Several weeks have already gone by since the FIQ and FIQP delegates adopted the tentative agreement on working conditions. However, the negotiations are still not over, a year and a half after the union demands were filed. On March 31, 2021, the negotiations on the intersectoral matters finally began.
Usually, after negotiating the working conditions for each sector (health, education, civil service) with their respective labour organizations, the government then negotiates the same matters with all the labour organizations in the public sector, at the same time. This would be what we call the intersectoral matters: salary, retirement, parental rights and regional disparities.
It’s not because the intersectoral matters are negotiated at the end of the negotiations that they are not important, quite the opposite. Putting an end to wage discrimination with a salary catch-up, maintaining the members’ purchasing power, ensuring that no one falls into a precarious situation at retirement, that parents can balance work and family and Quebecers and members of First Nations who live in remote regions can count on the staff necessary for the right to the same services as others is ESSENTIAL. A collective agreement that sets the healthcare professionals’ solutions in motion can only be satisfactory with major gains on these issues.
This is the first time that there has been such a long delay between a tentative agreement on working conditions and the beginning of the negotiation of the intersectoral matters. Generally, it is only a few days, even weeks. But, months is unheard of! There is the specific context of the pandemic which can partly explain this, but also the fact that, until recently, the FIQ, because of its position as a leader in health, was one of the only organizations to reach a sectoral agreement on working conditions with the government.
Finally at the bargaining table!
On March 31, exactly one year after the end of the collective agreement, the government finally invited the APTS-FIQ Alliance to resume the discussions on intersectoral matters. The FIQ had long been ready to sit at the table.
However, the latest offer is proof that the government stubbornly fails to recognize the problems that remain in the health and social services network. The last employer offer of a 5% increase over three years is clearly not enough to have an impact on attraction and retention. Moreover, what has been described by the government as a generous offer is, in fact, a copy-paste of the May 2020 offer. It’s frustrating!
The APTS and FIQ delegates already rejected that offer last year, so there is no surprise that they once again rejected it outright on April 6, 2021.
After a year from hell in the network, the healthcare professionals will not accept being told again that they must be reasonable because of the economic situation. Don’t forget that the network didn’t start losing healthcare professionals only yesterday; the pandemic and ministerial orders only made the problem worse. Furthermore, it’s not physicians missing from
intensive care units, Emergency departments, operating rooms and CHSLDs, but nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists.
With its high-profile announcement, at a time when all public sector organizations were united in sounding the alarm for public services, the government used a pure public relations strategy. Ms. Lebel, it’s time to put your words into action!
For the last step of these negotiations, we can count on a major asset: strength in numbers. As with the professionals and technicians in the health and social services network, members of the APTS, we represent 131,000 members in the network, including 88% women. In order to get the government to agree to our demands, especially on salaries, it is up to us to make ourselves heard.
We must make ourselves heard if we want the government to accept our demands, especially on salaries. We must stand up in public arenas!
This is why the members of the APTS-FIQ alliance gathered in front of the Treasury Board building on April 12 to challenge Sonia Lebel: how can the government hope to attract the next generation that we so badly need if the salary offered does not recognize the skills and accountability of the women who hold up the health and social services network? You have to pay for expertise!
The government negotiators got a surprise when they came to the bargaining table: union reps were waiting for them with bated breath, chanting “the time for being paid a woman’s wage is over!” At the bargaining table, they told the APTS-FIQ Alliance representatives that this was quite the welcome! Proof that our actions resonate and are heard by government officials.
The table is now set for the final sprint in the negotiations. The unprecedented pandemic has only highlighted the problems of this network that we have been holding up for years. The reality is that the healthcare system was seriously ill well before and the government is trying to heal it with little band-aids… We need to carry the voice of the women in the network and remind the government of its responsibilities towards those who care for the people of Québec.