November 14, 2014

English Edition, No. 3

Nationwide Demonstrations in Defence of Family Services

"No to the Liberal Government's Anti-Family, Anti-Social Measures"
50,000 Protesters Say

Demonstrate Against Austerity!


Montreal, November 9, 2014

Saturday, November 29 -- 1:00 pm
Gather at 12:00 noon

Montréal: Place du Canada (corner of Peel and René-Lévesque)
Quebec City: Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Plains of Abraham)
For information: refusonslausterite.org


Nationwide Demonstrations in Defence of Family Services

"No to the Liberal Government's Anti-Family, Anti-Social Measures"
50,000 Protesters Say


Public Sector Negotiations
Workers' Demands Confront Couillard's Austerity Dictate - Geneviève Royer

Quebec Government's Attack on Health Care
"Cultural Change" Must Begin with a Guarantee of Citizens' Rights
- Christine Dandenault
About Bill 10, an Act to Modify the Organization and Governance of the Health and Social Services Network, in Particular by Abolishing the Regional Agencies
"Health Care Reform" Bill Has Nothing to Do with Improving Patient Services
- Interview, Micheline Barriault, President, Union of Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Inhalotherapists of Eastern Quebec (SIIIEQ)


Nationwide Demonstrations in Defence of Family Services

"No to the Liberal Government's Anti-Family, Anti-Social Measures" 50,000 Protesters Say


Gatineau

On Sunday, November 9, simultaneous demonstrations were held in 11 cities across Quebec to condemn the Couillard government's offensive against family services. The protests took place in Montreal, Longueuil, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Rimouski, Saguenay, Gatineau, Sept-Îles, Rouyn-Noranda and New Richmond. In Longueuil, more than 10,000 people took to the streets. In Quebec City protesters headed towards the National Assembly denouncing the austerity agenda and the fact that the government is taking decisions behind closed doors in opposition to the demands and needs of the people. The demonstrations were organized by the Mouvement pour la sauvegarde de la politique familiale québécoise which groups together community organizations, unions and student associations and is an initiative of the Quebec Association for Early Childhood Education Centres (AQCPE).

The majority of protesters were workers from early childhood education centres (CPE) and family-run daycares. A large number of parents and young children also participated in the actions.

Demonstrators vigorously denounced the cuts being made by the Quebec government in child care and in particular Premier Couillard's intention to raise the rate of subsidized day care. The rate was increased by $.30 on October 1 to $7.30 per day and is slated to be increased to $7.55 per day on September 1, 2015. The Premier has made it known that his government will increase the base rate to $8 and that families could pay up to $20 per day per child based on their income. At $7.30, the current rate already presents difficulties for low income families. In addition to this the government is eliminating the allocation of spaces for those in the poorest areas and delaying the creation of thousands of new early childhood education centre spaces until 2021.

Demonstrators took issue with the regressive concept that family services and in particular child care services are a cost to the state and must be reduced. They made the point that without a system of universal and affordable daycare, families cannot make ends meet, and women in particular cannot go to work or access higher education.

Placards bore slogans such as: "Since when has having a child become an expense for the State?"; "CPE rates too high, no work, welfare, great future!"; "Oppose the Liberal government's anti-social, anti-family measures"; "CPEs play a major role in welcoming new immigrants"; and "Family policy, the key to our future."


Longueuil


Sherbrooke


Trois-Rivières


Quebec City

At the rally in Montreal, AQCPE Director General Louis Sénécal called on the Premier to "show us that you understand that Quebec's future lies with our little ones. Our family policy is an asset to Quebec's economy, it is an asset for our children. It stimulates the economy. Women can reintegrate into the workforce. Our family policy contributes to equality between men and women."

AQCPE President Gina Gasparini, also at the rally in Montreal, said, "Amongst the founding principles of the early childhood education network, the universal nature of the network is essential. That principle ensured that families, irrespective of their revenue, their social or economic background, were provided access to quality subsidized child care services."

