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Quebec nurses reject the agreement in principle with the government

Union members of the Federation interprofessionnelle de la sante du Quebec (FIQ) march to the National Assembly to demonstrate, in Quebec City, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press) Union members of the Federation interprofessionnelle de la sante du Quebec (FIQ) march to the National Assembly to demonstrate, in Quebec City, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press)
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Members of a union representing more than 80,000 health-care workers in Quebec have decisively rejected a tentative collective agreement with the province that was endorsed by the labour group's leadership.

The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, commonly known as the FIQ, said Saturday that 61 per cent of members who took part in an online election voted against the deal. The poll, which ended at midnight Friday, had a participation rate of 77 per cent.

FIQ president Julie Bouchard said at a news conference in Montreal that she was disappointed by the results, but insisted she was prepared to return to the negotiating table and advance union members' interests.

"I was disappointed because when we have an agreement in principal in our hands and we recommend it ... it's because we believe in it," she told reporters. "We're rolling up our sleeves, continuing this battle until there's something for them that will make a difference."

She said the union, whose members include nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists — technicians who operate blood pumps during cardiac surgery — will next regroup with local representatives to understand the agreement's shortcomings.

The tentative deal included general salary increases of at least 17.4 per cent over five years; new premiums for evening, night and weekend work; greater flexibility for workers to control their own schedules; and changes to vacation day accumulation and seniority recognition, among dozens of other measures.

The rejection of the deal comes after 15 months of negotiations between the FIQ and provincial government and eight days of strikes by union members last fall. Bouchard on Saturday didn't rule out additional pressure tactics, but said the focus now is on negotiations.

Reacting to the agreement's failure, Quebec Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the government would meet with the union to better understand the setback. She added, however, that the province would continue to seek more flexibility from FIQ members.

Quebec has already settled a series of labour disputes with several other public sector unions in recent months. In February, members of a group of unions representing 420,000 education and health-care workers approved a deal that also included 17.4 per cent pay increases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 13, 2024. 

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