A labour organization’s main priority is always its members’ interests. As for making those interests a reality, each person has their own style and thought process. Over the last several years, we have established the FIQ’s union style. We found that we weren’t content to just give criticism anymore, that it no longer satisfied the healthcare professionals’ expectations. We have adopted proposal-oriented unionism for ourselves and the patients.
We know that when we’re up against the government, it’s bargaining power that counts. And solid bargaining power is something that you earn and work at. What does it mean to have solid bargaining power? First of all, it means having the support of your own members. But, it also means having the public’s support.
If you don’t have the public’s support, then you won’t have any influence on the government.
It was with this in mind that we developed our communication and action strategies over the last years, especially during the last provincial negotiations.
We focused on two areas. First we put our energy into our greatest strength: our members. We promoted the work of healthcare professionals who strive daily to ensure the well-being of their patients. Next, we decided to focus our actions on elected officials and managers. Just think of our phone line 1-844-FIQ-AIDE, or of when we blocked the ministers’ limousines, forcing them to wait inside the Parliament for an hour, and so on. All of our surveys showed that the public supported us. We were targeting elected officials and trying not to cause the public any inconvenience.
We need to get with the times. Just as morals evolve, so do action strategies and we need to be creative. Action strategies that worked and were supported by the public 20 years ago may not go over so well today.
When the overall perception is that the population is being held hostage, the government is happy because it works in its favour and not in that of our members’ interests. The right to protest and strike is legitimate and recognized in our charters. And when we strike or protest, it is important to exercise sound judgement. These actions must serve the members we represent. In several sectors, the right to strike is limited, while in others, it’s non-existent.
In the health sector, provisions with respect to essential services have reduced our right to strike dramatically. One needs to be clever to be heard under these circumstances. And that’s what we do.
We are not the only ones who think that the provisions in the Labour Code render our right to strike almost non-existent. Most unions acknowledge it.
During the last negotiations, we made several gains for our members. With our action methods and communication strategies, we have built enviable bargaining power we can use with the government. That is one of the ways we were able to win gains for healthcare professionals.
But we must continue to be innovative. We must continue to be creative. All for the well-being of healthcare professionals and patients.