Public-sector contract talks | Government offers rejected by the Front commun
January 25, 2023
Montréal – The Front commun has unanimously rejected the initial offers tabled by the Treasury Board on December 15, including 9% pay increases over 5 years, in talks to renew public-sector collective agreements. With one voice, union delegations at the CSN, CSQ, FTQ and APTS dismissed the government proposals as totally inadequate to deal with the serious problems wracking public services.
“We’re facing an unprecedented labour shortage – one in which attracting and retaining personnel is a huge challenge,” said 1st CSN vice-president François Enault, CSQ president Éric Gingras, FTQ president Magali Picard and APTS president Robert Comeau, speaking on behalf of the Front commun. “The Québec government’s response is to propose pay increases that don’t even keep up with the rising cost of living. This offer would actually leave our members poorer off! How could they possibly accept it?” The union spokespersons added: “We’ll be pushing hard at the bargaining tables to make their voices heard – especially since the government proposal is so completely out of sync with what we need to restore and enhance our public services.”
Insulting offers and worrisome changes to timeframes
It’s worth noting that for public-service workers, today’s record inflation rates are only part of the problem. Their overall compensation trails that of other Québec workers by 3.9%, and when we look strictly at wages, the gap widens to 11.9%. To abolish the gap and enhance the value of public-sector jobs, the Front commun is demanding two things: a permanent mechanism to offset inflation, and pay increases that will ensure a general catch-up. For 2023, this means either a $100-per-week increase or an increase based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) + 2%, depending on which formula is most beneficial. For 2024, the demand is CPI + 3%, and for 2025, CPI + 4%.
The government’s offer also includes an attack on the Government and Public Employees Retirement Plan (RREGOP), invoking recent improvements to the Québec Pension Plan (QPP) to justify a reduction in RREGOP benefits. Other measures involve delaying the age at which certain people would be allowed to retire with full compensation, after devoting their entire career to the public sector.
“The government is talking out of both sides of its mouth. While offering nothing to cover cost-of-living increases for public-service workers, it wonders why we have a major problem attracting and retaining people,” said the Front commun spokespersons. “To address the labour shortage in our public services, our proposals are as clear as day, written in black and white in the Front commun demands. We fail to see how these government offers ― which look more like a public relations exercise ― will benefit Quebecers and public-sector workers.”
Armed with a mandate from its rank and file, the Front commun is now urging the Treasury Board to start negotiating at the central bargaining table. For the public sector to become an attractive and competitive employer, the necessary measures have to be set in place so that all Quebecers can have access to quality services in schools, health and social services, and higher education.
“The Front commun is ready to do its part at the bargaining tables. We heard Minister LeBel’s invitation on January 11 to negotiate,” said the union spokespersons, “but our commitment has to be reciprocal. Treasury Board mandates are needed to make sure these contract talks provide solutions that will ensure the future of public services.” They nonetheless pointed out that it is very difficult to schedule talks at the central table at the present time.
A few facts on the issues at the bargaining table
- Average salary of Front commun public-sector employees: $43,916
- Wage lag: -11.9%
- Compensation lag: -3.9%
- Percentage of workers represented by the Front communwho are women: 78%
- Expiry date for collective agreements: March 31, 2023
For more information on the current contract talks: https://www.frontcommun.org/.
The Front commun
Together, the CSN, CSQ, FTQ and APTS represent over 420,000 public-sector workers employed by the Québec government in schools, health and social services, and higher education.