A few hours from the tabling of the Québec budget, the APTS-FIQ Alliance reiterates that the statement of the Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, will have to include the necessary investments and orientations to implement a robust plan to attract and retain workers in the public sector. The appalling working conditions and the overload exacerbated by the health emergency have only accentuated the exodus of professionals from the health and social services network (RSSS). Expectations are high that the government will have the courage not to imitate its predecessors by imposing harsh austerity policies.
It is obvious to the Alliance that women must benefit as much as men from the economic recovery. One of the ways to ensure this is to invest in those government functions where women are in the majority, including health and social services. The APTS-FIQ Alliance strongly suggests that the government should repair the damage through massive reinvestment to ensure quality and universal health and social services.
The Alliance expects this budget to provide sufficient reserves to ensure the implementation of collective agreements. The stakes are high. No more compromises will be tolerated in meeting the growing needs, coping with the ageing population, resolving the work overload problem and alleviating the pressure on the network staff. Salaries must be commensurate with the expertise of the staff and compensate for the impoverishment caused by the latest increases, below inflation. Minister Girard must also provide money to keep experienced workers at work, improve measures to attract and retain the members of the APTS-FIQ Alliance in remote regions and improve parental rights. These measures are even more essential as employment agencies and private companies do not hesitate to offer wages and working conditions that make government offers seem paltry.
“The Legault government must give a serious boost to the remuneration of professional and technical staff and healthcare professionals if it wants to attract the younger generation and maintain the expertise in place. We want our fair share. Expertise must be paid for. And it is not with a meagre 5% salary increase over 3 years that he will succeed in closing this growing gap and stemming the exodus of our members from the public network. The impoverishment of those who hold the network together must end by clearly indicating in this budget an increase in the salary structure”, stated the president of the FIQ, Nancy Bédard, and 1st vice-president of the APTS, Emmanuel Breton.
“The Legault government is at a crossroads. It must send a strong message and show it is addressing the labour shortage in the RSSS by recognizing the value of the expertise of our members. Any other move will only worsen the situation, jeopardizing our public health and social services system, already weakened by the pandemic”, continued Nancy Bédard and Emmanuel Breton.
A change of course is needed to repair the damage
The public health and social services network will have been a safety net during the pandemic, keeping the economy on track.
The APTS-FIQ Alliance demands a drastic change of vision to repair the damage to the RSSS. To guarantee quality services for the population and close the gap between needs and inadequate funding, the shortfall is currently $3.6 billion.
Making the financial framework more flexible, by extending the deadline for reaching a balanced budget beyond 5 years and suspending payments to the Generations Fund temporarily, remains the right treatment to be applied to release sufficient revenues and reinvest them where the pandemic has revealed the failings of our public network. There is an urgent need to act and to invest in the development of a promising vision for the ageing of the population, including accommodation for the elderly. In terms of the services and care available to them, the Alliance favours the home care services approach. Increasing the amount of money allocated to this budget item should be a priority in this budget.
And clearly a reinvestment in public health, youth protection and prevention are also needed. Promises to better support the pressing mental health needs that have been exacerbated during the pandemic must be met. Prevention and early detection of psychosocial issues are missions that require an increase in their budgets.
“The pressure is on for the government to show that it has learned from its mistakes. Women, the most vulnerable people, and RSSS professionals and technicians have suffered the most from the reduction in services. Minister Girard must resist the temptation to return to a balanced budget and ensure that the damage from years of austerity is repaired”, concluded Nancy Bédard and Emmanuel Breton.