Update on Negotiations at the Professional Staff Sector Table
For several weeks now, national negotiations have been taking up a lot of public space. A number of media reports, both from the Union Common Front and from the government, refer to certain discussions at the various negotiating tables. In addition, the three days of strike held last week also provided an opportunity to hear numerous reports on the status of negotiations.
We would like to update you today on the sectoral negotiations on working conditions for professional personnel. In fact, the Union Common Front, made up of 4 organizations and representing 420,000 employees in 3 sectors (health and social services, education and higher education) mainly negotiates salary and pension plans. You are well aware of the demands made on these issues and the colossal difference that remains between the parties. In terms of salaries, the Common Front is asking for a 21.3% pay rise over 3 years for all members, while the government is proposing a 10.3% pay rise over 5 years. It is because of this significant gap that the union movement is attempting to increase the pressure to reach an agreement before the holidays, by calling in a conciliator and announcing another strike sequences.
n addition to these national negotiations, several other tables are currently negotiating working conditions for specific groups in the public sector. This is the case for the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation (FPPE-CSQ), which is currently negotiating all working conditions specific to professionals. We work at four negotiating tables, representing four different employers (the French school service centres, the English school boards, the Cree school board and the Kativik school board).
Reaching an agreement in principle will therefore require agreement on both fronts. Both on national demands for salaries, pension plan, parental rights and regional disparities negotiated by the Common Front for all employees, and on sectoral demands affecting working conditions. Together, these elements make up the collective agreement you may have to adopt. Although negotiation issues affecting professionals alone are receiving less media coverage, discussions are continuing apace, with the aim of reaching an agreement in principle as soon as possible. With this in mind, the Common Front has postponed its call for an unlimited general strike, opting instead for a 3rd 7-day period and keeping up the pressure for a settlement before the holidays.
We are still pursuing some twenty demands aimed at improving recognition for professional personnel, promoting work-life balance, and improving working conditions in the school network. These demands include higher pay for holders of advanced degrees, reimbursement of professional dues, flexible working hours, faster access to the 5th week of vacation, the addition of two days of personal leave, the creation of a working group on professional service thresholds, and more.
We have noted some openness on the part of the employer to our demands (support for trainees, mentoring), but these remain insufficient for the time being. For example, employers refuse all requests for leave or absences on the grounds that there is a labour shortage. They also refuse the request for reimbursement of the professional dues because of the high cost involved. In addition to refusing important demands for members, the employers are always making demands for greater flexibility in the organization of work for professionals. In concrete terms, at our sectoral tables, the employer wants to be able to more easily hire supernumeraries with precarious status and give the employer’s physician more power to assign disability professionals to other tasks.
We would like to see a real awareness on the part of employers of the exodus of professionals, and concrete solutions to attract and retain them. We don’t feel this eagerness to recognize professional personnel at their true current value, but we’re still discussing at the tables, one or two days a week, and we’re making some headway. We have also made ourselves fully available to the employer side to speed up the work, seven days a week. At the November 22nd meeting, held in the midst of a strike, the employer side finally presented us with new mandates, something we hadn’t seen since last June. In other words, the exceptional mobilization in which you are taking part is coming to fruition.
As your negotiating team, rest assured that we will rigorously and convincingly support your demands and the mandates you have given us. We sense your determination, through these negotiations, to improve both your working conditions and the quality of public services offered in schools and centres. We know your reality, we hear directly from you on the picket lines, by e-mail, and through your local representatives, and we carry your voice. We sincerely hope that this call from professionals will be heard by the government, and we’re putting all our energies into it. We need you to keep up the pressure when we call on you, because the effect of mobilization is being felt.
Your Negotiating Team