Quebec government bargained in bad faith in 2005: Labour commission

Legislation imposed six-year contract with 33-month wage freeze

The Commission des relations du travail (Quebec's labour board) has ruled the Quebec provincial government bargained in bad faith when negotiating with its 500,000 public sector workers in 2005.

In the Jan. 30 ruling, the board states the Quebec government, the Treasury Board and its president at the time, Monique Jérôme-Forget, negotiated in bad faith during the 2004-2005 round of bargaining.

Negotiations ended abruptly when the government imposed Bill 142 (now known as Law 43), which outlined working conditions and wages for the public sector employees. The legislation forced the workers to accept a 33-month wage freeze, followed by annual increases of two per cent, which — at the time — was less than the projected annual rate of inflation, according to the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

"I cannot recall in Canadian history another instance when a single piece of legislation imposed a contract for such an extended period of time," said NUPGE president James Clancy at the time.

In March 2007, the International Labour Office (ILO) condemned the government decree. The ILO reported that Bill 142 went against international labour conventions. It said the legislation contravenes the right of all Canadian workers to bargain collectively and to withdraw their services if necessary during negotiations with employers.

Unions in the province, including the Confédération des syndicats nationaux and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec are considering this a win for the Quebec labour movement.

The CRT will hold a hearing with government officials and the unions that lodged the complaint to determine what compensation can be made, according to Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec executive director Serge Cadieux.

Another proceeding is taking place before the Quebec Superior Court where the unions are asking that Law 43 be declared unconstitutional for having violated the right of association.

The Quebec government hasn’t commented on the issue.

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