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After five months on strike, Hydro-Quebec workers have reached a tentative settlement that provides for a minimum wage increase of 11 per cent over the next five years.

The agreement in principle includes 1 per cent increases in 2002 and 2003 tied to savings by the utility achieved with the employees collaboration. As well, an annual profit-sharing premium of up to 3 per cent may be added to this increase if the utility meets its goals for 1999 to 2003. In addition, members will benefit from a contribution holiday to their pension fund for the duration of the contract, worth more than 4 per cent of their salary.

Each of these terms significantly increases take-home pay, effectively allowing Hydro-Quebec employees to skirt the cap on wage increases that has been promoted by the Bouchard government. For that reason, other public sector unions currently in negotiations with the provincial government are examining the settlement with great interest.

Only 1,500 of the 15,000 members of CUPE 1500, 2000 and 957 were permitted to walk off the job in support of the strike. So the locals launched a commercial strike, concentrating their attention on disrupting Hydros billing and export operations to maximize pressure on management.

Members will vote on the agreement, which also provides major improvements to the pension plan, over the next six weeks.