COVID-19 | Will someone have to die before measures are taken to ensure the safety of our members?
March 25, 2020
"We’ve run out of patience. It's been almost 12 days since the Legault government declared a health emergency, and still nothing is being done to ensure the safety of our members on the ground.
Health and social service institutions don’t give a damn about the directives issued by Minister McCann and the director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda. Will an employee have to die before management ensures the safety of professional and technical personnel in health and social services?" demanded Andrée Poirier, President of the APTS.
The APTS is shocked to note that the directives on social distancing and working from home are not being applied, nor are the directives intended to spare personnel from having to deal with visits considered non-essential. A number of institutions are refusing to create joint committees with APTS representatives to set up preventive measures in occupational health and safety.
"Cases of community transmission have been confirmed. Public-sector workers are increasingly in contact with infected people. Protective reassignment or leave for employees who are pregnant or have a compromised immune system could be initiated. But no, management is stubbornly keeping these employees in the institutions and putting their health at risk. It makes no sense whatsoever," added Andrée Poirier.
The health minister’s order: an all-you-can-eat buffet for management
The institutions’ arrogant attitude toward the health minister’s directives didn’t end with the ministerial order issued on March 21, 2020, which made it possible to suspend certain clauses in the collective agreement to protect the health of the population during this pandemic. The proposals received by the APTS at this point have not been based on valid reasons and call for the immediate suspension of almost all the rights and working conditions of our members. Clearly, there is no will on the part of management to sit down with union representatives to work shoulder-to-shoulder and find effective solutions.
"It feels like we’re dealing with a bunch of teenagers who’ve been invited to an all-you-can-eat buffet. No restraint, no moderation. No checks on their voracious appetite. At the MSSS, however, government officials had assured us that this order was to be applied as a last resort. We were told that all other solutions had to be exhausted before suspending the rights of employees, and that the order would be applied based on the needs and the sectors involved. Once again, these institutions have knowingly disregarded the directives," added the APTS president.
At the APTS, this situation is raising red flags everywhere. Our members are exhausted and overworked. Pandemic anxiety, the lack of clear directives and lack of co-operation from the employer are only further aggravating the work climate that had already been seriously undermined.
"I warn you, personnel is stretched to the breaking point. Despite all the goodwill shown by our members and despite all their efforts in this crisis, they’ve reached their limit. They can’t work under conditions in which their safety and that of their loved ones is jeopardized by the inaction of management in health and social services facilities that knowingly flouts the government's directives. A DPJ in youth protection has already been placed under trusteeship for less than that," concluded Andrée Poirier.
The APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique du réseau de la santé et des services sociaux) represents 55,000 members who play an indispensable role in ensuring that health and social services facilities run properly. Our members provide a myriad of services for the population as a whole: diagnostic services, rehabilitation, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, clinical support and prevention services.