The last few weeks were fairly turbulent on the political scene and the
health-care sector was not spared. Despite the approach of summer vacation,
the FIQ is staying on the alert and will be back in force this fall to
continue pressing its demands to the government.
In May, after studying the recommendations of the International
Labour Office (ILO), the Federation called on the Charest government to implement
them. The ILO ruled in favour of the FIQ, which filed a complaint in March
2006 against the Quebec government concerning the December 2005 decree
(Bill 43). This law imposed conditions of employment on State employees
and froze their salaries for over two years.
The ILO clearly established that the adoption of Bill 43 contravened
the provisions of the international labour agreement of which Canada,
and consequently Quebec, are signatories.
Despite this international condemnation, the government and the opposition
parties remain silent. The FIQ with the members of the Secrétariat
intersyndical des services publics, adopted an action plan intended to
force parliamentarians to commit themselves and act on this issue. Meeting
with different MNAs were held, but no concrete action has been taken yet.
The Federation is continuing its actions in this sense.
Also in May, the Premier‘s address opening the 38th Legislature
of the National Assembly confirmed what the FIQ had feared since the adoption
of Bill 33 – the establishment of a real two-tier health-care system.
For the Federation, the opening of affiliated private clinics was foreseeable
because it was covered in that bill, but the government took an additional
step by announcing that guaranteed access would no longer be limited to
three types of surgery. Care professionals are in the midst of a major
shortage and the situation is likely to worsen because the private sector
will drain resources from the public sector. Even worse, Quebec will have
one type of medicine for the rich and another for the poor, so that the
patients of the public system will certainly bear the brunt of these political
The budget presented on May 24 by Monique Jérôme-Forget
will also be contrary to what the FIQ recommends. The Federation condemns
the decision to reduce taxes and unfreeze tuition fees, because health
and education are collective choices reconfirmed by the Quebec population
and thus must be protected. The Federation considers that the available
funds should not be allocated to tax cuts, but instead should serve to
improve public services in the health-care and education networks.
In the name of assuring the Quebec system’s sustainability, the
government is continuing its crusade against the public health-care system
and constantly encouraging its privatization. To add insult to injury,
it is creating a working group on health-are funding, chaired by Claude
Castonguay. The FIQ disagrees with the appointment of Mr. Castonguay,
whose recent public statements clearly indicate that he advocates a user-pay
system and that he does not have the neutrality necessary for such a debate.
In all logic, this mandate should be given to the Health Commissioner,
appointed by the Minister, because his role is to assess, consult, inform
and make recommendations to the Minister on all the major questions related
to health and social services, including funding.
Another issue which has concerned the FIQ for many years and on which
it will concentrate more in the months ahead, is the overtime worked in
health-care institutions. Usually, the rationale for resorting to overtime
is the employers’ obligation to respond to a work overload, an unforeseen
absence of staff or an emergency. This unfortunately is not the case in
the Quebec health-care network because, over the years, overtime, whether
compulsory or voluntary, has been used as a measure to reduce the impact
of the shortage of care professionals in the institutions.
There is indeed a shortage of care professionals, but it is important
to mention that, in many regards, it is the result of political decisions:
budget cuts, elimination of positions, numerous retirements and the school
quotas on several health professions have all contributed to create this
situation. A special section on overtime will be inserted in the next
edition of FIQ en
Action. Reviewing the situation, this section
proposes different avenues for reflection and solutions.
Have a good summer, everyone!
Yours in solidarity ,