At the rally in Rouyn-Noranda, Donald Rheault, President of the Conseil central de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue-Nord-du-Quebec, stated, "The obsession with a zero deficit and the austerity measures being imposed by the Couillard government are helping no one, particularly parents.

"Subsidized child care services is about the choices we as a society have made. It is an investment, not an expense and above all else, a model that has proven itself over time. Clearly we will not permit the government to slash services to the detriment of parents. We will fight this with all our might."

"The early childhood education centre network was built on three premises. They are accessibility, universality and quality services. Therefore everything is going be affected, not only the rate," said Brenda Fournier, President of the Corporation des CPE in the Outaouais.

Demonstrators also rallied on November 13 when two demonstrations against the Couillard government's austerity agenda took place, one in Montreal and the other in Quebec City. Protests will again take place in those two cities on November 29.




Montreal

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique. Photos: TML, M. Giroux, C. Allard, S. Lussier)

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Public Sector Negotiations

Workers' Demands Confront Couillard's
Austerity Dictate


Quebec public sector workers demonstrate at the National Assembly, October 31, 2014.

Quebec's half a million public sector workers are beginning negotiations to renew their employment contract by 2015. These workers provide health care and social services, education, higher education and include various professional and technical personnel. Quebeckers have a great deal of respect for those who ensure that the people are given all the care and services they require so that they are equipped to address the significant economic, human and cultural challenges of society.

Public sector workers have experienced the dismantling of the system for more than 20 years, which has resulted in increased workloads, salary freezes and the loss of support services for their work. Budgetary constraints have always been used as an excuse by governments to justify attacks on the national health care and education systems, whose role is to humanize the social environment. Regarding public sector workers' demands, Premier Couillard said: "It is more or less fair game that the initial demands are high," but "I would say it is more an issue of what we refer to as numbers coming from another era. We are no longer in a period of this kind of budgetary availability." Mr. Couillard is claiming to address the needs of the "new era" but in reality the entire neo-liberal anti-social offensive's only aim is the transfer of public funds into the hands of private interests. With such language he attempts to portray himself as modern and forward-looking but it is quite the opposite. Rather than address the problems of society to pave the way for progress in Quebec, he dishonestly reduces the whole issue to a matter of "budgetary availability."

Public sector workers are aware of their role in society. Their demands for increased wages and improved working conditions aim to affirm the dignity of the work they do and ensure that the health care and public education sectors attract the younger generation and retain experienced workers. As with the entire population, they are faced with their marginalization by the Couillard government and its decisions. The growing opposition to the government's policies of all-out nation-wrecking, the many actions and demonstrations held and being called for are part and parcel of the people's efforts to stop the Couillard government from doing as it pleases with Quebec's resources, which include health care, education and social programs.

Currently, it is only those efforts, the organization with which the workers provide themselves, along with the collectives involved in the defence of rights and the support of the people, that are defending public right.

The Workers' Demands

The Common Front, composed of the Secrétariat intersyndical des services publics or public services inter-union secretariat (SISP, consisting of the Quebec House of Labour (CSQ), the Quebec Public and Parapublic Sector Union (SFPQ) and the Alliance of Professional and Technical Personnel for Health and Social Services (APTS)), the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) and the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ) organized a demonstration of more than 500 people on October 30 in front of the National Assembly while presenting their demands for their May 2015 contract renewal. "With us to defend our public services" was their call as they promoted proposals to improve their wages and working conditions, so that they are commensurate with the important work they do for the public.

The Common Front and the alliance formed by the Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE) and the Inter-Professional Health Federation of Quebec (FIQ) filed the following wage demands in late October:

The Common Front and FAE-FIQ have virtually the same demands: increases of 4.5 per cent per year, for a three-year collective agreement. This can be explained as follows: 2 per cent per year to catch up with the shortfall in the total compensation package of 8.3 per cent identified last November by the Quebec Institute of Statistics; an additional increase of 2 per cent to maintain wage parity with other Quebec employees during the term of the agreement and to ensure protection against the rising cost of living and, finally, a fixed amount equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the average wage so that Quebec's economic growth can benefit government employees.

