The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service (SQEES-FTQ) have exerted pressure numerous times with respect to the payment of retroactive wages owing to health and social services workers, and their efforts have paid off. The employer’s representatives were open to coming to a national agreement to pay legal interest on the payments to be made based on the dates agreed to when the collective agreement was signed. Both unions are anxious to receive all of the textual portions of this agreement to see whether it is compliant with current legislation.

“Now that the clock has begun ticking on legal interest, the government has a hot potato in its hands. Our members are hoping to receive and deserve what is due to them as soon as possible. At least now with time passing, they are adding to their compensation,” said Maxime Ste-Marie, president of the Conseil provincial des affaires sociales (CPAS-SCFP).

“The delays in getting payments out were caused by the outsourcing of the pay system. From our perspective, there was no way workers were going to be penalized for this,” commented Sylvie Nelson, president of the SQEES-FTQ.

This all started with the new agreement that was signed last October 21, covering close to 26,000 members of CUPE and 9000 members of SQEES-FTQ in the health and social services network in Quebec. The contract took effect on October 24, 2021.

The three-year contract, which was ratified by members in late June 2021, runs from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2023. It calls for wage hikes of 2 per cent a year and improvements to working conditions, which will make it easier to attract and retain personnel. In addition, a new salary structure will be implemented in April 2022, in year three of the agreement, to begin a significant wage catch-up for the lowest paid employees.