Quebec's 2022 work world: demands for hybrid mode and protection against inflation
Published Sunday, December 18, 2022 10:47AM EST
Union members demonstrate in a common front, In Quebec City, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Union leaders of the CSN, FTQ, CSQ and APTS, presented their negotiation demands in a common front. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
In the world of work, the year 2022 has been marked by significantly higher salary increases than in recent years and by the arrival of a new area of demand: the "right" to telework.
The inflation of recent months has whetted the appetite of workers who, in many cases, have turned up their noses at offers of 1.5 or 2 per cent increases.
And in the context of recruitment difficulties, employers have had little choice but to give higher increases to retain employees and avoid labour disputes.
For example, at the FTQ-affiliated Steelworkers union, workers at the Raglan mine will receive 6.8 per cent wage increases in the first year, 3.5 per cent for the next two years and 3 per cent for the final two years.
In another example, at Olymel in Yamachiche and Saint-Esprit, the wages of members of the FTQ-affiliated United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) rose by 18.16 per cent to $20.50 upon hire. The maximum wage after four months rises to a maximum of $22.85 per hour.
Small businesses with more limited means have had no choice but to give higher increases as well in order to retain or attract staff, said François Vincent, vice-president for Quebec at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in an interview.
"Salary increases have never been so high when you look at the Business Barometer data. There was a dip at the beginning of the pandemic, and then after that, there was a fairly significant increase. Now it's tending to go back down, but it's still at higher levels than it has been for the last 10 years," said Vincent.
INFLATION PROTECTION CLAUSES
Beyond the increases themselves, unions are looking to negotiate inflation protection clauses to protect themselves against the phenomenon experienced in recent months.
This is particularly true in the public sector in Quebec, where the inter-union common front is demanding, for the next collective agreements, the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 2 per cent for the first year, the CPI plus 3 per cent for the second year and the CPI plus 4 per cent for the third year.
Another trend in the labour market in 2022 is telecommuting or at least hybrid working.
Many employees took a liking to teleworking when the COVID-19 health measures were introduced. They were not at all happy about the idea of coming back to work in a noisy, crowded office with all the travel involved.
Unions began to demand the "right" to telework, and the labour market had to adjust.
At Loto-Québec, for example, members of the Syndicat des professionnels du gouvernement du Québec (SPGQ) will only be required to be present in the workplace four days a month.
At the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ), president Christian Daigle said he believes that "telework is here to stay. We won't be able to do otherwise. Elsewhere, in many companies, people see an advantage to telework; it is therefore becoming an interesting working condition."
The SFPQ represents thousands of public servants in government departments and agencies.
"Currently, our people are forced to be in the office two days out of five," said Daigle. "We don't see the point of being in the office two days out of five. It's not logical to have an obligation. There could be five days of telework, and it would not change anything in the delivery of services to citizens."
In regards to downtown Montreal, Vincent added, "I could tell you that Monday and Friday are like a holiday. Then, there is a return to the office to stimulate teamwork, two days, sometimes three days a week. On Tuesday to Thursday, we're going to get the kind of traffic we had before COVID. But yes, telework and hybrid models seem to be well spread within companies."
The year 2022 also saw the emergence of a new common front in the public and parapublic sectors in Quebec, with the CSQ, CSN, FTQ and APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux).
However, the important federation of nurses' unions, the FIQ, is not part of it.
Negotiations will begin after the holidays.
Also, at the federal level, negotiations to renew collective agreements in the public sector have been relaunched with the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
The year was also marked by a number of major labour disputes, including with Quebec government-employed engineers.
The strike by APIGQ members caused delays on several construction sites, but an agreement was finally reached between the parties last summer.
Similarly, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) has been affected since May 28 by a strike by workers belonging to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), an affiliate of the FTQ, in some 20 branches.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 18, 2022.