“There will be no agreement unless our members’ purchasing power is protected and unless they are provided with a catch-up pay increase. We won’t let any of our members get poorer – and that’s something the CAQ government needs to understand.” Such was the Front commun spokespersons’ response to the offer that the government brought to the central bargaining table yesterday.
According to CSN first vice-president François Enault, CSQ president Éric Gingras, FTQ president Magali Picard and APTS president Robert Comeau, the government has finally tabled a pay offer that will provide a basis for more serious negotiations, a year after discussions began. However, the offer – 12.7% over five years – shows that the government is still totally disconnected from reality as experienced by workers in public services. “It’s not 16.7% as the government claims in public, but 12.7% as explicitly spelled out in the offer,” noted the Front commun spokespersons.
Making women poorer
Collective agreements signed in 2022 provide for an average increase of 9% for the first year, according to figures from the Ministry of Labour. Meanwhile, what is the government offering public-sector workers for the first year? A measly 4.3% – when inflation stood at 6.7% in 2022.
“Medical specialists, Sûreté du Québec police officers, judges – would they be willing to get poorer? The answer is a resounding No. How can the CAQ government seriously make this offer to women in public services?” said the union leaders.
No catch-up pay increase
The new offer ensures that workers will get poorer, and it still does not include a catch-up pay increase. “The gap between our members and other Québec workers will still be significant, both in terms of pay and overall remuneration, and even when the pension plan is taken into account,” said the Front commun spokespersons. “This is a key issue if the government wants to get public services back on track by attracting and retaining the employees we need. Instead, we have a situation where many of the people currently employed in public institutions will choose to leave.” The most recent report from the Institut de la statistique du Québec indicates that the disparity with other Québec employees is now 7.4%.
One of the few positive aspects of the new offer is the fact that the government has now stopped attacking the pension plan. “The government has finally bowed to the evidence: there was no need to penalize workers for improvements to the Québec Pension Plan,” said the spokespersons. “That issue is now settled, which means that we’ll finally be able to discuss salary, insurance, highly skilled workers, and regional disparities – all major issues for which the status quo is unthinkable.”
Some facts and figures to clarify the issues at the bargaining table
- Average salary of Front commun public-sector employees: $43,916
- Wage lag: 16.6%
- Overall compensation lag: 7.4%
- Percentage of workers represented by the Front commun who are women: 78%