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After long negotiations, nurses’ union inks collective agreement with Quebec

A healthcare worker crosses a covered overhead walkway at a hospital in Montreal, Tuesday, August 17, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la Santé du Québec has finally signed a collective agreement with the provincial government.

The new agreement will begin Oct. 10 and will remain in effect until March 31, 2023.

The FIQ represents 76,000 members, including the vast majority of nurses, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists in Quebec.

Contract negotiations were not easy. A first collective agreement on working conditions was reached in November 2020 but then rejected by delegates.

Read more: Nurses pan Quebec’s bonus offer, say real issue is mandatory overtime

An improved agreement on working conditions was then accepted in December 2020. Then another negotiation followed in 2021 to address other issues.

The new contract was only approved by 54 per cent of members, an indicator of dissatisfaction within the nursing profession due to ongoing problems including staff shortages, mandatory overtime and nurse-to-patient ratios.

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The new agreement addresses these issues, by stabilizing care teams and adding full-time positions. It also provides for a “recognition bonus” for health-care professionals in addition to salary increases.

Under the plan, 1,500 full-time positions will also be created — about 1,000 of which will be in long-term care homes.

The agreement also green-lights measures to increase flexibility in how work is organized, including pilot projects to better manage working hours. A full-time work week has been reduced to 37.5 hours.

Click to play video: 'Quebec health-care workers say they feel overlooked by government'
Quebec health-care workers say they feel overlooked by government

In a statement, Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel said the new contract and incentives “once again demonstrates the importance that our government gives to the health sector.”

Health Minister Christian Dubé said the collective agreement “recognizes the importance of these professionals for the health of the network” and the measures to improve working conditions will help tackle the issue of mandatory overtime.

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“We will give them the breath of fresh air they need and we will make the profession more attractive,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that everything is there to stabilize the network, which will allow us to modernize it to the benefit of all Quebecers.”

READ MORE: ‘We need you’: Quebec to give up to $18K in bonuses to full-time nurses amid critical shortage

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