Public-sector contract talks: Front commun looks ahead to unlimited general strike

Faced with a government that is still completely unreceptive after almost a year of contract talks, all of the unions making up the Front commun have decided to seek a mandate for strike action, including an unlimited general strike. To obtain this mandate, the unions will be holding multiple general assemblies beginning September 18.

At these assemblies, the 420,000 members of the CSN, CSQ, FTQ and APTS will vote democratically by secret ballot on a resolution providing the unions with a mandate to initiate strike action up to and including an unlimited general strike, which would be preceded by a series of strike actions. The general assemblies will take place from September 18 to October 13, 2023.

“In spite of multiple bargaining sessions, strong Front commun pressure, and mobilization actions carried out by workers throughout Québec over the past months, it’s clear that the government just won’t listen to us,” said representatives of the Front commun. Speaking with one voice, CSN first vice-president François Enault, CSQ president Éric Gingras, FTQ president Magali Picard, and APTS president Robert Comeau stated that as a consequence, “we have no choice but to seek a strike mandate so that we can make progress at the bargaining table. Above all, this mobilization is something that belongs to the workers we represent – the demands we’re putting forward are theirs.” The spokespersons also emphasized the historic nature of the Front commun’s strike movement, which is without precedent over the past 50 years.

Getting poorer by more than 7%

For the past nine months, the government has stubbornly maintained its offer of a 9% pay increase over five years, even though real and anticipated inflation rates from 2022 to 2027 come to a total of 16.4%. In other words, the government is proposing that over time, the 420,000 workers represented by the Front commun should become poorer by 7.4%.

The Front commun is sharply critical of the government’s arrogance, especially given that last spring, it deliberately chose to provide MNAs with an immediate 30% pay increase with additional raises to follow on a yearly basis. “The government argues that this raise is justified by problems of attraction and retention – but those problems are just as bad, or even worse, in our public services,” said the Front commun spokespersons. “You might almost think the government has no consideration for the people who make our health, social service and educational institutions work.” The same holds true for conditions of work and practice: the government has no interest in solutions other than its own.

“If the government wants to be an employer of choice, as it claims, that should be reflected in its offers,” said the Front commun representatives. “Instead, we’re actually facing a number of attacks. One of these involves our pension plan – the government is proposing detention measures that would force our members to work for a longer period to counteract the labour shortage – and another is the refusal to renew a number of premiums and other sums given to workers beyond September 30, 2023. If the government were offering real improvements, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

National demonstration on September 23

While the assemblies are taking place, a major demonstration will be held on September 23 in Montréal. “This demonstration will bring workers together, but also Quebecers in general,” said the spokespersons. “Everyone is invited to come and tell the government that we care about public services and that we won’t let it inflict further damage on our health care, social services, schools, and institutions of higher education. We all have children, parents, and loved ones who benefit from these valuable services. Unless the government understands this, the fall may be explosive.”

Forced kiss on a soccer player: “There is nothing trivial about this gesture and progressive organizations like ours must denounce it loud and clear” – Annette Toth, President of COPE/SEPB

The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE/SEPB) stands with the millions of people around the world to denounce the forced kiss suffered by soccer player Jenni Hermoso after the Spanish women’s team win at the World Cup on August 20th.

In the festivities after the victory, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales took Ms. Hermoso’s head in his hands and then kissed her on the mouth without her consent.

“This gesture is not trivial and progressive organizations like ours must denounce this gender based physical assault. With movements like #MeToo, our message is clear and it can no longer be ignored: this behavior is completely unacceptable.” said COPE/SEPB President Annette Toth.

Not Just a Kiss!

In the days following the assault, many people leapt defend Luis Rubiales, calling his actions a « a simple kiss ». The only thing simple is this: Luis Rubiales must be removed from his position of power, immediately.

« To trivialize this assault is to invalidate the discomfort and indignation of millions of people who witnessed the scene live. What’s more, this trivialization validates the rape culture in which our society has found itself for too long. We say no, enough is enough! There is no place for this kind of behavior in our world, » concludes Ms. Toth.

