This text is part of the special section Unionism
Out of breath, nurses and other healthcare professionals could well launch a strike this fall, if no agreement is reached quickly between Quebec and the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ). While the province is preparing to initiate a reform of the governance of the health network, negotiations related to the working conditions of healthcare personnel have dragged on since last November.
“The status quo is impossible,” says Julie Bouchard, president of the FIQ, on the phone. If there is no openness on the part of the government, no listening or desire to really change things, inevitably, it will be a very hot autumn, since healthcare professionals are asking to be respected, to have better working conditions and that they are ready to go all the way [à déclencher une grève]. »
The FIQ submitted its demands in November 2022, before the collective agreements expire in March. The union is trying to improve working conditions and enable better reconciliation with family and personal life for its 80,000 members who are nurses, practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists. Nearly 90% of FIQ members are women.
“For too long, there has been an overload of work that does not work at all, which means that we have difficulty providing quality and safe care to the population, given the large number of patients that the we are responsible for it,” explains the union representative.
Julie Bouchard gives the example of a mother who had requested leave, six months in advance, to attend her daughter’s wedding. He was refused leave at the last minute. Examples of this kind are legion, deplores the union representative. She insists: these working conditions erode the attractiveness of the profession and the retention of employees.
The FIQ is calling in particular for an increase in salaries based on inflation as well as the elimination of the use of labor from private employment agencies and compulsory overtime. “If there is something that kills our profession, it is not knowing what time we leave our workplace to be able to have a family or personal life,” says Julie Bouchard. Compulsory overtime is used as a management method to compensate for the shortage of healthcare professionals. This has to stop. »
The FIQ is also pushing for the adoption of a law determining safe healthcare professional/patient ratios. A single nurse can thus have up to 100 residents in her care during a night shift in a long-term care accommodation center (CHSLD), estimate Quebec residence advisors on their Résidences Québec blog.
“The government says we can’t put that [des ratios] in place, because there are not enough people, the shortage is too great, sighs Julie Bouchard. There have never been as many registered nurses in Quebec as today. Where are these nurses? They are inevitably elsewhere than in the public network! If we wait until we have enough caregivers to be able to put things forward, the public health network will experience a crash amazing. »
For several months, negotiations have been progressing at “snail’s pace”, according to the president of the FIQ. No agreement has been found, she deplores, even for only one of the FIQ’s demands. On August 21, Julie Bouchard met the Prime Minister, François Legault, and the President of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel. During this meeting, the CAQ government promised to accelerate the pace of negotiations.
More challenges ahead with Bill 15
The negotiations between the FIQ and Quebec are taking place while the CAQ government plans to adopt an in-depth reform of the health system with Bill 15. The reform plans to centralize governance within a new agency, Santé Quebec. In particular, it would allow nursing staff to move more easily between establishments. But according to the president of the FIQ, the reform will not help resolve the current crisis, quite the contrary.
“It is not the time to put this in place, when there are so many problems in the health network and we should ensure we are able to provide safe care to the population,” believes Julie. Bouchard. [Depuis le projet de loi 10 de 2015], there is nothing that is still running smoothly, and we are arriving with an even bigger reform. Unfortunately, in this bill, there is nothing that is beneficial for healthcare professionals, for accessibility to healthcare for the population. It’s just governance. »
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