Quebec Premier François Legault asked nurses to be flexible in the negotiations for the renewal of their collective agreement on Thursday.

He wants to offer "exceptional" conditions to nurses who have left to work in private employment agencies, in order to bring them back into the network.

He acknowledged that the recognition of the seniority of workers returning from the private sector "is part of the discussions."

Health Minister Christian Dubé tabled a bill on Wednesday to limit the use of private employment agencies in the health sector, but its effectiveness will depend on the negotiations underway between the Treasury Board and the unions.

"It is important that the nurses' unions sit down with (Treasury Board President) Sonia LeBel to establish flexibility, (...) to be able to hire nurses directly with exceptional conditions in exceptional situations. The unions do not accept flexibility in collective agreements," said Legault.

He argued that the unions do not want to come to the bargaining table.

On Wednesday, Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) president Julie Bouchard blamed the government for dragging its own feet.

"If the government is serious about negotiating to improve the lot of nurses and other health-care professionals, it must speed up the pace of discussions because they are currently held at the rate of one session every fortnight," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 16, 2023.