VOLUME 1 NO. 4 | MAY 25, 2023 

Contract talks pick up speed

Contract talks are now entering a new phase, a month and a half after the expiry of public-sector collective agreements. Work is accelerating at the sectoral bargaining table where your conditions of work and practice are discussed.

Until very recently, the employer party chose to be available only one half-day every three weeks. That pace was not exactly conducive to meaningful exchanges. But now, our counterparts from the employer side are committed to working with us one day a week.

Union and employer have now presented their demands and offers at the sectoral table, and a period of exchanges is beginning. Throughout this period, your bargaining team will be trying to achieve as many gains as possible in relation to our demands while countering the employer’s efforts to make some of your conditions, such as the length of your work week, less favourable.

$900 premium for some youth protection workers: the government’s arrogance on display

On May 5, Minister Lionel Carmant issued an administrative directive to give youth workers employed in the Director of Youth Protection’s assessment-referral sector a $900 premium that would cover the cost of belonging to a professional order.

Reimbursement of dues paid to professional orders is one of the demands that your bargaining team is putting forward at the sectoral table – but the government’s offer is limited to one specific sector.

Your national negotiating council finds this offer to be grossly inadequate. We were willing to explore the government’s proposal if it had included all youth centre employees in a pilot project that would then be extended to other health and social services sectors under current contract talks.

When we refused to endorse this unsatisfactory proposal, the government acted unilaterally by issuing an administrative directive. This contravened the Labour Code and also displayed the government’s arrogance as it imposed its will without any consideration for workers’ needs and demands. Instead of making concessions, Minister Carmant is trying to short-circuit the whole bargaining process by making changes to working conditions in the middle of contract talks. There’s no justification for the ministerial order: your bargaining team was ready to talk.

We are currently analyzing the ministerial directive and looking at legal recourses that might enable us to uphold your right to negotiations that are free, fair, and carried out in good faith. We’ll tell you about these in the near future.

Update on offers in mental health

Treasury Board president Sonia LeBel announced last February that the government would be presenting a specific proposal for mental health services that would include the compensation given to psychologists working for the public system. Details of this offer were not made known until March 27. Your bargaining team has analyzed the proposal and is working to reach the best possible agreement. How generous, in fact, is Ms. Lebel’s proposal?

In its current form, the government offer regarding psychologists’ compensation includes the following elements.

  • A 7.5% pay increase would be provided as an advance on the settlement of 2015 pay equity maintenance complaints. This is something that labour organizations have been demanding for months. Normally, this type of agreement would be reached outside of contract talks.
  • The 9.6% retention premium for psychologists working full-time would be reduced to 7.5%.
  • The 4.1% retention premium for psychologists working part-time would be abolished.
  • A longer work week (37.5 hours) would become obligatory.

In terms of compensation, the government proposal for pyschologists falls short of current Front commun demands, which include:

  • a pay increase in the area of 21.6% over three years (based on the government’s inflation forecasts), and
  • enhanced salary scales,
  • in addition to demands for the settlement of pay equity maintenance complaints.

The government’s offer, which provides better compensation for psychologists, also involves calling on front-line employees with the following job titles to identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues:

  • social worker
  • psychoeducator
  • occupational therapist
  • human relations officer
  • criminologist
  • clinical sexologist
  • guidance counsellor.

The government offer also calls for a voluntary lengthening of the work week to 37.5 hours, and provides for reimbursement of the cost of a psychotherapist’s permit and related training costs, for people holding the job titles mentioned above.

It’s important to keep in mind that at this point, the government offer has been neither accepted nor rejected. Contract talks to achieve the best possible outcome are ongoing, and when these exchanges lead to an agreement in principle, all APTS members will be consulted on an overall proposal.

Stepping up the pace of mobilization

Given the slow pace of exchanges and the fact that the government is unreceptive to union demands, the APTS General Council was unanimous in voting a mandate on April 20 to intensify pressure tactics. A similar step had been taken by our partners at the CSN, CSQ, and FTQ. On the basis of this mandate, the Front commun will be organizing actions across Québec over the next weeks.

Save the date!

A large-scale demonstration involving people from all over Québec will take place in Montréal on September 23 if discussions at the bargaining tables fail to produce an agreement before that date.

The APTS and its Front commun partners are also starting the process that will eventually give them the right to strike. Our goal is to make sure key instruments are available to us in case the government forces us to use them.

Stay tuned for invitations from your local APTS team. There will be plenty of action over the next months!

About the demonstration on September 23

Your bargaining team