MONTREAL -- The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé (FIQ) says it is considering a strike mandate for its 76,000 nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and other health care professionals.

The group says it plans to hold general assemblies to poll its members on a strike mandate unless wage offers from the government are improved.

The mandate could go as far as an unlimited general strike, the union threatens.

The FIQ says the administrative labour tribunal has already approved its list of essential services that must continue despite a strike -- a necessary step before it can resort to such pressure tactics.

FIQ President Nancy Bédard says that contrary to what Premier François Legault insists, negotiations are stalling on wages -- even for nurses.

"The premier said publicly that he had made us a good offer. The reality is that after 18 months, we are still at the same point in negotiations," she said. "Considering that no effort has been made by the government to guarantee priority for health care professionals, we have just taken another step towards possibly obtaining a strike mandate."

The FIQ says it did, however, reach a partial agreement last December on the working conditions of its members.

On Tuesday, the premier stated he was told "things are progressing well at the various tables, including with the nurses."

On May 2, at a press conference, the premier said he was giving himself "two to three weeks" to settle negotiations with the public sector unions. As of Sunday, three weeks have passed since he said this.

When asked about it, Legault said he was not considering invoking any special laws.

"As long as negotiations go well and there is no major pressure, we will continue. Our objective is to reach an agreement," he said.

Quebec is offering increases of 1.75 per cent, then 1.75 per cent and 1.5 per cent, or 5 per cent over three years, with two lump sums over two years.

It adds a possible 1 per cent increase if inflation exceeds 5 per cent and if the government's forecasted economic growth is met. Quebec says its offer is equivalent to an 8 per cent increase.

The FIQ is asking for 12.4 per cent, including a 7.4 per cent catch-up.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 26, 2021.