25,000 Quebec professional workers to go on strike

Government's salary increase offer appears to be a 'clumsy attempt to calm the choppy waters of the civil service,' says union president

25,000 Quebec professional workers to go on strike

Some 25,000 public service professionals are joining workers holding strikes in Quebec, according to a report.

The workers – all members of Syndicat des professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ) or the union of professional Quebec government workers – work in various government departments and agencies. 

SPGQ is an independent union that is not part of the Common Front.

During consultation with its members, a majority voted in favour of two distinct types of strike mandates. 

The lighter strike mandate calls for evening, weekend and statutory holiday strikes, while the tougher one could range from a strike that could be counted in minutes, hours or days up to an unlimited strike, according to a report from CTV News.

About 570,000 Quebec workers were on strike at the same time last week, including 100,000 Quebec teachers.

‘Clumsy attempt to calm choppy waters’

This follows an open letter from SPGQ President Guillaume Bouvrette to Sonia Lebel, president of the Quebec Treasury Board.

In the letter, Bouvrette said the Quebec government’s offer of a 10.3% salary increase to some 25,000 SPGQ members left them speechless. 

“Not because she was impressive, but because she was simply ridiculous,” he said in French.

“Your 10.3% offer appears to be a clumsy attempt to calm the choppy waters of the civil service. It is hard to believe that you are seriously considering this proposal as a viable solution. 

“Allow me to remind you that SPGQ professionals play an essential role in the proper functioning of our society. Their expertise and dedication deserve far more substantial recognition than you seem prepared to offer, because without them the state collapses.”

Recently, the federal government introduced legislation to ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces during a strike or lockout.

The Quebec government’s offer to service professionals only “scratches the surface of what these seasoned experts really need,” said Bouvrette.

Bouvrette also said that the state professionals having “specialized skills” essential for the proper functioning of the state should be accounted for in their pay. 

“They deserve remuneration that reflects not only inflation, but also the added value they bring to society. Your offer of 10.3% only devalues ‚Äč‚Äčtheir contribution, showing a blatant lack of respect for these dedicated specialists.”

Bouvrette also raised concerns about the issues of work overload, difficult working conditions and lack of recognition for these workers, which all make attraction and retention difficult. These issues, he said, “require immediate attention”, and the 10.3% does not address the deeper problems.

“Ms. LeBel, your offer of 10.3% is not only insulting, but it also demonstrates a blatant lack of understanding of the real needs of those who keep our public service at arm's length,” said Bouvrette. “SPGQ professionals deserve better than figures thrown out at random to ease tensions. It is time to recognize their invaluable contribution and propose concrete solutions to the problems that have persisted for too long.”

Thousands of Canadian workers have walked off their jobs throughout the country this year, and in August, two experts warned that more strike actions may be on the way.

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