Regarding working conditions, Lucie Martineau, SISP spokesperson said: "In recent years we have noticed a growing erosion of our professional autonomy [...] We also see the devastating effects of the encroachment of the private sector into public services in terms of waste, and also the loss of expertise in our networks. It is time to reverse these trends."

CSN Vice President Francine Lévesque recalled, "We must not forget that 75 per cent of the people working in public services are women. Management at the institutions where they work currently have no obligation to come up with concrete measures for balancing work, family and education. In 2014, this situation is unacceptable, both for working women and men. The government must accept its responsibility and join us in establishing guidelines governing the work-family-education balance."

FTQ President Daniel Boyer added, "Approximately 35 per cent of the people we represent are on recall lists, with no guarantee of employment, and earn $25,000 per year. By adding this number to the part-time employees, we see that more than one in two people do not have a regular full-time position. It is time these people were given the opportunity to pursue a career in public service."

FIQ President Régine Laurent emphasized, "The negotiations that will be starting will be crucial for the future of public services. We now have before us a government which in the name of an ideological conception of austerity, stubbornly attacks the structures rather than focusing on improving the quality of services. What the FAE and the FIQ will defend at our common negotiating table with the government will be a strong vision of public services, which principally depends on improved working conditions for teachers and health care professionals. Health and education are the very basis of a modern and flourishing society."

The FAE maintained, "The second decade of the 21st century is now well underway and new social and demographic realities inexorably affect the academic world. The Quebec government, which bears the responsibility to ensure a promising future for the coming generations, has the duty to take the necessary measures to ensure a quality education for young Quebeckers. To do this, ensuring that teachers have all the tools and all the motivation necessary to accomplish the difficult task of preparing tomorrow's adults should be considered a major priority for the government."

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique. Photos: Chantier politique, CSN.)

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Quebec Government's Attack on Health Care

"Cultural Change" Must Begin with a
Guarantee of Citizens' Rights

 
Demonstration by health care and social services workers in Rivière-du-Loup, October 1, 2014.

On September 25, the Minister of Health and Social Services Gaétan Barrette introduced Bill 10, an Act to modify the organization and governance of the health and social services network, in particular by abolishing the regional agencies. The minister said he wants to pass the bill before the end of the year and have it in force by April 1, 2015. However, it involves important system-wide changes that will not improve health care.

The stated aim of the bill is to save $220 million a year by restructuring the organization of health services in Quebec which will lead to the abolition of 1,300 positions in the system. The Minister promised that "patient services will not be affected." He repeated the motto of the new Liberal government that "this is not a simple exercise back to a balanced budget but an exercise in cultural change."

With his first statement, he is suggesting that the current state of health services is acceptable, which is not at all true. Furthermore, he claims that it is possible to maintain the current level of service without the same structural supports, which is not true either. It is reasonable to ask if the services remain the same, what will happen to the funds that are saved?

As for the second statement about "culture change," Minister Barrette said that meant "the patient and all related decisions are central in our considerations." Yet in his inaugural speech Premier Couillard said the cultural shift meant that citizens should "stop believing that everything is free" and "stop living beyond our means."

It is clear that no one will believe that this reform is intended to meet the needs of patients. This bill is not a necessary and urgent reform of the health care system to meet the needs of the people, but is an integral part of the austerity program that aims to liberate public funds to put them at the disposal of private interests.


Demonstration in front of the Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital in Laval, denouncing the impact of cutbacks on patient care.

Through sleight of hand, and very arrogantly, the Minister and his government are eliminating the demands and repeated distress calls from those involved in healthcare from all corners of Quebec who are demanding major investments, opposing privatization, denouncing the shortage of nurses and doctors and the emergency waiting lists, while patients needlessly suffer while waiting for treatment.

