MARIA – In a resounding call for change, Gaspé Peninsula nurses have delivered a powerful message to the government of Quebec by voting overwhelmingly at 97% in favour of an unlimited general strike.
Since September 18, members of the Union of Nurses, Auxiliary Nurses and Respiratory Therapists from Eastern Quebec have voted throughout the Gaspésie territory, signaling their readiness to employ this significant measure during negotiations with the Quebec Government.
President of the union, Pier-Luc Bujold, articulates the frustrations stating, “What the government wants to do with its clawback offers in the pension system is impoverish the seniors of tomorrow and force people to work longer before obtaining their retirement. Salary offers of 9% over five years do not hold water when we know that the inflation forecast over the next five years is 16.4%. It’s laughing at people working in the health sector.”
Mr. Bujold underscores the critical need for increased funding to address the shortage in the health network and improve working conditions. This should lead the government of Quebec to release additional funding envelopes to keep people in the network.
“To improve working conditions, both in terms of workfamily balance, adjustment of schedules, staff-patient ratio or mandatory overtime, it takes solid investments to retain people in this sector and attract people and it is not the peanuts the government is proposing that will consolidate health services in the Gaspé Peninsula,” analyzes Mr. Bujold.
He notes that current proposals fall short and fail to prioritize the frontline workers who have been the “guardian angels” during the pandemic.
While light pressure tactics, such as wearing negotiation sweaters, are already in play, Mr. Bujold assures that the strike will unfold “in the coming weeks.”
From a regional perspective, the union calls for the Gaspé Peninsula to be recognized as a remote area, acknowledging the unique challenges it faces in attracting and retaining health professionals.
“The highly significant difficulties of attraction and retention compared to the distances with large centres must be recognized once and for all to consolidate our workforce in Gaspé Peninsula,” states Mr. Bujold.
Addressing the government’s intention to end the use of agencies in the health network by October 2026 in the Gaspé Peninsula, the union demands the return of funds paid to agencies to enhance the conditions of regular staff.
“There are double standards at the level of salaries in the private sector versus the public and regarding working conditions. The government has announced that it wants to eradicate the independent workforce, but all benefits that have been paid in recent years must return to the public network,” declares Pier-Luc Bujold.
“We are seeing more and more service disruptions. Everything must be consolidated to provide care in quantity and quality in the region for the coming decades,” concludes Mr. Bujold.
As Gaspé Peninsula nurses voiced their concerns about working conditions over the last three years including compulsory overtime, salaries and the use of agency nurses.
The Union of Nurses, Practical Nurses and Respiratory Therapists of Eastern Quebec (SIIIEQ-CSQ) declares that all healthcare professionals in Gaspésie are on the brink of a strike. Since September 18, the members represented by the SIIIEQ-CSQ were invited to voting assemblies throughout the Gaspé region.
“With a 97% vote in favour of an indefinite general strike, it is a clear message that our members sent us. Enough is enough!” explains Pier-Luc Bujold, president of SIIIEQCSQ.
(With the collaboration of Gilles Gagné)