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Bill 28 to end the public health emergency | A frontal attack on workers’ rights

March 31, 2022

Québec City – The APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux) has no hesitation in saying that Bill 28 tabled by Minister Christian Dubé, An Act to terminate the public health emergency, is a straight-out denial of workers’ rights. The union asserts that in unilaterally giving itself the right to dictate the working conditions of people employed in the health and social services system, the minister is trampling on the Labour Code as well as the Canadian and Québec charters of rights.

“This is a frontal attack on the rights and working conditions of unionized workers. It’s that simple,” said APTS president Robert Comeau to members of the National Assembly’s Committee on Health and Social Services. “The bill allows the government to do with one hand what it’s no longer allowed to do with the other. Through a pathetic piece of trickery, the minister is in fact maintaining the public health emergency - but only for health and social services employees. That is utterly unacceptable.”

As of March 30, all ministerial orders and decrees allowing the government to suspend or modify the working conditions of professional and technical employees were maintained, including the famous ministerial order 2020-007. But then came the twist: on the same day, Minister Dubé published five new ministerial orders – including 2022-030, which eliminates all previous orders and gives the minister full powers to renege on the collective agreement he signed with the APTS on January 27.

“We signed a work contract with the government. A contract is something that you comply with,” said Joël Bélanger, APTS 5th vice-president and officer responsible for labour relations. “This is the basis of labour relations. Our collective agreement has as much value as the agreement with general practitioners, which binds the government until 2023. It has as much value as the dozens and dozens of contracts that the government has signed by mutual agreement during the pandemic. This bill, as tabled, is a new insult to workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic.”

To ensure that the Legault government abides by its end of the contract, the union has presented the committee with an amendment to Bill 28, consisting in the addition of the following article:

When the bill comes into force, all of the decrees, ministerial orders and measures that determine, suspend or modify the working conditions of workers employed by the health and social services system, including ministerial order 2020-007, are repealed.

As with any contract, if one party wants to make changes, it has to sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith. This is the issue addressed by the union’s second and last recommendation, which is that transitional measures should be negotiated at the permanent provincial negotiating committee – which is specifically empowered to deal with exceptional situations and make any adjustments required by the organization of work.

“The APTS has never been opposed to transitional measures as a way out of the public health emergency,” says Comeau. “If anyone wants to return to some kind of normality, it’s employees of the health and social services system. We have front-row seats – we know all about the devastating effects of the labour shortage on the system. Over the years, we’ve suggested a number of measures to help attract and retain employees. We have solutions; what’s needed is the political will to put them into place. Let’s sit down and talk.”

The APTS brief is available online (in French).

The APTS

The APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux) represents more than 65,000 members who play a key role in ensuring that health and social services institutions run smoothly. Our members provide a wide range of services for the population as a whole, including diagnostic, rehabilitation, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, clinical support, and prevention services.