Turbulence ahead in 2020
There are a lot of new faces on the Executive Committee (which has a total of 7 members), as well as on the Provincial Council (28 members). In 2020, we will keep forging ahead with the colossal work undertaken in the past number of years. Pooling the diverse expertise that’s available at the APTS is crucial. I intend to hold the course, while redefining our union approach and mode of operation for the betterment of our 56,000 members.
Your delegates actively take part in deliberations and decision making, and are unwavering in their commitment to represent you. This steadfast commitment was particularly evident in developing our union demands, which we filed with the government last November. The government recently responded to our demands with a counter-proposal that we find unacceptable.
Proposals that are insulting
The government’s proposal is a slap in the face. Strictly in terms of salaries, the president of the Treasury Board, Christian Dubé, offered a 7% increase over five years: that’s three percentage points lower than the rate of inflation! This proposal is even more baffling given that all the economic indicators and forecasts clearly surpass what the government is offering.
Instead of tackling the pay lag accumulated over the past 20 years due to pay increases that failed to keep pace with inflation, the government is still set on a course that leaves public-sector personnel poorer off and widens the wage gap with other employees across the province.
It was a further slap in the face when we found out that the last fiscal year’s budget surplus will hit 8.2 billion dollars, not the $904 million that the government forecast at the beginning of the year. That’s a huge difference! The same scenario is being repeated this year. In March 2019, the finance minister projected a surplus of 2.5 billion dollars, which was upwardly revised to $4 billion in November. This is a very conservative projection once again. For the first five months of the year, Québec recorded a surplus of 3.7 billion dollars. We can’t help but wonder whether the finance minister is systematically underestimating the government’s surpluses so as to reinvest as little as possible in services for the population and in salaries for the employees who provide these services.
A novel concept this year is Christian Dubé’s idea of postponing negotiations and solutions to the current crisis in public health and social services until after April 30, and setting up three forums to discuss the broad issues he wants to tackle: academic success, workers’ health, and accessibility of health care, in an approach that he describes as “creative.”
Despite being directly concerned, the APTS was excluded from the forum on accessibility of health care. Adding insult to injury, the forum on health care is not associated with any funding. At a time when our members are working themselves sick, this decision makes no sense whatsoever.
The government proposals for conditions of practice (which are part of the so-called sectoral matters) are just as insulting. No solutions are offered to address problems routinely encountered by our members in the workplace. No account is taken of the magnitude of the labour shortages. And no measures are proposed to help attract and retain personnel. At most, these proposals allude to some vague, ambiguous principles that thinly disguise the government’s intention to substantially roll back our conditions. By all appearances, Mr. Dubé is completely out of touch with work realities in Québec!
Although we put forward a series of solutions to address the crisis in health and social services, the government seems to want to waste time in discussions. We were expecting a more detailed set of contract proposals from a government that’s been in office for more than a year.
There’s every indication that negotiations are going to be long and arduous, as we’re dealing with a government that’s focused on the short term. But one thing is clear: we’re done working ourselves sick. It won’t be long before the government gets the message.