On Monday afternoon, the president of the FTQ and the representatives of its affiliates in the health and social services, SCFP-CPAS and the SQEES, met with minister Gaétan Barrette. Three major issues were discussed at the meeting: local collective bargaining negotiations in the CISSS and the CIUSSS, the excessive workload and shortage of labour; and the future of Institut Philippe-Pinel.

Though very critical of the Liberal government’s record in the area of health and social services, and taking into account the current pre-election environment, the unions nonetheless came away satisfied with the minister’s openness on certain issues.

The union representatives were glad to learn that, with respect to the issue of labour mobility, a major issue in the negotiations under way in the CISSS and the CIUSSS, the minister had instructed the CEOs of institutions to opt for the principle of maximum stability and minimal mobility.

“Stability is required to resolve the crisis,” said Karine Cabana, CUPE staff representative. “Stability enables employees to adequately fulfill their mission and for patients to receive quality care. Steps must therefore be taken to avoid as much as possible instances where employees have to go from one workplace to another. We are very happy with the instructions issued by the minister to this effect,

However, on the issue of excessive workload, the government still has work to do.

“We served as the voice of our members who work in the system,” said, Sylvie Nelson, president of the SQEES-FTQ. “Minister Barrette agreed with our observations: a heavier workload, a frantic work pace, overtime that is all too often mandatory, increasing absenteeism, a higher burnout rate and rising occupational accidents and injuries. This is the crisis in our health care system.”

“The minister appeared open to finding solutions to these problems, but in the same breath, he indicated that the unions bore some of the responsibility for the situation, saying that fewer newcomers are being attracted to the field by union criticism of working conditions in the health and social services systems. We were clear on that issue, as we were only describing the reality of the workers who have had to deal with the reforms and political decisions made over the past two decades,” Ms. Nelson said.

Finally, with respect to the Institut Philippe-Pinel, even though he was not very aware of the details, the minister did commit to examining the situation closely and discussing the matter with CUPE on an ongoing basis. He also said he was open to the possibility of changing the job title for the Institut’s response officers in order to ensure they receive sufficient pay in comparison with their counterparts elsewhere? in the system.