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Nurses and other Quebec unions slam the CAQ

Chantal Sundaram

May 31, 2024
With the criminal dismantling of Ontario’s public healthcare system by Doug Ford, the stand by Quebec unions against Ford’s counterpart in Quebec, right-wing CAQ leader Francois Legault, serves up some inspiration.
On Saturday May 25, outside the general convention of the CAQ, several unions showed their anger at both the stonewalling of workers’ demands and the privatization of healthcare by Legault and CAQ healthcare minister Christian Dubé.
Members of the union FIQ, which represents 80,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals who massively rejected a tentative agreement in April, came out to the convention in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec to remind the CAQ that they still don’t have a deal. The rejected deal did not adequately address overwork, mandatory overtime, forced relocation, and decent pay. Although the FIQ leadership had recommended the deal, they are now backing their members’ rejection.
A FIQ media release said their members would be protesting the CAQ to remind them that they are still at the table. FIQ Treasurer Roberto Bomba told the media that “Monsieur Legault has to recognize the expertise of health workers who are mostly women” and that pressure tactics would intensify in the coming weeks and the FIQ would demonstrate all summer.
Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel retorted that balanced agreements were reached with the Common Front (the majority of public sector workers who staged a series of rotating strikes) thanks to “flexibility” on the union side: “We had a similar agreement with the FIQ, now the FIQ is coming back to the table with demands that challenge that flexibility, and on top of that, they’re adding more wage demands.” Good for the FIQ leadership in backing the will of their members.
Public service and broader public sector members of the CSN, one of Quebec’s major union federations, were also there: its 26,000 members are also in bargaining and have been stonewalled by the CAQ, especially on salaries. Members of the government professional employees’ union, the SPGQ, who have been without a contract for more than year, also targeted the CAQ convention.  
But the CSN union federation was also there to target the CAQ’s new healthcare “reform” bill that promises nothing but privatization.
In December 2023, the CAQ adopted Bill 15, “An Act to make the health and social services system more effective” which creates a provincial agency, Santé Québec, to oversee all activities related to public healthcare, including providing services and facilitating access. The claim by Health Minister Dubé is that this will allow people to access a medical specialist more quickly, but there will be a cost: Bill 15 will allow even more privatization than was already underway. The appointment of Geneviève Biron as head of Santé Québec – a businessperson who made her career in private healthcare services like medical imaging – leaves no doubt.
Bill 15 is also a divide and conquer strategy to pit health workers against each other. It makes Santé Québec a single employer merging unions and seniority lists, allowing the government to impose mandatory relocation. But the rejection of the tentative agree. But the rejection by FIQ members of a tentative agreement that did not protect against this shows they are not drinking the CAQ Kool-Aid.
And all the protests outside the CAQ convention show that workers are not buying the need  to be “flexible” and they don’t trust the CAQ’s claim that they are only protecting tax dollars and “respecting Quebecers’ ability to pay and be fair to other unionized workers.”   
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