Health and social service contract talks | Time to step up the pace

April 12, 2023

Image Health and social service contract talks | Time to step up the pace

Montréal  – Unions representing health and social service employees and belonging to the Front commun recently received new information about the employer's offers regarding the renewal of the collective agreements. In their view, the government needs to provide a better response to workers’ priorities if it hopes to step up the pace of contract talks and reach agreements.

A major course change is needed to bring about significant improvements in working conditions and conditions of practice. However, the government's offers don’t rise to the challenges our members face in the field. The unions share many of the government's stated aims in these contract talks, especially that of improving access to health care. However, it isn’t enough for the government to say that it wants the public system to once more become an employer of choice: it has to propose more fundamental changes if it truly intends to address the critical staffing shortage in the public health and social service system.

Setbacks for working conditions
A major problem for the inter-union committee is the fact that employers are still counting on rolling back employees' rights by asking them to do more for less pay. For instance, the government wants to increase the hours in the normal work week of several job titles. In addition, it wants to review the overtime provisions such that many employees could be forced to work overtime after their regular work day, without being paid accordingly since they are not employed full-time. This is a way of seeming to do away with “mandatory overtime” without really addressing the serious issue of attracting and retaining staff.

Moreover, the unions feel that the new details provided by the government are based on a short-sighted approach to management. Some of the proposed measures are so narrowly targeted that they will have limited practical impact and will lead to inequities and injustices in the workplace. Thus, while addressing specific problems regarding certain job titles in different types of services, the unions are calling for measures that will have a substantial impact on the whole system.

Nevertheless, the unions feel there is room to work with the management proposals currently on the table. Some of those proposals point in the right direction and warrant closer study. The government needs to take a bolder tack and go much further. The unions also stress that the work is progressing far too slowly and they want to pick up the pace at the bargaining table. All bargaining committees are ready to press forward with the contract talks right now.