September 3, 2014 6:10 pm

Quebec Liberals ask public-sector unions to be ‘creative’

QUEBEC CITY – The Quebec Liberal Party announced on Wednesday they will start negotiating a new collective agreement with public-sector workers on Oct. 2, 2014.

Maurice Charlebois has been appointed as chief negotiator.

The collective agreement for the province’s 550,000 public-sector workers is set to expire on March 31, 2015 and negotiations with the unions is expected to be tense.

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The Liberals have already irked thousands of municipal workers and union leaders with Bill 3. City workers are scheduled to hold a demonstration on September 20 to protest the controversial plans to change pensions.

“We know what the financial situation is,” said President of the Treasury Board Martin Coiteux.

“We know that our room for manoeuvre, for increasing salaries and benefits is very limited at the present time, but if we work together, especially if we work on innovative ways of organizing work in the public sector, I think that we can have those margins that we don’t have today.”

Many are concerned that it may be a turbulent fall politically in the province.

Premier Philippe Couillard’s troops are headed into a pre-sessional caucus meeting in La Malbaie, where they are expected to talk strategy for the upcoming fall political season.

On the menu: the government’s difficulty in reaching an agreement with doctors.

Quebec physicians were granted a substantial pay hike, $540 million for this year alone. Now, the man who negotiated that increase for doctors is trying to convince them to spread it out over several years.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette argued there is simply no money in the budget. Back in June, Barrette told reporters it was a matter of weeks before they reached a deal. It has now been three months.

Barrette said Wednesday that he is losing patience.

“I think there’s a lot at stake here in this negotiation and there has to be maximum patience in this process but it cannot be eternal patience,” he said.

“At this point, it’s up to them to make proposals that do take account of our financial situation in this province, which is not the case today.”

The Liberals will meet Thursday and Friday at Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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