Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Labor tribunal: Quebec will have to pay 315,000 ;$ to seven health unions

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Minister of Health, Christian Dubé (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

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The court orders the government to Quebec, to the Minister of Health Christian Dubé and to the employers' health negotiating committee to pay the sum of $315,000, distributed among seven health unions, because he obstructed their activities and negotiated in bad faith.

The Administrative Labor Tribunal (TAT) declares that the Government of Quebec, Minister Dubé and the employer negotiating committee failed in their obligation to negotiate in good faith and hindered the activities of the seven health unions which had filed a complaint. He also orders them to stop doing it.

The dispute related to a directive from the Ministry of Health which related to double-rate overtime pay, in the context of COVID-19 and staff shortages in the summer of 2022, without any prior negotiation with the unions.

They complained that by proceeding unilaterally, Quebec had modified the conditions of remuneration for overtime provided for in the collective agreements. They saw it as an obstacle to union activities and a breach of the obligation to negotiate in good faith.

In its decision, the Administrative Labor Tribunal harshly criticizes the employer side.

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The Court can only note the delinquent conduct of the defendants in a crucial phase, while the organizations are undertaking negotiations for the renewal of collective agreements, writes administrative judge Line Lanseigne.

The evidence clearly reveals that there was no consultation or negotiation to modify these working conditions negotiated in the collective agreements following a rigorous process consistent with the requirements of the Code and applicable laws. This way of acting ignores the role of the associations as exclusive bargaining agent. What's more, it demonstrates total disrespect for the collective bargaining process, adds the Court.

Obviously, such insidious actions, like those of the defendants, aim to "embarrass, stop, slow down or hinder union activities". They directly and inevitably break the balance of power and undermine the most fundamental role of associations: the negotiation of the working conditions of their members.

A quote from Line Lanseigne, administrative judge

The role of the MSSS (Ministry of Health) in ensuring the proper functioning of the health system and social services is easily reconciled with the right to collective bargaining enjoyed by union organizations, she adds.

She herself emphasizes that this is a repeat offense on the part of the government. Worse still, the MSSS and the CPNSSS (Employer Negotiating Committee) reproduce government behavior similar to that which was condemned on three occasions by the Court. Although some of these decisions have been appealed, there is a presumption of validity of these decisions, she recalls.

Consequently, the Government of Quebec, the employer negotiating committee and Minister Dubé will have to pay $45,000 in punitive damages to each of the seven complainants: the FIQ, the APTS, the Health Federation affiliated with the CSQ, the CUPE affiliated with the FTQ, the Quebec Union of Service Employees affiliated with the FTQ, the Federation of Professionals affiliated with the CSN and the Federation of health and social services affiliated with the CSN.

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