This text is part of the special section Unionism
Accusing Quebec of “lacking vision” in the health network, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) is threatening a strike by its members.
“I don’t really feel a desire [de la part du gouvernement] to improve things,” summarizes Jérôme Rousseau, vice-president of the FIQ. The union organization represents more than 80,000 nurses, practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists, nearly 90% of whom are women. “Our observation is that things are going badly everywhere in the health network. And this is where we need a common vision,” he adds.
The question of workload is also at the heart of the FIQ’s demands. “We are understaffed. It takes workforce planning. And I don’t hear the government saying that it has a real vision of wanting to change things,” laments Mr. Rousseau.
Last June, the union organization conducted a survey of 9,663 of its members. The survey concluded that 83% of respondents believe that not all the required care can be given to patients due to workload. “At the negotiating table, currently, the government only has the words “flexibility” and “displacement” on its lips. The big priority for him is to be able to transfer us as if we were numbers, pawns, from one place to another to plug holes rather than having a vision,” denounces the unionist.
A situation which risks undermining the care provided to patients, argues Mr. Rousseau. “Currently, as we are already understaffed, our stress level is increasing. And ultimately, the worst thing a professional wants to do in their career is to make mistakes that have consequences for patients,” he warns.
Ratios for better care
In order to compensate for the lack of manpower, the FIQ highlights the creation of ratios in order to limit the number of patients per healthcare professional. A situation which would be favorable both for the well-being of employees and that of patients, believes Mr. Rousseau. “This is so that he is able to provide all the services. It will benefit everyone,” he says.
He cites the example of British Columbia, which in April became the first province in Canada to adopt a measure of this kind. “I just wish that Quebec was not the last to adhere to this idea,” he emphasizes.
Such ratios would make it possible to improve the working conditions of FIQ members, he believes. “That’s what I hear on the ground: the members are overloaded. It is extremely difficult, in addition to overtime, sometimes obligatory, which hangs over our heads every day on a regular basis,” illustrates Mr. Rousseau.
The FIQ is also calling for better work-family balance, since women are the majority among its members. “They have spouses, children. Being on the schedule five evenings a week can get complicated,” observes Mr. Rousseau. The union organization is campaigning for full-time tasks, but improving working conditions.
Thus, instead of working ten days over two weeks, members who have atypical schedules could have an extra day off for the same remuneration, he hopes. “These are solutions that are becoming interesting to attract healthcare professionals who remain on less attractive evening and night shifts,” he believes, while 42% of survey respondents have already expressed the desire to leave the occupation.
Towards a strike mandate
The FIQ believes that the government is showing “tremendous closure” at the negotiating table. “I was told recently that all a nurse does is take blood tests and pressure. It’s heartbreaking to hear that from people who don’t know our professions,” laments Mr. Rousseau.
After demonstrating in front of the National Assembly in Quebec on October 2, the employees represented by the FIQ “are ready to raise their voices,” warns Mr. Rousseau. “Obviously, the question of the strike is on everyone’s lips. We are going to consult our members by the end of October on a strike mandate. We want it to unblock,” he emphasizes.
“People have somewhat lost hope that things will improve in the health network. And that’s what we’re asking: give us hope that things will change. Unfortunately, the government is absolutely not there. »
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