As a deal remains off the table, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are threatening to strike for a full week in December.
The Front Commun — which includes four major public sector unions representing a “common front” of some 420,000 workers members in the health, education and social services sectors — announced the move Tuesday morning.
The tentative walkout would take place from Dec. 8-14 if contract negotiations are still not settled between the unions and the provincial government. It is the latest pressure tactic by the common front, which held a three-day strike last week that led to school closures and delays in the health-care network.
Éric Gingras, president of the CSQ union, said his members are hopeful a deal will come soon but that they are willing to up the ante in the new year if necessary.
“We’re not going on a general unlimited strike yet,” Gingras told reporters. “So now it’s up to Premier (François) Legault to give us something that we want.”
On Tuesday afternoon, another union representing 80,000 nurses and other health-care workers also announced new strike dates on its Facebook page. The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) says its members will be off the job from Dec. 11-14.
The latest pressure tactics come as about 65,000 elementary and high school teachers remain on an unlimited general strike — with no end in sight. Their walkout began late last week, forcing parents to find other childcare arrangements until a deal is reached.
The Fédération Autonome de l’Enseignement is negotiating separately. It includes nine unions representing teachers working in several francophone Quebec school boards, including in Montreal, Laval and Quebec City.
Quebec’s latest contract offer for all public sector employees was made in late October. It included a 10.3 per cent salary increase over five years, as well as a one-time payment of $1,000 to each worker. It also includes more money for shift workers such as nurses who work nights and weekends.
Unions have rejected the proposal, saying they want a three-year deal that includes salary increases tied to the inflation rate: two percentage points above inflation in the first year or $100 per week, whichever is more beneficial, followed by three points higher than inflation in the second year and four points higher in the third.
Last week, Quebec Premier François Legault said he is willing to increase his government’s offer but said the unions need to show more “flexibility,” particularly around work schedules. The current round of negotiations will be decisive for the future of the health and education networks and their ability to provide efficient services, he said.
CSN vice-president François Enault said the only reason the Front Commun is not launching an indefinite strike is because there is “a bit of movement” at the bargaining table — but it’s “pretty slow.”
FTQ president heading back to Quebec
The FTQ, one of the unions that is part of the common front movement, says president Magali Picard would be returning immediately from the COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
Picard only arrived the Middle East emirate a day ago for the climate conference. Mélanie Gougeon of the FTQ defended her on Tuesday, saying that even when she is overseas, the union leader “is in constant contact with the negotiation team.”
While Picard was supposed to be at the summit until early next week, that quickly changed after her absence made the rounds in Quebec media.
Picard said she would be catching the next flight back to Montreal.
— with files from The Canadian Press