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Quebec public sector wages lag behind non-unionized private sector, stats show

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Wages in the Quebec public sector lag behind those in the private sector, and even behind those in the non-unionized private sector. Tradespeople are the hardest hit.

These findings are in report by the province's statistics institute, Institut de la statistique du Québec, which each year compares the remuneration of public sector employees with other categories of workers.

The report shows that when wages alone are taken into account, public sector employees in Quebec lag behind the private sector (unionized and non-unionized combined) by 14.2 per cent, and behind all other Quebec employees (unionized and non-unionized combined) by 16.6 per cent.

Even in the non-unionized private sector, they lag behind by 12.2 per pent in wages alone.

In fact, when wages alone are taken into account, Quebec government employees lag behind the private sector, the unionized private sector, the non-unionized private sector, the university sector, the municipal sector, the federal administration, public enterprises, all other unionized Quebec employees and all other non-unionized Québec employees.

In terms of total compensation - which takes into account wages, benefits, vacations and the standard work week - the picture is more nuanced.

They are on par with the private sector (unionized and non-unionized combined) and lag behind other Quebec employees (unionized and non-unionized combined) by 7.4 per cent.

For example, the normal work week is 35.8 hours in the Quebec administration, compared with 37.4 hours for other Quebec employees.

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Blue-collar workers are most affected by these shortcomings. Compared to their peers in the private sector, they lag behind by 36.8 per cent in terms of salary and 25.7% in terms of total compensation.

Next in line are office workers, who lag behind their private-sector peers by 17.1 per cent in terms of salary, followed by technicians, who lag behind their private-sector peers by 15.3 per cent.

When it comes to professionals, the Quebec administration lags behind the private sector by 13.7 per cent.

Once again, when looking at total compensation, which includes leave, benefits and the length of the average work week, rather than just salary, the picture is less clear-cut.

COMMON FRONT UNSURPRISED

The Common Front of public-sector union groups has concluded that this report proves that a "salary catch-up is urgent" in the Quebec administration.

"In the current context, our networks need to be attractive. The aim of negotiations is to attract and retain staff. As we know that our people are leaving for other sectors with more advantageous conditions - at the municipal and federal levels, and in large unionized companies in particular - we expect the government to behave like an employer of choice and draw inspiration from the best," it said.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 30, 2023.

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