MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he's hopeful negotiations with some of the province's most powerful unions will wrap up in a matter of weeks, but his optimism wasn't matched by labour representatives.

The premier and Treasury Board president Sonia Lebel met with the union leaders on Sunday to try and kickstart negotiations for new collective agreements.

Legault said a new offer was made, the third to date, to the 550,000 public sector workers who have been without a collective agreement for a year.

He called the new offer “reasonable” and even “generous” given the precarious state of the province's finances after the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted the province is running a $13 billion deficit and that he is unwilling to raise taxes on Quebecers.

The offer included an 5 per cent salary increase spread over three years, as well as an 18 per cent raise for new teachers and 23 per cent raise for PABs in the province's CHSLDs. He also proposed 14,000 new full time positions in the health network to ease workloads on nurses.

The premier said the offer reflects the shortages the province is experiencing for teachers and healthcare workers and that it's meant to help attract newcomers to the professions.

However, union representatives called the offer nothing new and accused Legault of not negotiating in good faith by saying the province has no more money to offer.

The leaders did agree with the premier that an agreement must be reached quickly, pointing to a mass exodus of workers in healthcare, but said cooperation is required to reach a new deal in Legault's timeframe of two or three weeks.  

- With reporting by CTV Montreal's Gabrielle Fahmy