As a progressive union COPE/SEPB stands up for fairness, dignity, and respect for all. We are committed to breaking down barriers and fighting against systems of oppression and discrimination, in society and within our own structures. We will not be silent.

Public-sector bargaining talks: an update as summer begins

Front commun representatives met with the media on Tuesday morning to take stock of public-sector contract talks as summer begins.

“Unions have brought solutions to the bargaining table – despite what the Treasury Board president has implied – and we expect those solutions to be part of the discussion,” said first CSN vice-president François Enault, CSQ president Éric Gingras, APTS president Robert Comeau and FTQ president Magali Picard. “The government can’t just decide to discuss only its own priorities. We want to reach an agreement quickly, but not at any cost. We hope the conversation will pick up the pace over the summer, with accelerated exchanges at the bargaining tables.”

Union leaders also wanted to talk about their members’ mobilization. “Over the past weeks, we’ve had a lot of discussions about intensifying mobilization,” they noted. “All over Québec, Front commun colours have been highly visible in workplaces, at festive events, in front of riding offices, when we’ve welcomed ministers coming for a visit, and so on. But mobilization will become a very different thing when summer ends, because Front commun unions have been given a unanimous mandate to plan for the strategic use of strike action. We’ve been working on this for several weeks now.”

The Front commun believes it is high time for exchanges at the bargaining tables to take a different turn. At the moment, the Treasury Board’s pay offer still involves a 9% increase over five years, even though the inflation rate for 2022 alone was 6.7%.

“Let’s be serious. The government is trying to cast us as antagonists, but the reality is that the state of our public services requires ambitious solutions and openness to workers’ proposals. This should be reflected in exchanges at the bargaining table.”

To stop the exodus of workers from Québec’s public services, the Front commun wants better working conditions that will attract and retain staff in schools, health and social services, and higher education. Meanwhile, the government is moving in the opposite direction with its frontal attacks on the RREGOP (Government and Public Employees Retirement Plan), which may well push a significant proportion of people nearing retirement towards the exit – even though our pension plan is in good financial health, and constitutes one of the rare advantages of the public sector when compared to the private sector.

“If the Legault government was looking for another way to make our members angry, it’s definitely found it!”

Union leaders were quick to point out that we should not underestimate union members’ determination and ability to mobilize. “They’ve seen it all before. It’s the same old story, and right now, all the government is doing is causing discontent. The Front commun was formed as a response to the government’s divisive strategies, which are hurting our public services. What we really need is a long-term social vision that would take us beyond the process of haggling at the bargaining table. But there’s no such thing. It’s really sad. That’s what we want to say to people about our public services.”

Province-wide demonstration on September 23

The Front commun is organizing a province-wide march in Montréal on September 23. All Quebecers are invited to join. “If you’re affected either directly or indirectly, if you know people working in our system, if you want to show that you support our struggle and that you value Québec’s public services, that will be the time to say so loud and clear. We need every single one of you to make your voice heard!”

Front commun demands

In terms of pay, the Front commun is demanding a permanent annual indexing clause based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as well as a general catchup pay increase.

  • For 2023: an increase of $100 per week for all workers OR CPI + 2% (whichever is more beneficial)
  • For 2024: CPI + 3%
  • For 2025: CPI + 4%

The Front commun is also bringing various other issues to the central bargaining table, including demands relating to:

  • retirement,
  • parental rights,
  • regional disparities,
  • group insurance, and whistleblowers.

La FTQ commente le projet de loi qui hausse de plus de 30 % la rémunération des élus du Québec

La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) ne peut que souligner l’incohérence du gouvernement de la CAQ qui a décidé d’aller de l’avant avec la hausse de la rémunération de la députation de plus de 30 % pour un salaire minimal de 131 766 $ par année, alors que ce même gouvernement n’offre que 1,8 % de hausse salariale par année sur 5 ans aux travailleurs et travailleuses du secteur public que nous représentons dont la moyenne salariale est à peine de 44 000 $.

