MailletA coalition of health care unions including CUPE, FSSS-CSN, FSQ-CSQ, FIQ, and SQEES-FTQ won an important battle when the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT) acknowledged the essential and indispensable role they play in defending the rights of their members, even during a pandemic.

The purpose of the complaint filed under section 12 of the Labour Code was to stop the government from resorting to ministerial decrees and health emergencies, which suspended the provisions of collective agreements. The recourse taken back in November 2021 challenged, in particular, ministerial decree 2021-071 that called for substantial premiums accompanied by a series of disqualifying conditions for health care professionals at a time when agreements in principle had been reached a few weeks previously with union organizations to renew collective agreements.

“The government’s strategy disrespected health care professionals. Not only did this anti-union attitude run counter to current legislation, but it proved to be totally ineffective and did not resolve the labour shortage issue. Health care professionals in the public system are still under heavy pressure. This is proof that if major investments are required to attract and retain labour, measures must be agreed to with union representatives so that they truly address the needs of workers in the field and patients,” said the leaders of union organizations who represent nursing and cardiorespiratory personnel.

This major decision by the TAT served as a reminder to the government that it is required to negotiate with unions in good faith.

“Throughout the crisis, unions stepped forward to work with the government and find lasting solutions to benefit the system. If the government claims that it wants to change the culture in the health care system and establish bona fide cooperation, it must now acknowledge that its attitude was unacceptable and make changes to its approach, particularly in the lead-up to the next national negotiations. Our analysis of this decision will enable us to take all action necessary to assert the rights of health care professionals,” said the union leaders.

A coalition of health and social services unions is also planning to file a similar challenge with respect to the measures that were unilaterally announced this summer, the conditions of which were far too restrictive.