An economic update is an opportunity for a government to correct the situation and compensate for the shortcomings revealed by exceptional situations. And if there is one thing that the pandemic has brought to light, it is the fragility of our health and social services network.
Work overload, professional burnout, labor shortage, breakdown in services, organization of work based on statistics, which eliminates the human side of the conditions of practice, encroachment of the private sector which vampirizes the human and financial resources of the network public, etc., the Alliance du personnel professionnelle et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS) and the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec – FIQ have been warning for years the successive governments in Quebec that the way forward ‘they borrowed weakened the network and that in the end, it was the population that was going to pay the price.
The Minister of Finance, Éric Girard, had the opportunity on Thursday to demonstrate that the Legault government was going to give a serious boost to correct the unacceptable working and salary conditions of care professionals and professional and technical personnel serving the population. . Unfortunately, we have just witnessed another missed opportunity. However, despite the anticipated deficit, the government remains in a good position.
A recent analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Officer indicated that our public finances remain viable despite the pandemic. This study even suggests that it would be possible to increase our government spending by an amount equivalent to 1.2% of our GDP without undermining this viability. In short, it is possible to invest today in workers in the public health and social services network.
Salary catch-up to materialize
By creating at the start of the pandemic a bonus of 4% for all employees, the Legault government recognized that the income of those who hold the network at arm’s length were clearly insufficient and that it had to give them a substantial salary increase. This increase reaches 8% in certain activity centers and a “staircase” bonus, which can reach $ 1,000 per month, is offered in a discriminatory manner to certain job titles only. All to ensure that we have enough workers to provide care and services to the population.
In its revised demands, the APTS-FIQ alliance is asking for a catch-up of 4% for the first year, to which is added the increase of 1.75% proposed by the government. With the bonuses created as part of the pandemic, the government will grant more than the salary catch up requested for the first year of the collective agreement. But in order to ensure that this recognition does not disappear with the end of the state of emergency, the government must perpetuate them by translating them into an increase in the salary structure. This catching-up would be practically zero cost for the year 2020-2021 and would thus make it possible to compensate part of the delay accumulated over the last 20 years. And that’s without counting the clear and clear message that he would send to the population on the importance of paying their fair value to those who provide care and services.
A necessary global approach
If we want to rebuild our public health and social services system, we cannot content ourselves with granting salary increases to professional and technical staff and to healthcare professionals. They should be accompanied by other measures to improve working conditions and promote the attraction and retention of labor.
Moreover, discussions are underway with the government to improve the working conditions specific to each organization. Whether we are talking about professional / patient ratios or the establishment of qualitative criteria to weight the burden of workers, we must put in place solutions to reduce the overload of work. Measures will also have to be put in place to adapt the pension plan in order to keep experienced employees in employment, to take into account regional disparities in order to ensure that care and services can be offered on the job. the whole of Quebec and, finally, to grant our 131,000 members better parental rights.
The government can no longer wait for favorable conditions; now is the time to act.
Andree Poirier and Nancy Bedard, presidents of the APTS-FIQ alliance