Members of the APTS-FIQ alliance are demonstrating in the streets of Montréal today to protest against the government’s stubborn refusal to improve its wage offers. Maintaining a hardline approach, the government is still insisting on 5% over three years. It’s also dismissing the idea of paying women in the health and social services system for their expertise, and rejecting any catchup increase that would eliminate the wage gap affecting healthcare professionals and technical and professional workers employed by the system. This glaring lack of recognition is not acceptable to the women and men who have enabled our society to keep on functioning throughout the pandemic. The Alliance’s 131,000 members are giving the government an ultimatum: if you want a settlement, you’ll have to come up with a new offer that will undo the years of discrimination experienced by health and social services employees.
“What is Premier Legault not getting? We’re done being paid a woman’s wage!” exclaim the spokespersons of the Alliance, FIQ president Nancy Bédard and APTS vice-president Benoit Audet. “The wages of women who provide Quebecers with essential care and services, and who’ve enabled the economy to keep on functioning despite a pandemic, are shaped by a historic injustice. Correcting this is not a political choice – it’s an obligation. Our members are here to express how fed up they are with having to take to the streets again. They’re still fighting to be paid what they deserve, while other activity sectors – traditionally dominated by men – have already reached that point.”
“The CAQ government is refusing to acknowledge the issue,” say Bédard and Audet. “The shortage of healthcare professionals and professional and technical employees is unprecedented throughout the system, but there’s absolutely no indication that Premier Legault actually sees how serious the problem is. On the contrary, he’s determined to keep on devaluing our members’ expert knowledge. His justification is the state of government finances. It’s funny that the government can always seem to find millions of dollars to launch grandiose infrastructure projects, or to pay for the greatest talents in the upper reaches of the economy. But when it’s time to take steps to attract young people, retain the most experienced employees, and give better wages to women in health and social services, then, suddenly, the money disappears. Premier Legault is being irresponsible in systematically giving priority to predominantly male sectors to restart the economy while ignoring sectors dominated by women. In doing so, he’s helping to normalize the unequal status of men and women. There’s got to be a limit to talking out of both sides of your mouth.”
Negotiations need to be ramped up for a settlement to be reached
Time is running out to fix the health and social services system and meet workforce requirements. The APTS and FIQ spokespersons are calling on the government to ramp up the negotiating process and show greater openness – this is the only way an agreement can be reached. They deplore the fact that the PR operation carried out by the premier and the Treasury Board president has had no impact at the bargaining table.
“The government won’t get a settlement by spending taxpayers’ money on advertising campaigns. If they want an agreement, they’ll have to come up with offers that include a catchup pay increase,” say Bédard and Audet.