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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.