Common front of education, health-care unions plans to strike Dec. 8-14

The common front represents teachers, orderlies, health and social service staff, as well as thousands of support workers.

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Failing a settlement with the provincial government in the meantime, the common front of Quebec’s public-sector unions will be back on strike for seven days, from Dec. 8 to 14.

Meanwhile, the Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), which represents nurses and other health-care workers, announced Tuesday it will strike for four more days, Dec. 11 to 14.

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The 420,000-member common front, composed of unions allied under the CSQ, FTQ, CSN and APTS and representing workers in the health, social service and education sectors, conducted a three-day strike last week and a single day earlier in the month. The group is calling for better pay and improved working conditions.

The common-front unions represent the majority of elementary and high-school teachers, medical orderlies, health and social service technicians and professionals, as well as thousands of support workers in the education and health-care networks.

They say the December strike will be the last temporary strike before their members begin an unlimited strike.

The FIQ, which is independent of the common front, said the government has “accepted to listen to union demands and proposals, which was refused until now. We therefore have to continue the mobilization so the government hears us.”

The FIQ, which unanimously rejected a contract offer a month ago, represents 80,000 nurses, practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists.

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A separate Quebec teachers union, the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), with more than 66,000 members, began an unlimited strike last week.

Magali Picard speaks into media microphones during an outdoor news conference
FTQ president Magali Picard. Photo by Jacques Boissinot /The Canadian Press files

FTQ’s Picard goes to Dubai, comes right back: The absence of Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec president Magali Picard, who left Monday to participate in the COP28 meeting in Dubai, does not negatively affect negotiations, the union said Tuesday.

But hours after she arrived in Dubai, the union announced Picard will return to Quebec on Wednesday instead of next Monday as originally planned.

“The FTQ has participated in different COPs since the very beginning” of the environmental conferences, the FTQ said Tuesday. “It’s important for our organization to be vigilant and protect the rights of workers in the transformation toward a green economy.”

Picard is up to date on negotiations and in constant contact with her team and “remains ready to intervene with her colleagues at any time,” the union federation said in a statement.

But two hours later, the union said Picard has taken “the measure of the debate” sparked by her absence and will return early.

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In a video message, Picard said she had originally planned to go to COP28 for two weeks but chose to cut it to one, a decision she said she made after careful consideration, noting that her union is not currently on strike. “But now that I understand how much you are not happy, not proud of this decision, we’re changing our plans, I’m coming back,” she said.

Marwah Rizqy holds up a green hockey jersey in the National Assembly's Blue Room
Quebec Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy raises a hockey jersey as she questions the up to $7-million grant to bring the Los Angeles Kings to Quebec City for two games next October, during question period, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. Photo by Karoline Boucher /The Canadian Press files

LeBel should go, Liberals say: Meanwhile, Quebec’s official opposition said Tuesday that Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel is incapable of negotiating with the unions and should step down.

Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy said LeBel was relieved of other responsibilities, like intergovernmental affairs, to concentrate on negotiations, but has yet to reach a deal with any of the unions currently in negotiations — FTQ, FSE, CSQ, CSN, FAE, SFPQ, SPGQ, FIQ, police and government lawyers.

“Out of 10 groups, it’s zero out of 10. She’s not capable of signing with anyone,” Rizqy said. “The only thing she has been able to sign is a deal with the Los Angeles Kings,” she said of a subsidy for $5 million to $7 million for the NHL team to play pre-season games in Quebec City next year.

Rizqy said Premier François Legault should get involved personally in negotiations to get through the impasse.

In a short media scrum, LeBel tried to stay above the fray.

“I have great respect for Ms. Rizqy. I will not make these kinds of comments,” she said. “I continue to keep the objective. We will find a solution, ways of passage.”

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