Public sector unions reject Quebec government’s latest contract offer

Public sector unions reject Quebec government’s latest contract offer

MONTREAL — Unions representing Quebec’s public sector workers rejected the Quebec government’s latest contract offer Friday, saying it is essentially the same deal that has prompted them to engage in job action.

The labour groups said the latest offer just reshuffles the same salary numbers of the government’s last offer, which is a three per cent salary increase over five years.

The public sector employees include nearly 500,000 teachers, health-care professionals and civil servants who are represented by several labour unions.

Quebec Federation of Labour president Daniel Boyer says Friday’s offer sends a very bad signal. He says workers will be poorer at the end of such a collective agreement.

“What they are proposing are fewer steps backwards than before, but they are still steps backward,” Boyer said.

The province also offered an additional $550 million to allow certain job classifications deemed to be paid unfairly to catch-up, but the unions say this would mean others would get no increase.

The province wants to increase early retirement from 60 to 62, but would phase it in over four years now instead of two.

Quebec is also ready to withdraw a proposal that would see retirement pensions calculated on an employee’s eight best years, maintaining the current practise of five years.

The government wants to settle by Christmas and Premier Philippe Couillard called the offers “enormous” and very significant, given the province’s financial capacities right now.

“There are not many reasons not to have a negotiated settlement,” Couillard said. “And there is certainly no reason to subject parents and patients in hospitals to pressure tactics.”

The 400,000 strong common front — which comprises some of the province’s most influential labour unions — says it will continue with its plans for rotating strikes on Monday and for three full days on Dec. 1, 2, 3.

Salaries have been a sticking point as the common front unions are seeking a 13.5 per cent salary increase for members over three years.

Separate unions representing nurses and about a third of the province’s teachers also rejected the latest offer.

Sylvain Mallette, of the FAE teachers’ union, said Friday’s offer signals the government is preparing to bring in legislation to head off job action.

“It (the government) is demonstrating today that it has always intended to move towards the adoption of a special law to impose working conditions,” Mallette said. “It has reshaped the proposal that was made last December and not in a way that our members can consider it satisfactory.”

As for their next actions, the respective unions will be determined by their respective membership.

Lia Levesque, The Canadian Press

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