Working conditions, retaining staff at heart of war of words between healthcare unions, Quebec government

FILE PHOTO

Several healthcare unions representing Quebec healthcare workers lashed out at Premier Francois Legault's government on Sunday, saying the administration has failed to enter negotiations for a new collective agreement in good faith.

At the heart of the unions' complaint is a lack of progress on negotiating working conditions. In a statement, the CSN, CSQ and FTQ complained that the government has tried to impose setbacks to working conditions “while there is an urgent need to improve them if we want keep staff already in place and attract others.”

According to the unions, the government has proposed that workers work more without reduction to their workloads or improvement to working conditions.

“Work-family balance is not just a beautiful principle, it takes concrete measures,” they wrote. “We must stop managing human resources on a small-scale basis and have a long-term vision.”

The workers in question are nursing staff and cardiorespiratory care staff.

FSSS-CSN vice-president Josee Marcotte complained that there has been no movement on a new collective agreement, more than a year after the previous one expired.

“The government is on the wrong track if it thinks it can force our members to set back their working conditions,” she said.

SQEES-FTQ president Sylvie Nelson pointed to better staff ratios, eliminating mandatory overtime and implementing ways to attract and retain staff as particular problem areas.

During a virtual press conference, union leaders said their members are running out of steam after over a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel defended the government's stance, saying it is “incorrect that there is nothing of interest on the table.”

“We can discuss the proposals. For me, that makes a big difference to say the government is standing still. It's wrong.”

LeBel said “excellent” offers were submitted to the workers in priority sectors, such as nurses and orderlies.

“The mandates at the bargaining tables are clear. The sector envelopes are sufficient and generous in the context of being able to regulate working conditions,” she said, referring to the province's $15 billion deficit and plans for a balanced budget in seven years.

- With files from The Canadian Press 

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