What the Minister calls a cultural change is fraud, pure and simple. A genuine change in culture is one where the government guarantees the right of all people to quality health care and the right of health care workers to conditions necessary for their work. Only in this way can we put Quebec on the road to progress, with a health care system designed for the flourishing of the human being. Modern medical technologies that are not under public control can never guarantee the right to health care. All the efforts of the state to promote the private delivery of health care, even if it is financed by public funds and Quebec's health insurance program, will not guarantee the people's right to health care.

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique. Photos: Chantier politique, CSN.)

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About Bill 10, an Act to Modify the Organization and Governance of the Health and Social Services Network, in Particular by Abolishing the
Regional Agencies

The proposed changes in Bill 10 will take place through the abolition of some regional agencies and the integration of others, creating fewer institutions with a broader scope and the implementation of a two-tier management structure. The number of institutions with a managerial function will be reduced from 182 to 28; the number of boards of directors will decrease from 200 to 28; and the number of managers will be reduced by at least 1,300. There will be a complete integration of all health and social services in every region, territory, under an authority that will be called the Integrated Centre of Health and Social Services (CISSS).


Health care workers demonstrate against
Bill 10 in Monteregie, October 9, 2014.

The bill provides for the creation of a few regional health institutions resulting from the amalgamation of all the region's health and social services agencies and public institutions. In the Montreal region, however, the number of regional institutions is set at five, in addition to four supra-regional institutions.

The bill greatly concentrates power to manage the system in the hands of the Minister. The aim is to ensure that the Minister prescribes the rules and that those rules are implemented. If not, the Minister has the power to intervene.

For example, the Minister sets the guidelines to fund new programs. If the Minister determines that the method of funding is not appropriate, he has the power to directly intervene.

Furthermore, the bill establishes a new system of governance for the regional and supra-regional institutions by specifying, among other elements, the composition of their boards of directors. The minister appoints the members of the board of directors of each institution, who come from various councils, committees and universities affiliated with the institution, for a maximum term of office of three years. The minister must also appoint independent members based on the recommendations of a committee of governance experts. The members remain in office until replaced or reappointed. Each institution is to be managed by a president and executive director, who are also appointed by the Minister.

Amongst other things, before proceeding to the nomination of independent members of a board of directors, the minister must set the qualification profiles in the following areas of expertise:

1. governance and ethics;
2. risk management and quality;
3. human resources;
4. immovable property resources and information resources;
5. auditing and performance;
6. youth; and
7. social services.

The Minister sets up a committee of experts in governance responsible for making recommendations to him, particularly with regard to candidates to be considered and the correspondence of their profiles with those established by competency qualifications. The expert committee is constituted of members whose candidacy has been recommended by a recognized group in terms of governance of public organizations identified by the Minister. It is also the Minister who determines who will be president of the board of directors.

All the lists of nominees must have at least four names and an equal number of men and women. In the absence of such a list, the Minister can name any person of his choice.

Furthermore, "If a text provides that a power may be exercised or a request made by the Minister and an agency, only the Minister may act."

(With files from Bill 10, Norton Rose Fulbright. Photo: Chantier politique.)

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"Health Care Reform" Bill Has Nothing to Do with Improving Patient Services

Forum ouvrier: In the union's press release on Bill 10, you raise your concerns regarding the centralization of powers and decisions in the hands of the Health Minister that this bill provides for. Can you elaborate?

Micheline Barriault: Firstly, in the bill the Minister is to appoint the president and executive director of the new regional health facilities that are created. We expect this person to be someone who shares his vision. The bill also stipulates that the president and executive director can be removed by the Minister, in that they can be replaced if they do not carry out the Minister's orders. The members of the board of directors of these new facilities will also be appointed by the Minister, meaning that with this bill, the Minister ensures there will be no challenge [to his authority] whatsoever or space for differing views.

We also have concerns with amalgamating the institutions of larger regions like ours, in Gaspésie and in deciding that the headquarters will be in the Gaspé. For example, the hospital in Chandler is approximately 100 kilometres from the Gaspé -- will the current services be maintained, such as specialized units, operating units, etc? Will the services be centralized in one place? One must keep in mind that the aim of the entire exercise is not to improve services but to make cuts and save money in our health care system.

