After weeks of negotiations, Quebec’s common front of public sector unions, known as the Front commun, reached an agreement in principle with the provincial government on both pay and working conditions.
At a news conference on Sunday, the common front, which represents about 420,000 public sector heath-care and education workers, announced that it had reached the agreement at the end of December.
It said the next step is for its members to sign off on the agreement.
On salaries, the common front leaders have agreed to a 17.4 per cent increase over five years, with a six per cent increase for the first year — what it calls the largest salary bump since 1979 — retroactive to April 1, 2023.
That’s lower than the 20 per cent the common front called for when workers first hit the picket lines, but higher than the 12.7 per cent over five years the Quebec government proposed in early December and nearly double the 9 per cent Quebec proposed the previous year leading up to the strike.
The common front says the agreement also includes gains on working conditions, including the right to a fifth week of vacation after 15 years of seniority, phased retirement extended to seven years, an additional day off for expecting parents and higher contributions to health insurance plans from employers.
Psychologists working in the public health-care and education systems will receive a 10 per cent salary increase.
The common front will be calling general assembly meetings from Jan. 15 to Feb. 19, when members from more than 300 affiliated unions will vote to accept or reject the agreement.
Barry Eidlin, a McGill University labour expert who studies social movements, says the agreement in principle shows significant movement on behalf of the Quebec government.
“They have really refused to negotiate over the past year, and it looks like after a series of strikes and massive mobilizations — combined with the show of public support — that they finally realized that they had to actually come to the bargaining table,” said Eidlin.
A simple majority vote will decide, said François Enault, vice-president of the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN), one of the unions that make up the common front.
He said they have succeeded despite the Quebec government’s attempts to divide them.
Quebec Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel said the government’s offer reflects its will to be an attractive employer and ensure the sustainability of public networks.
“If these agreements are ratified by union members, we will improve the working environment while promoting access to quality services in our hospitals and schools,” she said in a statement.
The common front unions went on strike for 11 days in 2023.
WATCH | Quebecers are striking for better workplace wages and conditions: