Outaouais Nurses Continue to Organize in Defence of Their Rights

Nurses in the Outaouais are stepping up their actions against demands for concessions by their employer, the Integrated Health and Social Services Centre of the Outaouais (CISSSO). This is taking place within the framework of negotiations for the renewal of their collective agreement. Negotiations are taking place under the umbrella of the antisocial restructuring of the health care system that was intensified under the Couillard majority government.

On Monday, October 15, members of the Union of Care Professionals of the Outaouais (SPSO) organized a sit-in in a hallway on the seventh floor of the Gatineau Hospital, near the the offices of Human Resources, to express their dissatisfaction over local negotiations.

The following day, a wall of lemon boxes appeared outside the entrance of the CISSSO’s administrative offices. Nurses had placed 2,800 lemons there to award the organization’s CEO the « lemon prize as the worst employer of the health care network. » Through that gesture, they underscored the fact that CISSSO is the only organization not to have concluded a negotiated agreement with its health care professionals affiliated with the Inter-Professional Health Care Federation (FIQ). A giant puppet with a photo of the CISSSO’s Chief Operating Officer as its head, sat reigning over the lemon crates. « He’s squeezing the juice out of 2,800 health care professionals in the Outaouais, » decried SPSO President Lyne Plante.

As a result of their actions in mobilizing public opinion in support of their cause, nurses have obtained new negotiation sessions, as those formerly planned were cancelled by the employer. One of the concessions being demanded is that nurses travel many kilometres to work in various facilities, at the discretion of the employer. Nurses reject that demand as they see it as an erosion of their working conditions and as something that runs counter the quality of care. They declared that this aggravation in conditions could lead to an exodus of nurses to Ontario.

That employer demand is a direct result of the reform of the health care network implemented by the Couillard government, which established mega-facilities over very vast territories and centralized power in the hands of the minister of health, who has the power to nominate and revoke the executive boards of these mega-establishments.

Rather than defending health care personnel, the CEO of CISSSO maintains that moving nurses over the vast Outaouais territory is necessary because of the region’s « geographic reality » and a « labour shortage. » As nurses have pointed out, the shortage was entirely created through the worsening of conditions in the health care network and is being used as the pretext to further aggravate them.

The SPSO is inviting its members and the population at large to complete an online form to send an email message to the CISSSO CEO demanding that it facilitate negotiations in order to arrive at a negotiated agreement acceptable to nurses.

The form can be completed by visiting the SPSO Facebook page.

(Photos: SPSO)