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At precisely 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, the Quebec City blue-collar workers launched an overtime strike, following the notice filed on May 11 with Labour Minister Lise Thériault. It is therefore a legal strike during which all provisions of the Labour Code will be observed. The last strike at any kind by the Quebec City manual workers’ union dates back nearly 30 years.

On May 16, an agreement was reached between the City and Local 1638 in order to maintain essential services to ensure the health and safety of the citizens. The workers also agreed to facilitate the smooth running of the summer festivals, including Saint-Jean-Baptiste and the summer festival. The blue-collar workers will provide the installation, operation and maintenance of electrical equipment. They will also ensure the installation, supply and maintenance of drinking water and sewer systems at the various sites.

“The blue-collar workers’ litigation is with the municipal government, not with the taxpayers. So we have adjusted our pressure tactics in order to limit any inconvenience to the citizens,” said union Vice-president Daniel Simard at the time of the essential services agreement.

Radio campaign

Since Monday, May 21, a radio ad aired on independent stations in Quebec has been getting a lot of attention. In the 30-second spot, the blue-collar workers poke fun at the Mayor’s recent statements about municipal employees.

Numbering about 1350, the Quebec City manual workers have been without a contract since December 31, 2010. Their negotiations with the CIty began in February 2011, and since then, 13 rounds of negotiations have been held between the parties, including four with a mediator appointed by the Minister of Labour. In a secret ballot on April 17, more than 950 blue-collar workers were 98 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.