« Nous sommes heureux de voir que les députés de la CAQ commencent à prendre conscience de l’impact de l’inflation sur les dépenses des familles. Ces députés ont la chance de pouvoir se payer une bonne augmentation pour faire face à l’augmentation des prix. Il faudrait maintenant qu’ils appliquent la même logique pour celles et ceux qui ont tenu à bout de bras le Québec pendant la pandémie », déclare la présidente de la FTQ, Magali Picard.

« Oui, le travail d’un député est prenant et demande de consacrer de nombreuses heures à ses commettants, mais justement, le premier devoir d’un élu est de servir la population et non de se servir lui-même. Le gouvernement de la CAQ devrait au moins avoir la décence d’attendre qu’il y ait un règlement avec une offre qui a du sens avec ses propres employés avant de s’autoadministrer des hausses salariales et indemnités de plus de 30 %, un peu de jugement, svp », conclut la présidente de la FTQ, Magali Picard.

Info-Nego: as temperatures rise this spring, we’re ready to jump into the heat of the action

An impressive gathering of 2,000 or so activists took place in Québec City on March 30 at an historic rally of the Front commun. Standing together as one, they talked about what’s happening with the contract talks and about stepping up the pace of mobilization.

The rally brought together workers from the health and social service system, the school sector and higher education, members of the CSN (Confédération des syndicats nationaux), the CSQ (Centrale des syndicats du Québec), the FTQ (Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec) and the APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux). They related their own individual experiences, while discussing their common ground and considering strategies and pressure tactics to be used in the months ahead. Throughout the day, speakers stressed the need for a strong and broad mobilization.

During lunch, the activists gathered outside the National Assembly to remind the CAQ government that its offers are nowhere near acceptable and that it should be offering its employees more than a plan to make them poorer. The coming weeks will see an upswing in mobilization.

An update on the march 27 “proposal” and the end of the forums

On March 27, Treasury Board representatives announced a proposed “third offer” at the central bargaining table. In the Front commun’s view, this isn’t
really a new proposal, but rather a document that clarifies certain aspects of the government’s offers in December 2022 – clarifications that were requested months ago! The wage offer remains the same and the plan to make workers poorer is unfortunately still on the table. This “proposal” still doesn’t allow for real gains that would deliver the overall catch-up pay increase we called for.

As for its attempt to transfer the discussions outside the bargaining tables, the government had no choice but to drop its efforts. Last week, Treasury Board president Sonia LeBel announced that the forums would not be held. The issues will be discussed at the bargaining tables, just as they should be.

Coordinated filing of essential service lists

This week, for the first time since the introduction of the essential service legislation, the unions in the health and social service sector, members of the CSN, the CSQ, the FTQ and the APTS, will file their lists of essential services simultaneously with their respective employers.

This coordinated filing of lists with all the health and social service employers is a symbolic gesture, a concrete affirmation of the unwavering solidarity of the members of the Front commun in the current round of contract talks.

This mandatory step is actually a first step toward obtaining the right to strike. The law requires these lists to be filed with the employer at least 90 days before a union can go on strike. Although the filing of these lists does not signal that a strike is imminent (several other legal deadlines must be met), it ensures that we will be ready in case strike action becomes necessary. In that event, you will have a chance to make your views known at a general assembly.

Échéance des conventions collectives : le printemps se réchauffe et la mobilisation aussi!

Près de 2000 militantes et militants, issus des réseaux de la santé et des services sociaux ainsi que de l’éducation et de l’enseignement supérieur sont réunis aujourd’hui au Centre des congrès de Québec à l’occasion du rassemblement du Front commun pour marquer l’échéance imminente des conventions collectives du secteur public et discuter de l’intensification de la mobilisation qui s’annonce.

