Quebec public sector unions outraged after collective agreement offer: ‘It’s a slap in the face’

Public sector negotiation fail?
WATCH: Six public sector unions say they're outraged after an initial round of negotiations with the government. The unions represent the majority of public sector workers and they claim the offers they have received are not enough to fix problems in health care and education. Global's Raquel Fletcher has more.

Six public sector unions are outraged after an initial round of negotiations with the provincial government.

The unions represent the vast majority of public sector workers — more than 450,000 employees out of 550,000 employees currently in collective bargaining negotiations with Quebec.

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The unions say offers they’ve received are not enough to fix problems in health care and education, and had similar messages for François Legault’s government.

“There is absolutely no reason why the government should put us in poverty,” said Caroline Senneville, vice president of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).

“Now was our opportunity to get what we deserve,” said Roberto Bomba, a spokesperson for the Fédération interprofessionelle de la santé du Québec.

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“And once again, it’s a slap in the face.”

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Quebec has offered government employees a seven per cent increase over five years. They are also offering a one-time taxable amount of $1,000 to 350,000 employees who have reached the top of their pay scale. It’s an incentive to remain in the public sector.

“This is important that we retain that personnel. And unfortunately, when they reach their maximum, they want to look elsewhere and we cannot retain them,” said treasury board president Christian Dubé.

The minister said it’s a “very, very reasonnable” offer, as he tries to keep spending tied to the rate of inflation.

“One of the key commitments that this government has made at the beginning is that we would not have any increase in our revenues above inflation. We had this discussion on taxes, everything… so we need to be consistent,” he said.

The unions said inflation isn’t good enough when there is a serious labour shortage.

“If the salaries aren’t there, what will happen is the people will quit their job where they pay more salary,” said Christian Daigle, president of the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ).

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Nurses and other health professionals said the situation is particularly dire in their sector, where the health minister says 10,000 more employees are needed.

“If you’re not putting the salary increases as an example that go above and beyond inflation, we will not be attractive,” Bomba said.