Could Quebec engineers be forced back to work?
The government said it will consider back-to-work legislation for engineers if it has to. Treasury Board president Pierre Moreau said he is considering the latest proposal from the union and will give it a written offer Thursday.
Government engineers – most of whom work for the transport ministry – have been on strike for two weeks and its having an effect on construction sites.
“We lower our expectations,” said union president, Marc-André Martin. “So we’re waiting for the government right now.”
The union is fighting for higher salaries. It says they can’t retain experienced engineers without it. Moreau has said several times the provincial government is competitive in its current salaries and doesn’t see a recruitment problem.
To that, Martin said:
“If it’s really that easy to employ engineers (in the public sector) they have to explain to us why an agro-food engineer is in charge of building bridges at the transport ministry.”
Martin said this engineer works in Longueuil. He explained that the ministry is short of expertise, particularly civil engineers, which results in personnel with little experience taking charge of large projects.
In their last proposal, they dropped their demand for a 30 per cent wage increase to 20 per cent. By striking in the middle of construction season, Martin said engineers are hoping to force the government to make a choice.
“The government has to make their calculation: ‘Are we going to invest $3 or $4 million to improve our engineering department…or are we going to pay penalties?'” Martin explained.
One of the biggest projects in jeopardy is the Turcot Interchange in Montreal.
Quoting from a transport ministry note during question period in the National Assembly, Coaltion Avenir Québec MNA, Eric Caire said the cost of delays on the interchange caused by a strike longer than two weeks could be $118 million.
However, Minister Moreau said he’s going to be patient for a little while longer. He said that so far, the schedule and the budget for the project are being respected.
“It is still possible to have a work site that is proceeding normally,” he said, while acknowledging that it was “probably slower than expected.”
But if the negotiations go south, he said he would consider calling the National Assembly back during the summer to pass a special law.
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