Québec government tables offer to civil servants

Longer contract term allows for wage increases despite economy
By Gordon Sova
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 01/22/2010

On November 30, the President of the Treasury Board of Quebec, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, made public the government’s offer to 475,000 government, healthcare and education employees. The five-year agreement, according to Gagnon-Tremblay, permits the government the room to manoeuvre to promise a 7.0 per cent wage increase.

In addition, the government claims its offer will make public services more available through a better organization of work and attraction of more employees in education, healthcare and social services. Collective agreement provisions that limit the government’s ability to restructure the civil service and apply savings to resource delivery will be “corrected.”

Wage increases in the first three years of the proposed agreement will be limited, but there will be some margin to improve salary scale progressions as long as the cost does not exceed the government’s spending limits.

The government’s press release termed union demands as out of step with reality.

For its part, the bargaining council made up of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec and the Secrétariat intersyndical des services publics deemed the government’s offer to be far below its members’ legitimate expectations.

The unions are asking for 2.0 per cent per year over three years, plus an additional “catch-up” of 49¢ per hour or roughly 1.75 per cent to help bring public-sector wages into line with the private sector.

On November 26, the Institut de la statistique du Québec published its regular survey of government wage rates and found that, on average, employees in the Quebec public service were paid 8.7 per cent less for doing the same job than employees in other sectors of the economy. Versus the private sector alone, the gap was 6.0 per cent.

With benefits taken into account, public sector workers were still 3.7 per cent lower, though against the private sector, they were 3.6 per cent ahead.

Significantly, top salaries in the public service were found to be inferior to those in other industries.

The unions are also asking for pension improvements, specifically, modifications to the contribution rate to make it more stable and predictable, reductions to the contribution exemption from 35 per cent of maximum insurable earnings to 25 per cent to make contributions more equitable, backdating of the current indexation formula to 1982, and abolition the 35-year maximum for contributions.

The government announced it would accept at least some of these demands.

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