« Nous, d’une seule voix! Le message est clair. Ce rassemblement est l’occasion de tisser des liens, d’échanger et de discuter entre collègues des enjeux de cette négociation et des différentes stratégies, mais c’est surtout une étape importante de la mobilisation pour la ronde de négociations 2023 », d’indiquer François Enault, premier vice-président de la CSN, Éric Gingras, président de la CSQ, Robert Comeau, président de l’APTS, et Magali Picard, présidente de la FTQ.

« Nous sommes prêts à nous mobiliser et nous serons présents sur le terrain pour rappeler au gouvernement que notre objectif est d’améliorer l’accessibilité et la qualité des services en bonifiant les conditions de travail et en accordant aux travailleuses et aux travailleurs des augmentations salariales permettant un enrichissement et une protection permanente contre l’inflation. Après lui avoir tendu la main, on s’attend maintenant à ce que le gouvernement fasse mieux que son dépôt de cette semaine, qui ne bonifie rien et qui continue de faire en sorte que les travailleuses et les travailleurs s’appauvrissent. Ça prend beaucoup plus que de la “réorganisation du travail” et de la “flexibilité” pour pallier les effets dévastateurs de la pénurie de main-d’œuvre sur le quotidien de celles et ceux qui travaillent dans nos réseaux. Il faut réinvestir à la hauteur de la gravité de la situation », de poursuivre les leaders syndicaux.

Le Front commun insiste sur le fait que la population tient aux services publics et qu’elle reconnaît le besoin de réinvestir. La pandémie a démontré à quel point les travailleuses et les travailleurs de ces réseaux font partie du quotidien des Québécoises et des Québécois. Mais il y a une contradiction évidente entre baisser les impôts et parler de restructuration, alors que le Front commun dénonce les bris de services, l’exode de l’expertise et les difficultés d’attraction. « Notre monde est épuisé, c’est très clair. Mais le gouvernement ne devrait pas sous-estimer sa volonté et sa capacité de mobilisation », ont-ils ajouté, tout en faisant valoir l’importance du Front commun dans le contexte actuel.

« Nous, d’une seule voix; ce sont les membres qui l’ont voulu. Ils nous ont demandé de travailler ensemble, en toute solidarité, en contrepoids aux stratégies de division du gouvernement, qui ne font que nuire aux réseaux. Parce que, chaque jour, ce sont ces femmes et ces hommes qui font les frais du manque de vision à long terme dans nos écoles, nos centres, nos hôpitaux, nos CIUSSS, nos collèges, etc. Dans un contexte de finances publiques en bonne santé, il n’y a vraiment aucune raison pour que le gouvernement ne dépose pas de nouvelles offres véritablement bonifiées. »

« Et attention! Il faudra que cette négociation réponde aux besoins des 420 000 travailleuses et travailleurs que nous représentons. Au-delà de l’agenda politique de la CAQ, il y a des centaines de titres d’emploi tout aussi essentiels de laissés-pour-compte par les offres du gouvernement. Le travail des uns influence celui des autres, c’est un écosystème. Et oui, nous entendons défendre et négocier un règlement équitable pour l’ensemble des membres du Front commun. C’est une question de respect. »

Revendications en bref

Rappelons brièvement qu’au plan salarial, le Front commun revendique l’application d’un mécanisme permanent d’indexation annuelle basé sur l’indice des prix à la consommation (IPC), ainsi qu’un enrichissement visant un rattrapage salarial.

  • Pour 2023 : une hausse de 100 $ par semaine pour l’ensemble des travailleuses et des travailleurs OU IPC + 2 % (selon la formule la plus avantageuse);
  • Pour 2024 : IPC + 3 %;
  • Pour 2025 : IPC + 4 %.

Le Front commun porte également d’autres revendications à la table centrale, notamment en ce qui concerne :

  • la retraite;
  • les droits parentaux;
  • les disparités régionales;
  • les assurances collectives;
  • les lanceurs d’alerte.

Statistiques pour mieux comprendre les enjeux de cette négociation

  • Moyenne salariale des employées et employés du secteur public membres du Front commun : 43 916 $;
  • Retard salarial : -11,9 %;
  • Retard de rémunération globale : -3,9 %;
  • Proportion de femmes parmi les membres du Front commun : 78 %.

