The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 2           January 16, 2006  
Faced with public workers strikes,
Quebec gov’t imposes concessions
(front page)
TORONTO—Tens of thousands of workers in health, education, and other government departments in Quebec walked off their jobs and took part in demonstrations and other actions to press their contract demands over the past several months. In face of these protests, the provincial Liberal government of Premier Jean Charest called a special session of Quebec’s parliament December 15 and passed Law 142. The legislation imposed a contract on nearly 500,000 unionized public-sector workers.

The law includes the threat of stiff fines against the workers and their unions for any strikes during the life of the contract, which expires in 2010.

Marcel Massé, president of the Quebec Federation of Labor (FTQ), and Claudette Carbonneau, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), both denounced the government’s action as “totally unjustified.” André Boisclair, recently elected leader of the pro-sovereignty Parti Quebecois (PQ), said he will not reopen the contracts imposed by the Liberal government if the PQ is returned to office in the next Quebec provincial elections expected in 2007 or 2008.

Without a contract since June 30, 2003, the public-sector unions in the FTQ and CSN formed a common front to strengthen their fight for a pact. Wages were at the center of the conflict. The unions were demanding wage increases of 12.5 percent over three years. Law 142 imposed the government’s initial offer of 8 percent over six years. This includes a wages freeze in the first two years and 2 percent increases in each of the four subsequent years.

Since last June, public sector workers have carried out a series of rotating strikes and rallies throughout Quebec to win support for their fight and force the government to negotiate. On December 13, 80,000 government workers in the Montreal area walked out. The next day tens of thousands of workers in other regions around Quebec held marches and rallies blocking key highways.

During its December 15 special session, parliament also passed Law 124, which institutes changes to the system of child-care centers (CPEs) in Quebec. Opponents of the law—including CPE workers, trade union federations, and many parents—said the law will raise the cost of child care and make it less available. Some 12,000 opponents of Law 124 from many regions of Quebec demonstrated in Montreal November 27.

In 1997 the PQ government introduced CPEs at a cost of $5 per day. The Liberal government has since raised it to $7 a day.

The three Communist League candidates for the House of Commons in the January 23 federal election—Michel Prairie in Toronto-Centre, John Steele in Eglinton-Lawrence, and Beverly Bernardo in Parkdale-High Park (all Toronto-area ridings, or electoral districts)—released a statement calling for the repeal of these antilabor laws.

“Laws 142 and 124 are a blow not only to workers in Quebec but to workers across the country,” said the statement. “The antiunion legislation is part of the drive of the employers to make working people pay for the growing crisis of their profit system. The entire labor movement should demand the Quebec government repeal these anti-worker laws and accept a negotiated settlement with the Quebec government workers’ unions based on their just demands.”
Related articles:
Communist League candidates in Canada campaign with working-class platform
Tensions rise between U.S., Canadian governments  
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