The last week has really put the spotlight on the healthcare professionals’ unbearable working conditions. It has also highlighted the solutions that the FIQ has put forth to eliminate the work overload they all have. We adopted an ambitious plan for the week: trailer at the Treasury Board, storming the Quebec City and Jacques-Cartier bridges, ranking of the worst ratios in Québec and announcing 48 hours without mandatory overtime (MOT). The healthcare professionals have drawn the attention of everyone in Québec this week. We can be proud!
These actions have not simply attracted the media’s attention, they also put our demands into the prevailing discourse. We cannot be ignored! Not ignored by the government, but also not by the public. Several major media columnists, journalists and opposition party MNAs have confirmed the urgency for action. If, for years now, we have been 76,000 to denounce the deplorable conditions in which we work, this week we were millions sharing our concerns.
The pressure we have put on the government forced the president of the Treasury Board, Sonia Lebel, to address the healthcare professionals directly during a press briefing last Thursday. Moreover, her message was clear. She had heard us and acknowledged our work overload. She publicly committed by declaring she had given clear mandates to her negotiators. She committed to making full-time positions attractive and tackling the MOT problem. Therefore, she chose to publicly issue us a clear invitation, that of negotiating.
This olive branch came two days before a scheduled action we wanted badly: 48 hours when healthcare professionals would say no to forced labour, meaning 48 hours without MOT. In response to this public call to return to the bargaining table, we decided to respond in good faith and took the difficult decision to cancel that action. A difficult decision, because, on one hand, we are not used to trusting the government who has not fulfilled its promises to us in the past two years and, on the other hand, because we knew that for some of you, those 48 hours without MOT represented the hope of being able to take a breather… However, our ultimate objective in these negotiations is infinitely more that a weekend shot in the arm! With all the union representatives in the province, we decided to answer this invitation, as a breakthrough at the bargaining table is what will enable us to implement permanent solutions quickly. We want solutions that will act on the work overload and put an end to a management culture relying on forced labour on a regular basis that we have endured for too long.
Now, allow me to address a few words directly to the president of the Treasury Board. Ms. Lebel, it is crucial that the bargaining table heeds your words. You hold one of the most important positions in the government, and it comes with major and serious responsibilities. Among your highest priorities should be repairing the healthcare system that is failing because of the healthcare professionals’ appalling working conditions. The nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists who work day after day for our public health network have taken more than their share of the responsibilities by holding up this system for too long. Today, it is your responsibility to honour your commitment and you will have to assume it. We have accepted your olive branch in good faith, but do not mislead us, as that would be underestimating our determination.