There is an urgent need to work on reducing the workload and to better recognize the contribution of all staff."

Members who responded to the survey also pointed to other problems plaguing the profession in Quebec, namely the lack of decision-making autonomy in their jobs, a difficult work-life balance, and “lack of support from superiors and colleagues."

Las month, Quebec Premier François Legault said the pandemic has contributed to a shortage of 4,300 nurses. In response, Legault said he will inject $1 billion into the healthcare network in a massive recruitment effort to bring back retired and burned out nurses to the workforce. 

The money, he said, would be handed out in lump sum payments between $12,000 and $15,000 for new staff, including those working in part-time who move to a full-time schedule, and those returning to the public system after having left.

Additional bonuses between $15,000 and $18,000 will be offered to existing full-time workers.  

Nurses criticized the plan as ignoring the problem of mandatory overtime, something many workers have been subject to in the middle of the fourth wave of the pandemic, while other nurses said they won't have the energy or time to spend the extra bonus money due to burnout.

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