1695503674 Members of Quebecs public sector union demonstrate Saturday

Members of Quebec’s public sector union demonstrate Saturday

Thousands of civil servants demonstrated in Montreal on Saturday on behalf of the Public Sector Inter-Union Common Front during negotiations to renew collective agreements, particularly for workers in education, health and social services, sectors that have been undermined. due to the lack of workers.

The procession left Jeanne Mance Park in the early afternoon and made its way to the Quartier des Spectacles in the city center. The various union leaders spoke on the stage set up on the Place des Festivals.

Standing in groups during the demonstration, the beneficiaries expressed their anger and sense of injustice: “We are dealing with people, with lives.” […]There are four or five of us taking care of 35 people… We have lives too! one of the protesters said as they marched. His neighbor added: Extension, we don’t want that anymore!

Hundreds of demonstrators are on the streets with green flags.

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The demonstration of the common union front in the public sector began in Jeanne-Mance Park.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Stella Dupuy

The demonstration came two days after the release of a report by Quebec’s ombudsman outlining how labor shortages are straining public services in Quebec.

This new document gives ammunition to the civil service unions currently negotiating together to renew their union contract.

It brings together the CSQ, the FTQ, the APTS and the CSN, which represent 420,000 workers across all public services through their affiliated unions.

They demand more attractive jobs with improved working conditions and competitive salaries, summarizes the organizers’ press release published the day before the demonstration.

[Une augmentation] of 9% over five years, this does not resonate with our members, warned François Énault, vice-president of the CSN, who said that his members were “angry”. He repeated this message during his speech on stage at the end of the march.

We are told that this respects inflation, but for the last two years it has been at 11%. “It only makes our members poorer,” he said indignantly during a press conference on the sidelines of the rally.

Thousands of demonstrators wave green flags behind a green banner.

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CSQ, FTQ, APTS and CSN represent 420,000 workers across all public services in Quebec.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Graham Hughes

Éric Gingras, president of the CSQ, also expressed the boredom of the union members. We were given an arm-sized thank you and told that we were guardian angels throughout the pandemic. “When it comes time to pay for good working conditions, they stop listening to us,” he said.

The Common Front also says it is ready to launch an indefinite general strike if the government does not respond.

We’re not hoping to get there, it’s the last resort we’ll use. “We are preparing for this because it takes a long time to have strike mandates in the public sector,” said Robert Comeau, president of the APTS. Our people are ready.

“If you look at the number of school buses that are here, the charter planes that left Abitibi this morning, our people are ready because they have nothing left to lose,” added FTQ President Magali Picard.

Sonia Lebel.

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Sonia Lebel, Minister of Government Administration and President of the Ministry of Finance

Photo: The Canadian Press / Sylvain Roy Roussel

Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel said on X (formerly Twitter) that it is normal for unions to use pressure tactics in negotiations like today. It is your decision.

However, in her message she asks for more flexibility and the opportunity to make work in our schools and hospitals more efficient. However, she assures that she will do everything to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.

Nobody wants services to be interrupted.

In order to increase the pressure on the government, union representatives warn that there have been many votes in favor of the strike so far.

In the crowd, a man holds a sign that reads, “A viable public sector requires viable working conditions.”

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The Common Front says it is ready to launch an indefinite general strike if the government does not respond.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Graham Hughes

A warm autumn

Public opinion is worried about the possible collapse of the health and education systems, noted Jean-Claude Bernatchez, professor of labor relations at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières (UQTR), in an interview with the weekend news program.

He also mentioned another scarecrow: the privatization of the healthcare network.

On the political side, the salary increase given to MPs before their vacation has been met with great approval in the ranks of the unions, which are struggling to negotiate after a year of efforts.

This is exacerbating the crisis of confidence, notes Mr. Bernatchez.

During the week, police rejected an offer that would provide cumulative pay increases of about 21% over five years.

The employees are nervous. We can imagine a warm autumn, there is no doubt about it.

Additionally, the health network’s granting of overtime at double the rate during the pandemic has set a precedent that is the envy of other industries. The fact that the government intervened selectively on certain issues had the effect of… […] The UQTR professor also analyzes the expectations of almost everyone in the network.

Failing for months to find a common position with the Quebec government, the leaders of the Public Sector Inter-Union Common Front are continuing their consultations to obtain a mandate for an indefinite general strike. Voting runs until October 13th.

A performance by the singer Les Louanges (Vincent Roberge) awaited the thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in the metropolis. Comedian Rosalie Vaillancourt also took the stage and gave a speech in which, among other things, she talked about her personal experiences, in particular the role of a nurse during childbirth.

“You have the right to be angry,” the comedian said, drawing applause from the crowd.

With information from Raphaëlle Drouin and The Canadian Press