Convincing the government that our demands are well-founded—that has been the FIQ’s negotiating committee’s mission throughout the summer. After submitting our two counter-proposals (sectoral and intersectoral) in June, we have focused our meetings with the government on explaining our demands.
At the bargaining table, we are dealing with actuaries and an economist from the Conseil du Trésor who generally have no idea what’s happening in the health network on a day-to-day basis. We therefore have to take the time to explain the challenges facing healthcare professionals with as much detailed reasoning and examples as possible so that they grasp the complexity of the network and the urgent need to improve healthcare professionals’ working conditions.
Unfortunately, because the government decided to change our bargaining counterpart from the Comité patronal de négociation du secteur de la santé et des services sociaux (CPNSSS) to the Conseil du Trésor, we have to re-explain most of what we presented last January and February. However, January and February might as well have been another era because the COVID-19 crisis changed everything, including provincial negotiations. As a result, we once again emphasized the importance of improving staff attraction and retention, as well as stabilizing work teams.
Working regularly with the same colleagues enables teams to become more efficient, to develop a sense of belonging, to have more stable and predictable schedules and to reduce the work overload and mandatory overtime. This would also make a huge difference for patients. They would get higher quality care in a reassuring environment, while fostering trust with their families.
Research and collaboration
Presenting our demands required a huge amount of preparation from the negotiation team. We researched every subject presented. We analyzed our own reasoning, we consulted the Negotiation Council and we challenged our own points of view in order to determine the best way to present each demand so that the employer party would understand the challenges and problems our colleagues face every day.
At each presentation, the government’s representatives asked us very specific questions to which we had to quickly provide answers that reflect what’s happening in the field, taking into account the specificities of each region and care setting. As such, we often turned to our colleagues on the Negotiation Council and their support was essential. Their extensive knowledge about what is happening on work teams, and what their availability is, was a huge help. We would like to applaud the efficiency of your representatives on the Negotiation Council.
Understanding and anticipating
Coming from diverse work settings and representing three of the four work titles represented at the FIQ, we five union reps, elected to the Negotiating Committee, cover almost all sectors of activity. We were able to share our expertise and knowledge of the various centres of activities in real time during the discussions with the employer party.
It’s one of the major advantages of the relaxed confinement restrictions: sitting at the bargaining table. In the spring, during full lock down, we had to attend meetings virtually. Now, as we hold discussions in person, we better understand the employer party’s reasoning and can anticipate its reactions.
Despite all of our efforts to get the employer party to better understand the harsh reality of healthcare professionals, the government’s representatives regularly remind us that our demands would require major investments and that we will have to make certain decisions to come to an overall agreement. And yet, while our demands may seem ambitious, it’s because there’s been massive defunding in the health network for many years now. After countless budget cuts and serious negligence, we need these investments to get the network back on its feet. Our patients deserve the best possible system.
We are currently waiting for a reply from the employer party. It will have to be a clear commitment from the government to rapidly and significantly improve working conditions for FIQ members. While we may fear a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, it will not be up to healthcare professionals to keep the network from crumbling once again. It’s going to be a hot autumn!