Pour plus d’information sur la négociation en cours :

À propos du Front commun

Ensemble, la CSN, la CSQ, la FTQ et l’APTS représentent plus de 420 000 travailleuses et travailleurs de l’État québécois dans les secteurs publics, en éducation, en santé et dans les services sociaux ainsi qu’en enseignement supérieur. Les conventions collectives viendront à échéance le 31 mars 2023.

Budget du gouvernement du Québec: des baisses d’impôt irresponsables qui profitent aux plus riches

La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) est extrêmement déçue des choix du gouvernement de la CAQ qui, avec ce budget, choisit de priver la société québécoise de dizaines de milliards de dollars.

Une baisse d’impôt irresponsable

« Ce budget irresponsable va priver la population du Québec de plus de 9 milliards de dollars sur 6 ans dans les services publics. La CAQ fait un choix purement idéologique; on préfère des mesures populistes et peu structurantes plutôt que de s’attaquer aux vrais problèmes dans un contexte où les besoins sont criants. Est-il nécessaire de rappeler que le gouvernement réclamait récemment de l’argent du fédéral pour mieux financer le système de santé qui est au point de rupture? Tout d’un coup, on aurait maintenant les moyens de baisser les impôts. C’est complètement incohérent! », explique la présidente de la FTQ, Magali Picard.

« Il est clair que pour les Québécois et les Québécoises qui sont durement frappés par l’inflation, cette baisse d’impôt fait miroiter une économie intéressante, mais en réalité, elle profite surtout aux plus riches. Pour le contribuable moyen, c’est-à-dire la majorité de la population, on parle d’une réduction moyenne d’un peu plus de 300 $ par année alors que pour les personnes qui gagnent 100 000 $ et plus, on atteint les 810 $. Pendant ce temps-là, les gens n’ont toujours pas accès à un médecin de famille et attendent des heures impossibles aux urgences, et le personnel du système public continue d’avoir des conditions salariales et d’exercice d’emploi déplorables! », déclare la présidente de la FTQ, Magali Picard.

Un retour à l’austérité

La FTQ constate par ailleurs que le gouvernement passe en mode austérité dès 2024-2025 avec de trop faibles augmentations dans le réseau de la santé et des services sociaux et en éducation. « Cela nous confirme que le gouvernement n’a pas du tout l’intention de bonifier son offre salariale famélique de 9 % sur 5 ans pour le personnel du secteur public. La CAQ va même jusqu’à qualifier cet appauvrissement d’offre “avantageuse”. Ce n’est pas sérieux! », ajoute Magali Picard.

Réduire la dette : une obsession

« Le gouvernement maintient son obsession de réduire le poids de la dette alors que celle-ci est tout à fait gérable. Plutôt que de privilégier une diminution du poids de la dette par la croissance économique, le gouvernement continuera de verser d’importantes sommes au Fonds des générations au lieu de les investir dans les services publics. Il restera quoi aux générations futures lorsqu’il n’y aura plus de service public et de programmes sociaux? », conclut la présidente.

Public-sector contract talks: Front commun demands better pay for women employed in public services

On International Women’s Rights Day, about a hundred activists belonging to the Front commun – 78% of whose members are women – gathered before the Treasury Board Secretariat. As discussions on pay increases to be included in future collective agreements got underway at the bargaining table, their goal was to send the Legault government a strong message: “Together as one, we’re resisting by demanding better pay and better working conditions.”

The Front commun members’ public action was a fierce criticism of the offer submitted by Sonia LeBel, Treasury Board Secretary and former minister responsible for the status of women, to women and men providing services to Quebecers – an offer that will inevitably make them poorer. The government expects inflation to reach 16.6% over the next five years, according to its latest economic update, and yet it’s offering a pay increase of only 9% for the same period. When public sector salaries are allowed to lag behind, the people getting poorer are mostly women.

