Around noon this Wednesday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service, Local 298, publicly expressed their wishes for a happy Holiday Season to health care workers in front of the National Assembly. Two Christmas trees were set up and decorated with photos and wishes from these workers. Both unions also posted wishes from the general public on portable fences.

Aside from being a message of support and recognition, the operation was intended to send a reminder that these front-line workers have been without a collective agreement since March 31, 2020. They are still waiting for the Government of Quebec to begin active negotiations for their next contract. Over the years, their workload has become increasingly heavier, their purchasing power has shrunk and their working conditions have deteriorated.

“Words fail us in describing just how the Holiday Season is difficult for employees in hospitals, residences and the rest of the health and social services system. The health crisis and the lack of recognition by the current government add to the cutbacks and amalgamations in years past. The Holiday Season is the time to reflect on how we, as a society, treat these people who deliver vital services under conditions that are increasingly becoming impossible,” said Frédéric Brisson, President of the Conseil provincial des affaires sociales (CPAS-SCFP).

“Our people are exhausted. Sure, they are constantly praised for their work, described as guardian angels and asked to mobilize like never before when dealing with patients. [o1] However, the government’s current offers are practically insulting. It is high time the government recognized the devotion and constant efforts – which long predate the COVID-19 crisis – of workers in the health and social services system, and it starts with being truly open at the bargaining table,” added Danielle Rousseau, a representative with the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service (SQEES-FTQ).