The union representatives of five Montreal unions affiliated with the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec – FIQ are uniting their voices to speak up for the 17,000 nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists that they represent. “Current conditions for healthcare professionals working in Montreal CIUSSSs are similar to those of many others across the province. And yet, employers still don’t seem to have heard their heartfelt pleas over the last several months. They aren’t asking for the moon! They are asking for respectful working and practice conditions that enable them to provide quality care to the Montreal population,” said Denyse Joseph, Vice-President of the FIQ and Political Officer for the Montreal region.
For union presidents, this situation is very troubling in several respects and should be taken seriously by employers. “In all of our institutions, our members have to deal with mandatory overtime, work overloads and understaffed teams on a daily basis. Employers can no longer turn a deaf ear while healthcare professionals’ exhaustion is at an all-time high and psychological distress rampant. They need to show more respect and consideration for healthcare professionals,” said Josianne Moreau, president of the FIQ–Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de santé du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
Mobility does not necessarily mean quality
Local negotiations are underway across the province, including for the five merged CIUSSSs in the Montreal region. While the majority of employers’ offers are simply terrible, their notion of mobility is beyond ridiculous. “Employers want to have the right to ask healthcare professionals to work any place at any time. We can’t say it enough: Mobility is not synonymous with quality. Asking healthcare professionals to be ready to travel several kilometres also means asking patients to adapt to several different workers in a week. There is nothing worse in terms of care quality and continuity,” said Johanne Riendeau, president of the FIQ–Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de santé de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
While employers are just out to get even more out of healthcare professionals, union spokespeople feel that they have promising solutions for their members, the public and employers. “If we want to drastically cut down on overtime, staffing from private healthcare employment agencies and work overloads, then we need to improve team stability at each centre of activity and rethink the job structure of each centre of activity by increasing the number of full-time positions. This can be achieved by scheduling the appropriate amount of staff needed, while planning for a certain amount of staff to fill in for those on holiday and sick leave. Now that’s a solution that would work for everyone,” explained Louise Bilodeau, interim president of the FIQ–Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
Speeding up negotiations
For several of the five CIUSSSs in Montreal, negotiations have been underway for over six months and there is legally only a few months left to come to an agreement. “It’s clear that the employer is not very cooperative. Negotiations are slow and employers are submitting disappointing offers in addition to barely listening to our solutions. These local negotiations are an opportunity for employers to give a little hope to healthcare professionals who have been running out of steam for too long. Employers need to stop dragging out the process,” said Kathleen Bertrand, president of the FIQ–Syndicat des professionnelles en soins du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.
Union representatives believe it is up to employers to better manage budgets and they know that short-sighted management comes at a high cost. “Paying for overtime, mandatory or not, and hiring staff from private employment agencies is very expensive. It is important that we adopt an approach that provides healthcare professionals with a work environment where they are respected as people and professionals and which uses decision-making that prioritizes patient needs,” said Stavros Birbatakos, president of the FIQ–Syndicat des professionnelles en soins du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.