The mayors of Montreal and Quebec City went before the National Assembly on Tuesday to voice their support for Bill 110, the law which would give the provincial government final say on negotiations between unions and municipalities.

The bill was first tabled in June by Minister of Municipal Affairs Martin Coiteux.

Under the bill, the National Assembly would be able to impose conditions on both sides should a labour dispute require mediation after 120 days. After that period, the dispute would go to a mediator and eventually the Assembly would be permitted to legislate a settlement.

For unions for police and firefighters, who are legally unable to strike, disputes would go to mediation and then a three-person settlement board.

Both Denis Coderre and Regis Labeaume, the two cities' respective mayors, were vocally in favour of the bill. Labeaume cited figures from the Quebec Statistical Institute, denouncing the wage gap of nearly 40 per cent between municipal employees and those in the provincial public service.

He further argued that under the current system, municipalities have little choice but to give in to union pressure and sign collective agreements that give excessive wage increases, given a lack of resources.

“The project that we have on the table will balance the power between those that have to negotiate,” he said.

Coderre said Montreal in particular has taken a hit.

“Look at the budget, and look at the way that we had to pay -- and there is a difference. We said  an average of 40 per cent. It's factual, and it's even worse in our own situation,” he said.

Marc Ranger, director of the Quebec branch of the Canadian Unionof Public Employees, disagrees.

“We are just average, our salaries,” he said. “If you look at the federal level, if you look at public societies, if you look at other sectors, we have the same working conditions. So at the end of the day, stop targeting your municipal workers.”

Coiteux said he agrees with mayors who say it’s time to change the dynamics at the negotiating table.

“Change is difficult by definition, but I think it's a required change. It's bringing our regime, our negotiations, in the municipal sector into the 21st century,” he said. “We're replacing the existing arbitration system by a new one in which expertise in public finance at the municipal level, expertise in economics, and expertise in labour.”

Several heads of major unions were also present at the hearing, asking that the National Assembly rejected the bill. They argued there is no justification to change the current rules give the vast majority of negotiations in the municipal sector, 96 per cent, were resolved without labour disruptions.

With a report from CTV Montreal