Health and social services contract talks | Organization of work: government is talking out of both sides of its mouth

November 15, 2023

Image Health and social services contract talks | Organization of work: government is talking out of both sides of its mouth

Montréal – Although the government keeps insisting that its priority is the organization of work, negotiations have been at a standstill for months at sectoral bargaining tables. To accelerate discussions, Front commun unions representing health and social service workers have put forward many solutions in which organization of work plays a part. And yet, no response has been forthcoming at the bargaining tables on the government’s priority.

“Every week, something happens to remind us that our health and social service system is going through a major crisis,” said FSSS-CSN president Réjean Leclerc, FP-CSN 1st vice-president Jessica Goldschleger, APTS 1st vice-president Josée Fréchette, Conseil provincial des affaires sociales (CPAS-CUPE Québec) president Maxime Ste-Marie, SQEES-FTQ president Sylvie Nelson and FSQ-CSQ president Isabelle Dumaine. “And the government keeps on suggesting setbacks, temporary measures, or measures that would only affect a few job titles. But the status quo won’t allow us to attract or retain employees. We’ve come up with proposals – let’s talk about them!”

Solutions put forward by the unions focus on issues that the government also sees as priorities, such as a review of premiums in health and social services, the use of independent labour, work-time arrangements, overtime pay, and vacation leave. Premiums, in particular, are presented as a government priority, yet employer spokespersons struggle to answer the questions put to them on this topic by the union party.

While the government emphasizes the importance of the priorities it has established at the sectoral tables, one thing is clear: its proposals do not improve employees’ working conditions. The government claims that it wants to become an employer of choice, yet one of its proposals involves moving workers around as it sees fit.

“Sonia LeBel and Christian Dubé keep saying how difficult it is to negotiate the organization of work – they sound like a broken record. Which is why the government’s sluggishness makes no sense,” added the spokespersons. “We’re forced to question its good faith at the bargaining table. The government needs to stop spinning and get serious.”

With rising pressure and more strike days ahead, Front commun workers – and Quebecers in general – expect both parties to go full out in order to reach an agreement. The unions are urging the government to show that it too would like to reach a settlement quickly, and they say they are ready for intensive discussions over the next days.

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