There is also the issue of politicking. In the bill, the Gaspésie and the Magdalen Islands were to be amalgamated. The MNA for the Magdalen Islands, the only Liberal MNA in the region, raised the issue with the Minister on a number of occasions and the Minister changed his mind. He will modify the bill so that the Magdalen Islands will not be amalgamated and have a special, autonomous status.

The role the regional agencies used to have was to ensure equal access to services throughout the entire region, so that there were no budgetary inequities. Whereas now, by working directly with the Ministry, we can already start to see what it's going to look like.


Demonstration against Bill 10, Rimouski, October 2, 2014.

FO: In your press release you also said that the centralization of powers and the amalgamation of facilities would facilitate privatization. Can you be more specific?

MB: If services are centralized, for example if a service is centralized in the Gaspé region, would it not open the door for private companies to offer the service in the Baie des Chaleurs region? There are people in the region who live a good four hours away from the Gaspé.

These are some of the questions we are raising. We have no answers and no guarantees. The Minister says all the facilities will remain in place but he won't guarantee which services will be provided in a given facility. Will emergency wards be maintained or will they become walk-in clinics? Will the operating rooms, surgeries, services that require specialists and further tests be maintained? We are very concerned about such things.

FO: You also say that the need is to bring decision-making closer to the citizenry and that the proposed legislation does the complete opposite.

MB: At all levels, whether municipal, at the Regional Municipal Council (MRC) level, all the talk now is for the decentralization of services to connect with citizens. What the Minister did was completely the opposite. Of course, at the level of the regional health agencies, we often asked ourselves if that was the most appropriate form to have in the health care system. Regarding the level of bureaucracy in health care facilities, there is so much paper work that sometimes it takes more than half of our working day. We agree that there are too many managers and we need to invest more in services but there is no guarantee that the monies [from the cutbacks in Bill 10] will go to patient services.

With the 2003 mergers that created the Health and Social Services Centres (CSSSs), it was assumed there would be great savings and in the end we found that there may have been fewer executive directors, but the executive directors had been turned into counsellors.

FO: You also talk about the impact this will have on working conditions, collective agreements, perhaps even on union affiliations.

MB: If you look at the bill as it is now, there would be one employer per region, per geographic area. In the Gaspésie region, which is about 1,000 kilometres wide, there are several collective agreements and seniority lists. Currently the job security regulation restricts transfers to 50 kilometres, but now there will be one employer for the entire region, which means that someone may have to be relocated as far as 500 to 600 kilometres away. I don't know if the Minister thought about all of the impacts. This could mean we end up with a single collective agreement for an area, which would mean renegotiating the local collective agreements.

We can also expect changes in terms of how unions operate. Ours is a regional union. We cover two areas, the Gaspésie and part of the Lower St. Lawrence. In the region there are unions from other affiliations. They are local unions and will find themselves forced to change their structure into a regional union. There are a lot of impacts in terms of union representation. For example, in the Gaspésie, our union represents the majority of CSSSs but there is a CSSS in Haute Gaspésie with the Inter-Professional Health Federation (FIQ). That's their choice. This means there will be a vote and they could end up being part of another union because there will be a union certification for the entire region. There will be union affiliation votes as there were with the Charest government. Bill 10 specifically refers to the application of Bill 30 with regard to the new mergers. Bill 30 was the Charest government's law that forced union mergers. There could very well be more.

FO: What would you like to say in conclusion?

MB: We were never consulted on the bill. It is a very controversial bill, which perhaps corresponds to the need for administrative reform, but it's as if they threw the baby out with the bath water.

It has nothing to do with improving patient services. This is restructuring. In the health care system we've had enough. Each time you change ministers there is a reform, it seems every minister wants to make his mark but we're the ones who work in the system and have to endure all these reorganizations. People are tired, overworked. We love our jobs and we want to be able to do them properly.

(Originally published in Forum ouvrier, October 2014. Translated from original French by Chantier politique. Photo: CUPE.)

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