Unions denounce government order on healthcare work conditions

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Prominent Quebec unions denounced on Saturday a Health Ministry decree which modifies working conditions for health workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order in question concerns “leaves, including vacation, staff movements, work time arrangements and the hiring of additional staff,” according to a statement issued by the Health Minister.

The Quebec Federation of Workers and its affiliated public sector unions said the order allows the government to suspend or cancel leave, reassign staff according to where it's deemed necessary and modify work schedules.

“For the FTQ, it's important that administrators understand they will have to encourage volunteering at all times rather than constraint to ensure the proper functioning of the health system,” said union president Daniel Boyer.

The Federation of Health and Social Services said the order risks giving too much power to employers.

“We understand the government must give itself the means to face the crisis but it must use it exceptionally and not as a way of managing the network,” said FSSS-CSN president Jeff Begley in a statement. “We already know when exceptional measures such as compulsory overtime become a management method, this poses a serious problem for personnel.”

Begley added that the order could additionally stress healthcare workers.

“An authoritarian drift in the network must be avoided at all costs,” he said.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said the new provisions are essential to deal with the pandemic.

“These temporary measures are aimed at ensuring we have the resources necessary to provide the best possible care to people who will need care,” she said.