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Sherbrooke – On Monday night, hundreds of members of the Coalition syndicale pour la libre négociation [Union Coalition for Free Negotiation] demonstrated outside Sherbrooke City Hall. They were making a statement to the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) via its Senior Vice-President, Sherbrooke Mayor Bernard Sevigny. They stressed that the issue of pensions can and should be resolved through negotiation. They hammered home their categorical rejection of a “bulldozer bill” attacking retirement income, which would require 50-50 sharing of deficits and impose a straitjacket.

“Municipal employees in Quebec are very worried. The debate on the future of pension plans has deteriorated to the point that retirement incomes are in question. However, the pension situation has greatly improved over the past two years. We urge mayors across Quebec, including the Mayor of Sherbrooke, to work out intelligent compromises with us at the negotiating table. We don’t need a bill for that,” said the Coalition’s spokesperson, Marc Ranger.

Launched on March 20, with the motto “Negotiation, not confrontation!”, the Coalition comprises a total of more than 65,000 members: white collars, blue collars, firefighters, police officers, professionals and employees of transportation companies. It represents virtually all unionized municipal employees in Quebec. It is categorically opposed to any bill that would undermine the fundamental right to free negotiation on the issue of pensions.

On May 21, more than 12,000 members of the Coalition demonstrated outside the National Assembly. On April 24, more than 2,500 demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) in Montreal. On April 15, 1000 delegates from various unions met at the Montreal Convention Centre. They unanimously adopted a resolution opposing any “bulldozer bill” that would impose “wall-to-wall” outcomes and block free negotiation.

The Coalition consists of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-Québec) and its Municipal Sector Provincial Council as well as its ground transport sector, the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics (FEESP-CSN), the Fédération indépendante des syndicats autonomes (FISA), the Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec, the Association des pompiers de Montréal, the Regroupement des associations de pompiers du Québec, and the Syndicat des pompiers et pompières du Québec–FTQ.