(Quebec) The union common front issues a warning to the Legault government: it is out of the question to accept an agreement like the one reached between Ottawa and its officials on Monday. Wage increases must be greater for Quebec government employees, otherwise, and the word is spoken for the first time, a strike will be considered in the fall.
This was stated by the leaders of the FTQ, the CSN, the CSQ and the APTS in an interview with La Presse on Monday. They represent more than 400,000 state employees who are renegotiating their collective agreements that have expired since March 31. Among them, the president of the FTQ, Magali Picard, and her counterpart of the CSQ, Éric Gingras, will meet with Prime Minister François Legault on Tuesday, a meeting with union leaders which takes place every year as part of the celebration May Day workers.
For Magali Picard, the message to the Prime Minister will be clear: “It takes a major” and even “massive” investment in order to increase wages in the public sector. However, his offer is far from the account. “We need a strong signal if he wants to keep his current employees and once again become an employer of choice that will attract the next generation,” she added, recalling that a shortage is hitting the health and education networks. . Salaries are in his eyes “the number one issue” of the present talks.
“This negotiation is decisive in bringing back working conditions that will allow us to maintain our public services,” said François Enault, vice-president of the CSN (whose president Caroline Senneville will be meeting with Mr. Legault). .
We saw it during the strike in CPEs two years ago, according to him, when the workers “got the support of the parents” and “won their battle”.
A walkout in the public sector will also be “definitely on the agenda if the negotiations do not progress”, he warned.
The unions begin a consultation tour of their members to obtain a mandate to “intensify the means of pressure” and to have their opinion “on a preparation for a possible strike”. For the moment, “it’s not a strike mandate that we’re going to be looking for, but it’s clear that if it doesn’t move forward, we’ll be thinking about it this fall,” added Mr. Enault. .
According to Magali Picard, “it would be extremely shocking if this government let its striking employees go after everything that happened with the pandemic. He has to be serious and come to the table with reasonable offers.”
The interview took place hours after the announcement of an agreement between Ottawa and 120,000 civil servants who were on strike. They obtained salary increases of 12.6% in four years, so a little more than 3% per year.
It is unanimous among the leaders of the common front: such salary increases would be insufficient for the Government of Quebec. “When we look at overall compensation, Quebec public sector employees compare at a disadvantage to other categories, whether federal or private,” argued Éric Gingras, recalling the recent findings of a study by the Institut of Quebec statistics(1).
He added that the current offer from the Legault government does not make it possible to cover the rising cost of living or to begin a “wage catch-up”.
The gap is gigantic between the parties. It’s simple to double.
The common front points out that the classic argument of the government to offer less in wages, job security, loses its importance in times of shortage and full employment.
Leaders lament the pace of negotiations as “we spent more time on form than substance” from the start. The government finally abandoned the idea of imposing “discussion forums”, outside the traditional negotiation tables, to discuss issues of its choice.
Nevertheless, he still limits himself to wanting to discuss only his own priorities at the negotiating tables, according to the common front. “The pressure is mounting among our members because we are not able to place our demands,” lamented the president of the APTS, Robert Comeau. This is the case with requests aimed at tackling work overload in certain settings such as youth centres.