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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.”