Convened by their respective decision-making bodies, APTS and FIQ delegates have rejected the employer offers tabled by Treasury Board president Sonia LeBel, which are basically unchanged in relation to those put forward ten months ago. Through this vote, the two unions are issuing a warning to the Treasury Board: there can be no agreement in principle without a catch-up salary increase and recognition of the expertise provided by the APTS-FIQ alliance’s 131,000 members.
“Let’s be perfectly clear,” say the two union presidents, Andrée Poirier (APTS) and Nancy Bédard (FIQ). “Women employed in the health and social services system have a right to decent pay. A catch-up increase is absolutely necessary – the economic situation can’t justify maintaining the pay discrimination we’re living with today. And maintaining purchasing power isn’t enough to make up for decades of pay increases below the rate of inflation. If the government wants an agreement, it has to table new offers with significantly better pay. Contrary to the claims of Premier Legault, adding new jobs in the health and social services system will have no impact if nothing is done at the same time to recognize the people who provide Quebecers with essential care and services on a daily basis. Nobody is taken in by these claims, whether it’s healthcare professionals, professional and technical employees, or the general public.”
With no agreement in sight, the negotiating marathon continues
In addition to the issue of pay discrimination, access to services in remote areas is a priority for the APTS-FIQ alliance. The government’s silence on this topic is hardly reassuring. Labour shortages throughout the health and social services system have major consequences outside urban centres, with breaks in service more and more frequent due to a lack of personnel. The offers the government has just tabled show a conscious choice to put part of the population at risk. And yet, all Quebecers are entitled to the same services, regardless of where they live.
On parental rights and pensions, the solution put forward by Sonia LeBel – multiple joint committees to meet after the agreement is signed – does not constitute progress. Nothing is on the table right now to support young parents trying to balance family and work responsibilities. Nor is there a single measure that would induce health care professionals, and professional and technical employees in the health and social services system, to keep on working for a longer period under advantageous conditions in order to attenuate the severe labour shortage currently affecting the system.
“The new impetus that the APTS-FIQ alliance is demanding to repair and restore the health and social services system will have to take two directions,” say Poirier and Bédard. “We need to improve the working conditions of thousands of women in the system, and make sure they’re treated with respect and goodwill. But we also need to improve access to the system. Negotiations at the intersectoral bargaining table are just beginning – the government isn’t meeting the expectations of the APTS-FIQ alliance. Starting next week, we’ll be answering by mobilizing our members.”