Independent Work |  Recent tenders will “explode costs,” agencies say

Independent Work | Recent tenders will “explode costs,” agencies say

(Quebec) The Legault government is seeking to get rid of private employment agencies, but a new, more restrictive tender — and on an unprecedented scale — risks throwing the public health network “into chaos,” a group of agencies warn.

Posted at 5:00 am


The Private Companies of Caregivers of Quebec (EPPSQ) group says it is “extremely concerned” about the release in mid-December of a mammoth tender that will “most likely skyrocket the cost” of employing workers for independent work, according to Healthy.

In his estimation, the state of Québec could overpay at least 800 million for the maximum contract period of two years.

The Government Acquisition Center (CAG) has launched a call for tenders to fill the need, which is estimated at more than 8 million hours of work to be carried out by workers from private agencies. This unprecedented volume is based on needs estimated by CIUSSSs and CISSSs across the province for the next year.

The problem, EPPSQ sees, is that Quebec has just introduced the notion of “single rate” for the first time, meaning that a bidder must propose a single rate per job category, whether the service is in Montreal or in the United States September is offered -Îles, otherwise it is inadmissible.

Independent Work Recent tenders will explode costs agencies say


Patrice Lapointe, President of Private Caregiver Companies in Quebec

“No matter where I send my resource, I have to charge the same rate,” explains the group’s president, Patrice Lapointe. According to him, agencies therefore have two options: make urban areas pay more or offer a price that reduces supply in remote areas, hence the estimate of an overall increase in contract deals.

“Either we drive up the prices […] or we come to create many more risks [ruptures] Services in remote regions that are already very vulnerable,” explains Mr. Lapointe, whose association – the largest in Quebec – brings together 21 private agencies.

Effects feared in the region

Patrice Lapointe fears that fewer agencies are willing to send health workers to remote regions like the Côte-Nord or Abitibi-Témiscamingue, where facilities are heavily dependent on labour.

A nurse in the Montreal area costs an average of $71.87 per hour, all expenses included, while the average in the region can exceed $100 per hour, reports EPPSQ.

“We will find that in certain places we will have to increase the tariffs when this is not the case,” testifies Code Bleu agency general manager Caroline Casabon. The agency, which employs between 300 and 400 people, serves both large centers and more remote regions.

“It’s a one-off plan, so I don’t have a choice. I find that a bit ironic because if we listen to everything that’s being said, it’s always the agencies that take the blame, the burden of everything, and that is [le gouvernement, avec cet appel d’offres]which puts us in such a position,” she laments.

1674138464 837 Independent Work Recent tenders will explode costs agencies say


Caroline Casabon, Executive Director of Code Bleu

As the tender is still open (it must end on Monday 23 January and EPPSQ is requesting its postponement to 1 March), the Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the introduction of the single tariff.

Health Minister Christian Dubé publicly affirms that he wants to wean the public network of private employment agencies within three years.

“Although we want to make changes to this management method quickly, it is important to do things well,” his cabinet said on Wednesday. “In particular, we must respect the reality of each region to ensure a healthy transition,” she added.

In addition, Christian Dubé is “seriously working on the option” to legislate to better regulate the use of agencies, particularly with the end of Law 28, which kept ministerial decrees related to the pandemic in force despite the lifting of the state of health emergency.

Law 28, which expired December 31, forced agencies to comply with maximum rates for labor. These decrees also authorized a 20% price increase for remote regions.

Adding “Neighboring Regions”

In this framework strategy, too, the tender tightens the non-competition clause. For example, a caregiver who leaves the public network cannot work for a period of one year in a facility for a sponsorship in the same administrative district as her previous employer or even “in the adjacent districts”.

The addition of “border regions” is excessive and will also increase workers’ travel costs, claims EPPSQ. The department replies that it is a measure to promote loyalty.

EPPSQ advocates better oversight of agencies as a slew of companies “with questionable practices” have emerged since the pandemic. But the measures taken “will not have the desired effects”, said Patrice Lapointe, since the criteria introduced make the treaties “inapplicable” in practice.

The group also regrets being kept completely “off” from talks with the government. An offer of cooperation that was sent to Minister Christian Dubé’s office last week remained a dead letter, it said.