Timeline for Chaos on the Horizon for Quebec Municipalities

Bill 110, An Act respecting the process of negotiation of collective agreements and the settlement of disputes in the municipal sector, was adopted this past November 2 by the Quebec National Assembly.

This pointless and groundless legislation has been criticized repeatedly by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics (FEESP). The bill was clearly conceived and written by individuals without any understanding of labour relations.

This new law creates conditions that will rapidly lead to labour conflicts because it restricts the length of the bargaining process to a duration far below the norm in the municipal and ground transport sectors. The shorter this time frame, the earlier workers will have to begin applying pressure; and the greater the issues at stake, the greater the risk of rapid strike action.

To make matters worse, municipalities throughout Quebec will lose their independence at the negotiating table. For example, in cases where a municipality and union seek to continue bargaining without third-party intervention, the government can opt to intervene regardless. Similarly, in situations where municipalities want to negotiate collective agreements for terms of less than five years for various reasons (anticipated restructuring, new services planned, upcoming municipal elections, etc.), the government has decided that this will no longer be possible.

In fact, only the mayors of Montréal and Québec have announced their support for this type of bill,” stated CUPE-Quebec president Denis Bolduc. “They are the only ones who wanted a new legal framework for collective bargaining, whereas many other mayors were quick to see that this legislation is a poison chalice for the municipalities. It creates circumstances that have no justification and once again target municipal and ground transport workers.”

This legislation is a sure threat to industrial peace and undermines the work of the Ministère du Travail. Bill 110 seeks to distance from the municipal and ground transport sectors this Ministère with extensive expertise in labour relations that has for decades been maintaining the industrial peace currently reigning in the municipal and ground transport sectors.

Before, there were ways to find intelligent, effective, sustainable solutions to demands from both sides of the bargaining table,” added FEESP-CSN president Denis Marcoux. “Now, these talks will take place in an atmosphere of pressure. The government has just created an unprecedented imbalance by passing this bill, and tension is likely to rise fairly quickly as a result.”

CUPE-Quebec and the FEESP intend to bring the matter before the courts as they did concerning Bill 15 affecting pension plans in the municipal sector. The latest battle consequently continues to unfold.

CUPE and the FEESP-CSN represent nearly all municipal employees in Quebec.