Yesterday morning, the Conseil provincial des affaires sociales of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CPAS-CUPE) received the same sectoral offers from the Comité patronal de négociation du secteur de la santé et des services sociaux (CPNSSS) to renew the collective agreements. Within the CPAS, surprise has been expressed over the very few concrete solutions put forward to address the labour shortage, which has a major bearing on both accessibility to and the quality of public services.

“The offers from the Legault government are replete with nice principles, but we were expecting to receive several concrete proposals, so there’s disappointment. The system is deep trouble, which requires quick and strong action. The question is whether the government realizes how serious the situation is,” commented Michel Jolin, the general secretary of the CPAS.

For example, the CPAS was expecting measures to improve occupational health and safety in the system, given that the number of hours employees were absent for health reasons spiked by 34% from 2014 to 2018. “There’s no doubt that occupational health and safety mechanisms must be expanded to end this crisis. If not, we’ll never gain the upper hand on the labour shortage problem, considering how quickly the situation is deteriorating. In the meantime, human and financial resources are being wasted, which is totally unacceptable,” added Jolin.

Finally, the CPAS is concerned about passages in the offers that call for increasing the latitude of managers and labour flexibility. “We’re all in agreement with effective management that delivers the best possible services. However, we have to stop using this as a pretext to continue squeezing the employees, who are already at their wits’ end. If the system makes the same mistakes, the results will be worse,” added Michel Jolin.

In its sectoral demands submitted last October 23, the CPAS was proposing improvements to working conditions such as premiums and supplements along with increases in work-related expenses. It also made reference to occupational health and safety, work-family-study balance, a decrease in costs and better conditions for insurance plans.

Members of CPAS-CUPE belong to categories 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the health and social services system, i.e., nursing and cardio respiratory personnel, para-technical personnel, auxiliary services and trades, office personnel, administrative technicians and professionals, and health and social services technicians and professionals.

They serve the public in many institutions throughout Quebec. Their collective agreements will expire next March 31. Last October 21, their demands were filed by the FTQ on their behalf with the Conseil du trésor at the main bargaining table.