Pierre Chénier —
In a press briefing on Monday, October 15, unions and community organizations warned the Legault government that its commitment to cut 5,000 public sector jobs is unacceptable. They also called for the adoption of measures against precarious working conditions, which are becoming more prevalent in Quebec, as elsewhere in Canada. Their demands include an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, at least five days advance notice on work schedules and at least 10 paid days off for sick leave and family reasons for all workers in Quebec.
During this press briefing, Christian Daigle, President of the Quebec Public Service Union (SFPQ), declared that the erosion of the public service during the Couillard government years has already resulted in a serious decrease in services in the regions, which must be reversed.
« Cuts to the public service means cutting right to the bone, as for a long time now there has been no fat left to cut, » said Richard Perron, President of the Quebec Government Professionals Union (SPGQ).
Perron was referring to Premier Legault’s statement that by reducing the number of public service workers he aims to reduce « waste » that, in his opinion, exists and claims this will not affect services. This is a mantra of the neo-liberal anti-social offensive, the so-called differentiation between administrative services and direct services to the population, to justify the dismantling of public services as a whole and their privatization.
Result of Cuts in the Ministries of Transport and Public Safety
The Ministry of Transport has been one of the most heavily cut ministries since the early 1990s. Its staff has been cut by about half and a great deal of its activities have been transferred to the private sector along with the staff itself. As well, experienced civil safety personnel working within the Ministry of Public Safety were encouraged to leave and the number of technicians and the workforce have seen an absolute reduction from 2004 to 2016.
This was clearly seen in the Public Safety and Transport ministries’ disastrous management during the snow storm that hit Quebec from March 11 to 16, 2017. Hundreds of people were stuck in their cars on a highway for periods ranging from four to 13 hours, without assistance except for motorists helping each other out and firefighters directly intervening as a result of the absence of intervention by the relevant departments. At least six people died during that period in various Quebec regions.
Public sector and other workers oppose such wrecking, both on their own behalf and on ours.