Comments by Montreal mayor Valerie Plante at the municipal tax summit prompted a strong reaction from representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and CUPE’s Conseil provincial du secteur municipal (CPSM), which represents more than 70% of municipal employees in Quebec.

Valérie Plante is asking Quebec City for new sources of income and additional tools to generate more. In fact, she went so far as to suggest that the Legault government establish municipal employee salaries by decree. According to a recent study, the latter earn more than their provincial counterparts. She claims that cities and towns have their hands tied when it comes to labour relations and that they cannot act due to the various collective agreements in force.

These comments irked Patrick Gloutney, the president of CUPE Quebec. “Establishing working conditions by decree to impoverish and reduce the quality of life of employees at a time when we’re contending with labour shortages sure is no solution. If the wages and working conditions of municipal employees are so great, why is it that so many of them are leaving, and how come municipalities and transit companies have such a hard time recruiting?  It makes no sense at all.”

Moreover, CUPE questions the intentions behind Ms. Plante’s comments. “Why did she talk about a decree?  Would she be capable of not honouring the collective agreements with the City of Montreal, which she herself signed?” questions Robin Côté, the interim president of CUPE’s Conseil provincial du secteur municipal.

The circular debate on compensation paid to personnel employed by cities and towns is showing no signs of ending. In the past, this issue has, at times, been used as a bludgeon to scale back the working conditions and pension plans of thousands of municipal employees in Quebec. 

CUPE reminds everyone that negotiation is the only avenue to take to reach agreements that preserve labour peace.