BUSINESS

Public Sector Workers Angry Over Government's Contract Offer

12/15/2014 07:24 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST
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Quebec's major union federations are rejecting the government's contract offer for public sector workers.

Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux unveiled the government's contract offer Monday afternoon.

It includes a two-year salary freeze, and an increase in the workers’ retirement age from 60 to 62.

“It’s worse than we even imagined in our worst nightmares,” said Sylvain Mallette, president of Quebec’s independent teachers’ federation.

“It’s an outrage and a profound indignity,” agreed Louise Chabot, a spokeswoman for the union Secrétariat intersyndical des services publics (SISP).

About half a million public-sector workers in Quebec will be without a contract at the end of March.

What’s on the table

Unions were demanding a 13.5 per cent wage increase over the next three years.

Coiteux said those demands would add at least $10 billion to the deficit, and said workers must do their part to help balance the budget.

“We won't increase taxes on Quebecers to finance increase in salary. We won't do that," Coiteux said.

The government’s proposal includes a public employee wage freeze for 2 years -- and a one per cent increase in each of the following three years.

The retirement age would rise by two years — from 60 to 62 — and pensions would be based on an employee's best eight years instead of five.

The government has already announced it wants to reduce the size of the Quebec civil service by two per cent.

“It's an outrage and a profound indignity,” said Francine Lévesque, vice-president of the CSN union-federation.

Quebec's public sector workers said the government is punishing the middle class.

“Why not go after corporations that use tax havens and don't pay their part?” said Mallette.

Quebec Solidaire spokeswoman Françoise David is also disappointed with the offer.

“We are seeing once again a Couillard government attack against women,” David said, adding that women make up 75 per cent of the public-sector workforce.

Union leaders said they will stay at the bargaining table as negotiations continue, but said things are off to a very bad start.

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