Montreal

80,000 Quebec health-care workers kick off 2-day strike, announce another walkout later this month

Tens of thousands of Quebec health-care professionals are striking Wednesday and Thursday, calling for improved working conditions and better pay.

Workers will strike again Nov. 23, 24 over salary, working conditions

People holding signs on the side of the road during a strike.
About 80,000 health-care workers are on strike Wednesday and Thursday to demand better work conditions from the Quebec government. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Tens of thousands of Quebec health-care professionals are striking for the next two days and already promising another 48-hour walkout later this month to "keep putting pressure on the government." 

The interprofessional health-care workers' union, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé (FIQ), said that last month, 95 per cent of its members, which include nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists, voted in October in favour of this week's strike.

In a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, around midnight, FIQ president Julie Bouchard announced two more strike days on Nov. 23 and 24. 

"We're capable, we're united, but above all, we're determined to get better working conditions," she said. 

Wednesday's strike comes after 420,000 public sector workers walked off the job Monday as part of a one-day strike to protest the Quebec government's latest contract offer, disrupting schools, health-care facilities and social services. 

Kristina Hoare, the union's vice-president, said that even during a strike, 80 per cent of services must be maintained. But some services, like vaccination, may be slowed down.

Regional health boards that are affected by the strike said only those with appointments will be able to get vaccinated while employees strike. Emergency rooms and intensive care units will not be affected, they said.

As for surgeries, the health boards said they planned in advance to avoid cancellations. However, the Centre Hospitalier de L'Université de Montréal (CHUM) said it postponed five non-urgent surgeries because of the strike.

Health Minister Christian Dubé told journalists a total of about 1,000 non-urgent surgeries would be delayed in the province by the strike. He said this would also affect those on the waiting list for elective procedures.

"I know it's a difficult time," he said. 

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Quebec public sector workers have started striking. Here's why

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Naveed Hussain, who works as a nurse and teacher, says he's picked up three jobs to be able to support his family.

"As an institution, we respect our employees' right to demonstrate. We are working to limit, as much as possible, the impact these strike days could have on our users," said Jean Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.

The union is demanding better work conditions and higher pay. Hoare says the latest offers from the provincial government "really are insulting to health-care workers."

The Coalition Avenir Québec government's latest offer would have had employee's base salary increased between nine and 10.3 per cent over five years, which the union says is not enough.

Quebec Premier François Legault told journalists Wednesday that his government is offering night-shift nurses a 17.3 per cent raise over five years, while inflation is forecast to be 12.7 per cent for the same period.

"We've been talking about it for years that our working conditions are far from ideal. We work long hours with very high patient ratios," said Hoare.

"It's really important that we all stick together and that we fight for better working conditions because, at the end of the day, it gives better care to the population."

If a better offer isn't made, more strike actions are on the table, said Hoare.

Treasury Board President Sonia Lebel told journalists Wednesday that her administration is working to "make sure services are improved." 

"Every dollar that will be invested at the end of this negotiation by the public should give results for the public," she said.

Nine Québec Solidaire MNAs joined FIQ strikers on the picket lines.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erika Morris

CBC News journalist

Erika Morris is a journalist at CBC Montreal.

With files from Steve Rukavina

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