Photo Flickr Creative Commons / Natalie HegertToday, the Government of Quebec officially published new regulations on volunteer construction work in schools, colleges and health and social services institutions. Decree 1064-2017 stipulates that, from now on, volunteers will be able to perform work involving, among others, marble, granite, ceramics and terrazzo, cupboards and counters, interior doors and windows, interior or exterior painting and finished carpentry.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents maintenance employees in a multitude of education and health and social services institutions, is firmly against this development. It is yet another signal that public institutions are being abandoned. CUPE had sent to Labour Minister Dominique Vien very thoroughly documented representations in favour of inexpensive public-sector solutions. It is unfortunate that this message was not heard.

“In order to allow institutions to perform work at lower cost with their own qualified labour, we proposed an amendment to Chapter R-20 of the Act respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry. At present, only permanent employees can do maintenance work. Still today, the Act prohibits all casual or supernumerary employees from doing this work. The government is prohibiting our members from doing it but is giving its permission to volunteers. It’s absurd,” said Denis Bolduc, President of CUPE-Quebec.

CUPE points out that a wide range of institutions are affected by this problem such as primary and secondary schools, CEGEPs and colleges, along with all public-sector health and social services institutions.

“If you look beyond the government’s sugar-coated pre-election messages, you’ll see that public schools and public institutions are still being left out in the cold. We made a cost-effective proposal to the government, which would protect the health and safety of students, users and staff. Unfortunately, the same logic where basic building maintenance continues to be neglected prevails. Once again, students and users, particularly those in underprivileged boroughs, are being cast aside,” said Pierre Degray President of the CUPE-Quebec Education Sector.

The text of Decree 1064-2017 published today is available here.

The representations CUPE made in this case in 2017 are available here.