Front commun spokespersons expressed strong opposition to the government’s stance. “When we look at the conditions in which women are working to provide Quebecers with education, care, and services, all we can say is that in 2023, we still have a long way to go to reach full recognition,” said FTQ president Magali Picard, 1st CSN vice-president François Enault, CSQ president Éric Gingras and APTS president Robert Comeau. “The government is asking these women – again – to tighten their belts, at a time when inflation is hitting them as hard as it’s hitting everyone else. They really have cause to rise up in protest. The government wants to balance the budget and cut taxes at the expense of women represented by the Front commun – and we’re here to tell them that’s not going to work.”

To ensure genuine recognition for public-sector jobs, the Front commun is calling for a mechanism that will permanently protect workers against inflation, as well as a general catch-up pay increase to provide real gains. For 2023, this means either an additional $100 per week or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) + 2%, whichever is most beneficial. The demand for 2024 is the CPI + 3%, and for 2025, the CPI + 4%.

The clock is ticking

The Front commun’s symbolic action took place in a context where public-sector workers’ collective agreements are due to expire on March 31. To emphasize this deadline, the Front commun has begun a countdown on social media to remind the Treasury Board president that it’s time to negotiate. Union activists from the CSN, CSQ, FTQ and APTS will gather in Québec City on March 30 to take stock of current bargaining talks and discuss upcoming mobilization activities associated with the renewal of public-sector collective agreements.

“Time is running out. Our public services need to breathe,” said the Front commun spokespersons. “Our members have approved proposals to end the labour shortage in schools, higher education, and health and social services. We’re asking the government to be active at the bargaining tables, to do the work required, and to listen to proposals put forward by the people who are in the best position to know what our public services need.”

Some facts and figures to clarify the issues at the bargaining table
  • Average salary of Front commun public-sector employees: $43,916
  • Wage lag: -11.9%
  • Overall compensation lag: -3.9%
  • Percentage of workers represented by the Front commun who are women: 78%

For more information about the contract talks:

The Front commun

Together, the CSN, CSQ, FTQ and APTS represent over 420,000 public-sector workers who are employed by the Québec government in schools, health and social services, and higher education.

Who’s not available at the bargaining tables? The government, that’s who

Health minister Christian Dubé last week accused “the unions” of not coming to bargaining tables. This is a falsehood, and one that sends a very bad signal for future bargaining sessions. Unions have been ready and willing to negotiate from the very beginning of the process. The government is the party that’s refusing to make itself available.

I have an excellent collaboration with Sonia LeBel […] We’re making joint efforts […] Ms. LeBel and her team […]
are doing an extraordinary job, but they need to have people facing them […] I’m asking employees to say to their unions, right now: Please go to the bargaining tables.
– Christian Dubé, February 15, 2023

Let’s make this clear: labour organizations are present, both at sectoral tables and at the central bargaining table. And discussions, in fact, started in January. But the reality is that our counterparts on the employer side are refusing to broaden their availability, and have rejected a number of the dates we suggested for meetings. At some tables, the government is offering four hours every two weeks to push negotiations forward. And scheduling
meetings more than two weeks in advance is proving difficult. At this rate, bargaining will go on forever and we’ll still be at the tables in 2026.

The Front commun urges the government to stop focusing on public relations and to clear its agenda so that we can negotiate “seriously, actively, and rapidly,” as Sonia LeBel so aptly put it on January 11. In other words: please be consistent.

The Front commun is also asking the government to move quickly to bring concrete proposals to the tables so that progress can be made over the next weeks. For our part, we’re ready to suggest many solutions that will improve pay and working conditions and help us meet the challenges we’re facing collectively in schools, health and social services, and higher education.

Discussions are under way

Discussions at the central bargaining table started in January, and there have been four meetings so far. Front commun spokespersons have asked their
government counterparts for clarifications regarding the offers they tabled in December, and have started to present some of our proposals. The government has also asked questions about our demands. This is a stage we need to go through before we can get to the heart of the matter. We hope the government will now be willing to negotiate rapidly and seriously.

Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted on discussions as they evolve.