OCTOBER 22, 2021 | No. 17

Sonia LeBel wanted to settle promptly. Really?

Much has happened in the last few weeks.

At the July General Council, APTS delegates decided to present the government’s June 22nd offer to you in an impartial way, without recommending whether or not to accept it. To give as many of you as possible a chance to vote on it, special general assemblies on the offer began on September 14, once the summer vacation period was over.

The government announced major bonuses on September 23 to help attract and retain nursing staff and mitigate the labour shortage affecting that class of personnel. In making that announcement, Premier François Legault, Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel, and Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé sent a message that directly contradicted the one received by the APTS team at the bargaining table: that in the end, the government had enough money to improve your working conditions and reduce the work overload you face on a daily basis.

Your reaction was instantaneous. As soon as the nursing bonuses were announced, members started contacting us by email, via social media networks and by phone, expressing anger and outrage. This move by the government was a fresh affront to the professionalism you’ve shown throughout the public health emergency, and proof that the premier and ministers Dubé and Lebel still refuse to recognize the true value of your work.

On September 24, the APTS provincial executive held a press conference and announced the Provincial Council’s decision a day earlier to suspend our special general assemblies until we had met with the premier and Sonia LeBel to obtain the necessary working conditions that would attract professionals and technicians to the public health and social services system and induce them to stay.

On September 30, your interim president, Robert Comeau, and the 3rd vice-president responsible for collective bargaining, Benoît Audet, sat down with Sonia LeBel and the head negotiator. The premier didn’t deign to attend the meeting. The government’s receptive attitude gave the APTS hope that we might arrive at an agreement in principle promptly.

In that context, an item on contract talks was added to the agenda for the General Council on October 5. Your delegates voiced your concerns and outlined the priority issues that need to be raised in upcoming bargaining talks. The decision was also made to reject the offer made by the government on June 22. Despite certain concessions won by the APTS, such as premiums in youth centres and for supervising student trainees, the delegates found the offer insulting… especially when it turned out that the government had money in the bank for better measures to attract and retain a sufficient workforce.

Despite our efforts, we still don’t have an agreement in principle but talks are continuing.

The APTS is losing patience

The government’s reluctance to offer conditions that measure up is astonishing, especially since Premier Legault declared in his inaugural address at the National Assembly on October 19 that Quebecers’ health is a top priority for him, and he intends to address the need to attract employees in youth protection and mental health services “in the very short term.” The proposals put forward by the APTS since talks resumed on September 30 included those two issues.

The APTS acted in good faith at this meeting and gave the government the time it needed to respond to our demands. It is now up to the government to show good faith and demonstrate its willingness to improve working conditions for professional and technical employees, and ensure better services for Quebecers.

While we’re in talks with the Treasury Board, we have no choice but to keep up the pressure and intensify our actions. Yesterday morning, union activists gathered in front of the Treasury Board Secretariat in Montréal to put Sonia LeBel on notice that it’s time for immediate action. For more details, check out the press release.

Your local teams are organizing visibility actions in the institutions so you can show your discontent at the government’s dismissive attitude toward professional and technical employees in health and social services. Keep an eye out for messages from your local union executives about upcoming events.