The Fédération de la Santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN), the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CPAS-CUPE), the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service (SQEES-FTQ), the Fédération de la santé du Québec (FSQ-CSQ), the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS), the Fédération des professionnèles (FP-CSN) and the Syndicat de professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ) deplore the fact that the government is not honouring the agreement it signed and that it has once again delayed the scheduled payments owed to workers in the Quebec’s health and social services system.

Some 80 per cent of these workers are women who are awaiting payments representing $1.28 billion following the signing of collective agreements. For some job categories, there is a further $1.15 owing to settle pay equity complaints from 2010 and 2015.

Unjustifiable confusion

In the wake of heavy pressure from unions from as far back as last November to accelerate payments, the minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, pledged to make payments for March 1, 2022, a deadline he wasted no time in deferring without even advising either the personnel affected or the unions. Last Friday, representatives of the MSSS presented a new but incomplete and inaccurate payment schedule running until March 23 in certain cases and added that these payments could be made in the form of advances. The unions are worried that their members could be paid the wrong amounts, which they would subsequently be required to reimburse.  

Although minister Dubé has repeated several times that he would assume his share of responsibility for these delays, the deputy minister informed us no interest would be paid on the amounts owed to our members. Talk about adding insult to injury!

No date was indicated for pay equity settlement payments, and it appears nothing will be done until April.

“We can’t understand that women in Quebec in 2022 still have to wait to be paid the same as what men are paid. These complaints date back to 2010 and 2015. It is totally unacceptable and revolting, not only for the women who are owed this money but also for all women in Quebec,” replied the spokespersons for the health and social services unions.

Minister Dubé claimed he was embarrassed about the inefficiencies of the various systems in his ministry and establishments to pay what is owed to our members. Nonetheless, he must be held responsible for the delays, as the deadlines were known months in advance. He also delayed sending a directive to the system to give priority to these payments. In addition, his explanations concerning the obsolescence of the computer systems have left us speechless given the context. It is acknowledged that public sector employees are working diligently to make up for the incompetence of external pay management suppliers (Médisolution and Logibec) and the minister’s inaction. The unions believe the government should bring these services back in house where they could be performed by competent and qualified staff to reduce outsourcing in the health and social services system and to ensure better oversight.

A government that cannot be trusted

These numerous deferrals undermine the morale of workers in the field and their trust in the word of the health minister and, more broadly speaking, François Legault’s government.

“These are substantial amounts our members are entitled to. For the past two years now, workers in the health and social services system have been holding things together and continually making professional and personal sacrifices. Motivation is on the wane. These delays are demobilizing the workers. With the International Women’s Day approaching on March 8, we demand that the government pay our members, the vast majority of whom are women, the amounts negotiated in their contracts and in the pay equity agreements,” added the unions’ spokespersons.