December 2019 - January 2020| No. 3

Management proposals disconnected from reality

The collective bargaining process is now officially launched, and the government has given its counter-proposal to our union demands. It has in fact opted to disregard our demands altogether, refusing to acknowledge the current crisis in our health and social services system.

This issue of INFO NÉGO examines the management proposals filed on December 12 and December 17, 2019.

A quick recap of our salary demands

Intersectoral proposals filed on December 12, 2019:
a real slap in the face

With the Québec government swimming in surpluses ($8.3 billion last year and at least $4 billion this year), we thought that the contract proposals filed by the head of the Treasury Board, Christian Dubé, would at least cover the projected rate of inflation, which is expected to rise by 2% annually over the next five years.

That was totally not the case. We received offers that were dismissive and in no way recognized the essential work performed by health and social services personnel. In terms of pay increases, the government is proposing a 7% increase over 5 years: a 1.75% pay increase for the two first years, 1.5% for the third year, and 1% for the last two years. In reality, all the projected indices for inflation point to far higher inflation than what is covered in the government proposal.

In addition, Mr. Dubé showed no willingness to rectify the cumulative wage lag resulting from more than 20 years of pay increases that failed to keep pace with inflation. According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, there is a 13.2% wage lag compared to other Québec employees. Our demands for a 4% annual catch-up increase (i.e., 12% spread over 3 years) are very reasonable in this economic context.

And the government is not only dismissing our demand for a catch-up increase. Its proposals leave professional and technical personnel poorer off, reduce our members’ purchasing power, and widen the wage gap with other employees across Québec.

With proposals like this, how can the government think that our public system of health and social services will be more attractive to a workforce coveted by the private sector and other government sectors that are offering far more alluring working conditions? This kind of blind disconnect from reality is cause for serious consternation. 



Forums where professional and technical personnel are not invited

In its proposal, the government wants to set up three forums where unions would be involved in making recommendations to the bargaining parties. These are forums on health care as a whole, academic success, and accessibility of care for clients in long-term residential care or those receiving home care.

The APTS, like our FIQ ally, was dumbfounded to learn that the personnel we represent is not included in the allocated budgets for the forum on accessibility of care for clients in nursing homes or those receiving home care, when our members deliver essential health and social services to a vulnerable population. The budget is specifically reserved for beneficiary attendants and family aides. It’s also important to mention that no budget has been set aside for work associated with the forum on health care as a whole, despite its highly critical situation. We find it very hard to see how it might be possible to reduce disability-related problems without spending money. The forum on academic success, for its part, appears to be devoted to the education sector.

In Christian Dubé’s own words, these forums are part of a "creative" approach, but they mean postponing talks on these issues until the completion of the forums’ work. The date envisaged for completing that work, according to the government’s proposal, is April 30, 2020.

Why does the head of the Treasury Board feel the need to consult certain unions in forums in order to understand the needs of our health and social services system? Shouldn’t ministers McCann, Carmant and Blais already be familiar with the problems and the solutions we’ve been proposing for more than a year now, and know that major investments are required? The whole thing looks like a huge waste of time and money.

Instead of engaging in negotiations on salary, rules governing parental rights, the retirement plan, and regional disparities, the government wants to set up forums. We’re all aware of the problems, and it’s time for concrete steps to be taken.

Sectoral proposals filed on December 17:
from bad to worse

The government’s proposals on so-called sectoral matters, which form the bulk of the collective agreement and include conditions of professional practice, are just as disappointing and dismissive.

We filed demands proposing a series of specific measures designed to improve working conditions and make it easier to attract and retain personnel in public health and social services. The government was content to file vague and ambiguous proposals that once again postpone solutions to overcome the grave crisis that is traversing the public health and social services system, raising doubts about the government’s intentions.

We want concrete measures to reduce work overload, improve rules for training, and promote greater family/work/study balance. We also want to improve access to the various premiums that currently exist for work with certain clientele, to adjust the premiums’ conditions to reflect the realities of Class 4 personnel (in CHSLDs, critical care units, psychiatric units, etc.). The government hasn’t responded in any way to our demands filed on October 30, as it first wants to discuss a few of the issues it has identified.

We are experiencing a bona fide crisis in public health and social services. It has reached a point where eight professional orders* recently took the unprecedented step of going public to decry the working conditions and conditions of practice facing their members, who are also our members. The figures are enough to make us shudder: 49% of their members are quitting their jobs in public health and social services, and 25% are thinking about leaving their profession. Moreover, 57% find that service accessibility has declined since the Barrette reform.

Those first two figures alone should prompt the MSSS and the Québec government to react. Québec society can’t afford to sustain that kind of hemorrhaging. The third figure is just as serious, as the Barrette reform has eroded public health and social services to an unprecedented degree. How could Mr. Dubé disregard such a cry for help?

We know that major efforts have to be made to improve your working conditions, but it’s clear that the Legault government is totally disconnected from reality. Instead of taking prompt action to make it more attractive to work in health and social services, the government is offering conditions that completely miss the mark. There’s nothing in the document presented by the government that gives a boost or a ray of hope for professionals and technicians who are at the end of their rope.

The many discrepancies between Mr. Dubé’s public statements and what we find in these bargaining proposals illustrate just how far removed the government is from specific proposals that would improve working conditions and conditions of practice for health and social services professionals and technicians.

Urgent action is nonetheless required. The government has to stop procrastinating and shift into high gear. The longer it waits, the worse it gets in terms of declining health and social services, our members’ level of exhaustion, and the likelihood that they will leave.

The message driven home by our 56,000 APTS members is crystal clear: we’re done working ourselves sick! What we want is adequate pay and working conditions, no more, no less.

We’ll keep you posted on further developments. Hopefully you had a chance to rest and recharge over the holidays, as 2020 is not shaping up to be restful.

* The 8 professional orders that went public: Ordre des psychoéducateurs et psychoéducatrices du Québec (OPPQ), Ordre des orthophonistes et audiologistes du Québec, Ordre professionnel des criminologues du Québec, Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec, Ordre des conseillers et conseillères en orientation du Québec, Ordre professionnel des sexologues du Québec, Ordre des ergothérapeutes du Québec, Ordre des psychologues du Québec.