More than 75,000 public-sector workers and their supporters took to the streets of Montreal on March 20, pressing Quebec’s Liberal government of Jean Charest to step up contract negotiations. At the end of the month, a total of 475,000 public-sector workers – including teachers, hospital workers, and civil servants – will see their contracts end with no settlement in sight.
At the beginning of this round of negotiations, the major union federations in the public sector (including the Quebec labour federation, or FTQ, as well as the unaffiliated CSN) decided to join forces to create a united common front. “The last time such a front was created was in 1972. That time, following a strike that was declared illegal, union leaders were sent to jail,” says Louis Bolduc, UFCW Canada’s executive assistant to the National President for Quebec. “Hopefully, this time, things will not need to go that far.”
Brother Bolduc and other UFCW Canada national staff members – along with activists and officers from Locals 405P (Daniel Bordeleau, president), 500R (Gilles Gélineau, director), 501 (Alain Lachaîne, secretary-treasurer), and 1991P (Mario Maisonneuve, president) – took part in the march from Place du Canada to Charest’s offices. At its peak, the body of the march stretched several kilometres in length.
“Today, the common belief that public-sector workers are overpaid is not justified,” Louis says. “One thing for sure is that they are overworked. Nurses are exhausted and they have been forced to work overtime on a regular basis.”
The demonstration against lagging contract talks apparently didn’t fall on deaf ears. The announcement of the rally seemed to have an impact on the government, which announced the day before that they were ready to sit down for a negotiating “blitz” in order for negotiations to move at a faster pace.
“Public services are essential for the health and the education of our society,” Louis concludes. “That is why it was important for us to support our brothers and sisters and to march in solidarity with them.”
DIRECTIONS • Vol. X No. 12 • March 29, 2010