On Wednesday, October 17, some 500 public sector workers, members of the CSN, demonstrated in front of the main building of the National Assembly to challenge the new government on the state of public services, following years of budget cuts. The event was staged as the CSN held a consultation forum in Quebec City on the next round of public sector bargaining.
The protesters testified to the significant deterioration of their working conditions and the serious impact of the neo-liberal austerity agenda on services to the population. They demanded major investments in public services.
Speaking about the health care and social services network, Ginette Langlois, President of the Federation of Professionals (FP-CSN) said, « The creation of mega-facilities resulting from institutional mergers has led to a real and unfortunate dehumanization of services. Work is no longer the same, professional autonomy has been eroded. We ask the prospective Minister of Health to take into consideration the expertise of professionals and technicians, so that their work takes on its full meaning. » Among the problems that were raised regarding these networks is the major shortage in personnel, created by the deterioration of working conditions, the overload on the people still working in the system and a general climate of devalorization of work, which greatly affects morale.
With regard to the education sector, serious concerns were raised about the precarious working conditions that are increasingly developing among teaching and support staff and the increased tailoring of education and training for « market needs. » The protestors strongly also opposed the Legault government’s promise to abolish school boards, seeing this as a step towards an anti-social restructuring of the entire education sector similar to that of the health care sector under the Liberals. « We do not want a Barette-style reform in education, » asserted Nathalie Arguin, President of the Federation of Public Services Employees (FEESP-CSN).
Before leaving the National Assembly, the demonstrators reminded the new government that the public sector has made a significant contribution and continues to contribute to the development of Quebec and that workers in the education, health care and social services networks and government agencies will be there to defend services to the population in the coming months and years.