Union demonstration at Montréal West Island CIUSSS: “Our employer is living in a fantasy world”
February 15, 2023
Montréal – Hundreds of members of four unions representing some 13,800 people employed at the Montréal West Island CIUSSS demonstrated in front of the Lakeshore General Hospital at lunchtime this Wednesday. Employees were protesting against a complete deadlock in labour relations that is severely damaging the quality of their personal and professional lives.
As problems arising from difficult working conditions and a shortage of staff keep getting worse, employees are deeply concerned about a failure in communication between the employer and unions, which has grave implications for the institution. They are anxious to see what will be done by newly appointed CEO Dan Éric Gabay, who took up his duties on February 8, to turn things around.
The many challenges faced by the CIUSSS include issues of occupational health and safety; work overload and lack of staff; multiple pay errors beginning a year ago; and problems involving uniforms and lack of equipment. Twenty-one managers involved in employee relations have left since January 2018, and the unions point out that this abnormally high turnover has not made it any easier to establish good practices.
“To be clear, we regularly contact the employer to ask for discussions, but we’re finding it enormously difficult to get a response. Like the rest of the healthcare system, the Montréal West Island CIUSSS is in very bad shape – and that means functional labour relations are critically important. We have so many problems to solve!” exclaimed Fanny Demontigny, president of local 2881 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Québec).
“Here’s a concrete example of our employer’s inability to listen,” said Johanne Riendeau, president of the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de santé de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (FIQ-SPSSSODIM). “The Boucher report’s recommendations have been completely ignored. This is a crucially important report on the quality of care. Produced by an independent expert, it highlights the distress experienced by healthcare professionals who aren’t able to provide care with dignity. None of its 14 recommendations have been implemented or even discussed with us. Our employer says it’s impossible to manage every issue simultaneously. We are willing to set priorities – but we’re not willing to compromise on care.”
“What we’re seeing is appalling,” said Louise Lavoie, president of the APTS-de-l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. “The Montréal West Island CIUSSS would rather spend a fortune on arguing about grievances – even though they know they’re going to lose – than initiate talks with our members. Here’s an example: instead of settling the issue of late premium payments, they chose to spend huge amounts of money on legal fees while allowing the problem to fester. In the end, it cost them even more! There is simply no commitment to making progress in some areas. Our members are penalized, and the public too is paying the price for the employer’s incoherence. It just doesn’t make sense!”
“Communications with the employer are very difficult,” said Maryse Valiquette, president of the SQEES-FTQ local union representing office employees. “We keep getting contradictory information, which means we have to fight all the time just to get the facts. We’re supposed to be partners, but that’s not how it plays out on the ground.”
CUPE has close to 135,000 members in Québec, approximately 30,580 of whom are employed in health and social services. About 5,000 of these members are Class 2 employees at the Montréal West Island CIUSSS. CUPE is also present in the following sectors: communications, education, universities, energy, municipalities, Crown corporations and public organizations, air, land and maritime transportation, and the mixed sector. It is the largest union affiliated with the FTQ.
The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec - FIQ has over 80,000 members, of whom 3,800 are employed by the Montréal West Island CIUSSS. The Federation represents nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and perfusionists working in healthcare institutions across Québec. It is a feminist organization, with women making up close to 90% of its membership, and is dedicated to defending its members as well as patients and the public healthcare system.
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 service institutions run smoothly, including 2,800 workers directly represented by the APTS-de-l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. APTS members provide a wide range of services for all Quebecers, including diagnostic, rehabilitation, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, clinical support, and prevention services.
The Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de services (SQEES), affiliated with the FTQ, represents 25,000 members across Québec who are mostly employed in health and social services. Close to 2,200 of these members are Class 3 employees at the Montréal West Island CIUSSS. The SQEES is also the largest union in private seniors’ residences and is present in CPEs (nonprofit childcare centres) and the production of goods and services. It is affiliated with the FTQ (Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec), Québec’s biggest labour federation with over 600,000 members.
CUPE Québec (FTQ)
Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ)
Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS)
Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service (FTQ)