JACFA Négo Update: Gearing up for GA on March 11

Dear colleagues,

In preparation for our General Assembly on Thursday, 5:30 p.m., we wanted to give you an update on the Collective Agreement negotiations and mobilization, and the reasons why we believe the actions proposed in the CSN-FNEEQ motion are warranted. The report will be divided into two installments. Today we will cover the key Central Table issues, which deal with our salary, pension, and parental benefits. Tomorrow we will give an update and analysis of our Sectoral Table demands, covering working conditions specific to Cegep teachers.

Central Table Stalled, offers fall short of our key demands.

On salary, the table below reflects the government’s latest offer and CSN’s counter-proposal

 Government’s May, 2020 offerCSN’s June, 2020 counter-proposal
Year 11.75%$2/hr. increase
Year 21.75%$0.75/hr. or 2.2 % whichever is better
Year 3$.40/hr. increase for job-salary rankings 1-11 1.5% for rankings of 12 to 28 (Cegep teachers rank at 23)$0.75/hr. or 2.2 % whichever is better
Other provisions$0.44/hour lump sum payments for years 1 and 2 of 1-11) $0.33/hour lump sum payments for years 1 and 2 (12-28 ranking) 
  Inflation protection measures

While the two sides may appear numerically similar, there are in fact significant differences when applied to actual workers’ salaries. For instance, workers on the lower end of salary rankings (ranks 1 to 5, comprising roughly 7% of the total public sector workforce) have an average salary of $19 to $20 per hour, and annual salary of $37.000 to $38,500. For those workers, a $2/hour increase would mean roughly a 10% salary increase. Even the $0.75/hour increase proposed for year 3 would mean an increase of roughly 4%.

One of our key goals for this current round of negotiations, determined before the onset of the pandemic, was to close the wage gap in the public sector. While Cegep teachers are not the principally-targeted beneficiaries of this type of salary demand—due to our higher salary rankings, better pay for lower-paid workers holds important implications for us on another front: namely, the maintenance and possible improvement of our public services, particularly in the health and social service sectors.

As we have been regularly reminded in recent news reports, the current pandemic has exposed major, pre-existing structural shortcomings in the health and social service sectors. One key cause of these problems has been the terrible pay and working conditions of workers in the sectors; this has led to worker burnout and low retention rates, and consequently, massive labour shortages in our hospitals and long-term care facilities. The government’s answer has been to offer “Covid bonuses”, failing to recognize that these problems are structural and pre-date the pandemic. If we want to sustain a robust public service, we need to ensure that its workers are fairly paid and treated. The public sector negotiations are a place where Cegep teachers can play a significant role in that campaign; we can take a stand in solidarity with our comrades in the health and social service sectors to demand fair wages and working conditions for all.

Other salary considerations and Central Table demands awaiting resolution

The lump sum amounts offered by the government for years 1 and 2 are problematic because they will not recur in subsequent future years; this stands in contrast with regular salary increases, which are integrated into all future salaries and salary increase calculations. The JACFA General Assembly passed a motion in September 2019 asking our negotiating team to reject lump sum offers.

An inflation protection mechanism for our salary increases remains an important demand for us, particularly in light of recent monetary measures by central banks in response to the pandemic that have increased the likelihood of volatile inflation.

Another Central Table demand important to our members is the divestment of pension funds from fossil-fuel-related companies. Government negotiators have been reluctant to engage with this demand, citing it to be the decision of Caisse de Dépot, the arms-length government corporation responsible for investing the pension fund. This position of course conveniently ignores various instances in the past where the Caisse’s decisions were made with apparent political direction from the government.

Our demands are reasonable, feasible and needed to safeguard public services          

In the 2020-2021 Quebec budget, before the onset of the pandemic, the government predicted a budgetary surplus of $5.4 billion, (including $2.7 billion for the Generations Fund). While the pandemic has certainly curtailed some of those fiscal and economic expectations, the pandemic will end, and the resilient political, financial and technological infrastructures we have in place will ensure that the economy will rebound. In the meantime, we have public services that have suffered years of government austerity measures, budget cuts and underfunding, in some sectors to the breaking point. The pandemic has only highlighted the extent of our neglect and the urgency with which we need to act. We cannot afford to wait until the end of the pandemic, and we certainly cannot wait another two to three years until the next Collective Agreement, before taking the necessary actions to remedy the situation.

Hence, we urge you to join us on Thursday, to send a clear message to the government and to our employer, that in spite of the current extraordinary circumstances, we are ready to step up and do what it takes to get a fair settlement.

In Solidarity,

The JACFA Executive