Efforts by the provincial government to avert strike action on November 6 by 420,000 workers in the education, health and social services sectors fell short on Sunday, when a new contract offer was quickly rejected by the Front commun. As a result, workers are expected to walk off the job at midnight on Monday in what they are calling an “innovative strike” that will last until 10:30 a.m.
Leaders for the common front of unions say they were dismayed and insulted by the offer put forward by Quebec Treasury Board president Sonia Lebel over the weekend, which proposes a 10.3 per cent increase over five years for public sector workers as well as a one-time payment of $1,000 during the first year of the contract. The offer also includes additional increases for certain positions, including nurses working night shifts and technicians in secondary schools. Those earning less than $52,000 a year would receive an additional one per cent increase.
A statement issued by the Front commun bluntly declared there was nothing in the offer that could head off a strike.
The union representatives accuse the government of being out of touch with the realities facing public sector workers currently struggling to maintain the province’s fragile public services network. They point out that the proposed contract, which is over a five-year term, fails to keep up with forecasted inflation rates over the same term. Despite their frustration, the union heads will present the new offer to their respective bodies this week, but they have no doubt it falls well short of their members’ expectations.
The unions continue to point to the 30 per cent wage increase granted to parliamentarians earlier this year, and a 21 per cent raise offered to Sûreté du Québec police officers: “All of that needs to be taken into account in any wage agreement to be reached with the Front commun.”
LeBel says she is now waiting for the unions to present a counteroffer.