The FIQ (Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé) nurses union is expressing its anger and disappointment after the Quebec government decided to stop paying the 3.5% bonus to all nurses in the coming days. This move has been particularly controversial given the current struggle to retain nurses within the public network.
The FIQ, which represents 80,000 nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, and clinical perfusionists, has publicly denounced the suspension of the bonus payment. The union argues that the bonus, which was negotiated during the renewal of the 2020-2023 collective agreement, is not related to health emergencies. Instead, it is a recognition bonus and a form of differentiated remuneration for nurses.
“The ultimate insult is that the government has announced that it is cutting the FIQ premium by 3.5 per cent for all care professionals. This, I insist, was not a COVID measure. It was a measure negotiated as part of the last collective agreement. The government, Ms. LeBel, wanted to make a differentiated offer for care professionals. And that’s how we came to grant a 3.5 per cent bonus to all care professionals. And now they’re telling us they’re cutting it. That, I must admit, I don’t understand,” said FIQ Vice-President Jérôme Rousseau in an interview.
However, the Treasury Board has a different perspective on the matter. The board confirmed that it would stop paying the bonus but argued that it was aimed at recognizing care professionals following the resumption of activities due to the offloading resulting from the pandemic.
“It was in recognition of their essential role in the reorganization of clinical activities brought about by the pandemic,” explains Minister Sonia LeBel’s office.
The Treasury Board also claims that while the bonus was negotiated with the union, it was set to expire on March 30, 2023. The board denies removing the bonus, stating that they are “just ceasing to pay amounts that were still being paid, despite the fact that the health emergency has been over since May 2022.”
The CSQ and CSN, which also represent nurses, confirmed that their nurses were affected as well. These two union organizations belonging to the Common Front stated that the bonus was provided for in a letter of agreement.
Despite the Treasury Board president’s new offer, which was tabled on Sunday and included the announcement concerning these bonuses, Rousseau feels that “we’re moving further away” rather than closer, at a time when Quebec says it wants to renew collective agreements by the end of December.
In addition to the bonus issue, the FIQ is disappointed with Quebec’s salary offers and the mobility requirements expected of nurses. Minister LeBel announced on Sunday that her offer of a 9% salary increase over five years for all government employees had now been increased to 10.3%. However, the lump sum of $1,000 for the first year remains unchanged, and the amount equivalent to 2.5% earmarked for government priorities, such as differentiated offers, has been increased to 3%.
Overall, the decision to stop the 3.5% bonus for nurses has caused significant upset among the nursing community and the FIQ union, with both sides holding firm in their positions. As the situation continues to unfold, it will be interesting to see how this impacts the ongoing negotiations for the renewal of collective agreements.