Quebec public sector workers have expanded their strike actions in response to stalled contract negotiations with the provincial government, threatening a series of strikes in the coming days. Here’s a summary of the latest developments:
Public sector workers, represented by four unions, are currently on a one-day strike today, disrupting schools, healthcare facilities, and social services. These workers, part of a “common front” comprising around 420,000 employees, are protesting the government’s latest contract offer. If no resolution is reached, they plan to stage another strike from November 21 to 23.
The unions are determined to safeguard their purchasing power amidst rising inflation. The government’s latest proposal includes a 10.3% salary increase over five years and a one-time payment of $1,000 to each worker. However, the unions have criticized this offer as inadequate.Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel urged the unions to engage in constructive negotiations, emphasizing that the process should be a two-way street.
Impact of the Strike
The strike has affected various sectors, with elementary and secondary schools closing until 10:30 a.m. and junior colleges until noon. Some healthcare and social services, including mental health, youth protection, and medical imaging, are operating at reduced capacity, while emergency and intensive care services remain unaffected.
Other unions are planning strikes in the coming days, with the union representing 80,000 nurses, auxiliary nurses, respiratory therapists, and health professionals staging a two-day walkout on Wednesday and Thursday. Additionally, a union representing 65,000 Quebec teachers has threatened an unlimited general strike starting on November 23 if an agreement is not reached. The negotiations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, with the government presenting its offer in December 2022. Both parties were still engaged in negotiations as of Friday.
In addition to salary increases, the government’s proposal aims to allocate more funds to address priority areas, such as nurses’ night and weekend shifts and teachers’ aides in primary schools. Workers earning less than $52,000 a year would also receive an additional 1% increase.The unions argue that the government’s proposal does not adequately account for the current inflation rates. Their counteroffer includes a demand for a three-year contract with annual increases tied to the inflation rate, with incremental adjustments based on inflation percentages.
The ongoing strike actions by public sector workers highlight the challenges of maintaining a balance between government fiscal constraints and addressing the demands of workers in a time of economic uncertainty and high inflation.