THE BLOG

Growing Social Inequalities Are a Major Issue in Quebec

10/01/2015 05:27 EDT | Updated 10/01/2016 05:12 EDT
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Again this week, I'm going to talk to you about social inequalities. Some might think that this issue isn't important in Quebec. Yet the data show a particularly disturbing growth in inequalities. In my opinion, our struggles must converge on the fight against growing social inequalities.

On the weekend, I saw a chart on Facebook that I found very telling.

Of total collective gains, 1.1 per cent went to pay, while 98.9 per cent went elsewhere. Starting from these figures, I wondered if there wasn't a way of getting at the more specific situation of workers in health care and social services and in child care.

This is what I found.

I looked at three kinds of data covering the periods of our last two collective agreements (2005 to 2014 inclusively). I looked at changes in our pay, changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and finally the increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which, rightly or wrongly, is what the elites use to measure the growth in collective wealth.

Pay (2005 - 2014)

The pay parameters increased by 13 per cent over 10 years.

CPI (2005 - 2014)

According to Statistics Canada, the CPI rose by 17 per cent during the same period. So considering inflation between 2005 and 2014, the rates of pay for workers in health care and social services and childcare services fell behind inflation by 28.96 per cent.

GDP (2005 - 2014)

Thanks to the contribution made by the population as a whole, the GDP increased by 53 per cent during the same period -- despite a drop in 2009 after the worldwide recession. In other words, our collective wealth increased much more than the pay of the people who work in the public sector. How much more? 305 per cent more!

For years now, the benefits of growing wealth have been concentrated in the hands of an elite. The vast majority of the population doesn't benefit at all. The thousands of Couche-Tard employees don't benefit from the increase in the GDP, but the owner of Couche-Tard does. Bank profits have risen, but ordinary men and women continue to pay higher and higher fees for even minimal bank services.

So how does this relate to public-sector bargaining?

The government's strategy for bargaining is the same one it used for pensions in the municipal sector: divide and conquer. Millions of Quebecers don't have pensions and face the prospect of living in poverty in old age, but instead of finding a solution for this, the government decides to attack the people who do have pensions.

Instead of getting the money where it is -- for instance, in corporations that rake it in but don't invest in the real economy, or in tax havens -- the elite that governs us continues to seek to divide the middle class. Social inequalities have grown far too much. The problem isn't the creation of wealth, it's the distribution of wealth! Our collective bargaining is a step towards a fairer sharing of wealth in Quebec.

At the FSSS-CSN, we are taking strike votes all across Quebec as part of our resistance to the government's plans. Obviously, I have a responsibility that I take very seriously: representing 130,000 people who are proud of providing quality services in health care, social services and child care.

But in the coming months, I will also join with any other group that wants to do whatever it can to fight the growing social inequalities offered by our governments. If we don't take a stand and resist in the coming months, we face years of setbacks on this.

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