State engineers on general strike from April 22

The 1,800 engineers of the Government of Quebec will start an indefinite general strike on April 22, which could paralyze dozens of construction sites in the middle of the major roadwork season and delay the study of multiple provincial or municipal infrastructure projects, in addition to projects private companies subject to environmental assessment procedures.

Posted at 7:00 a.m.

Bruno Bisson

Bruno Bisson
The Press

The president of the Professional Association of Quebec Government Engineers (APIGQ), Marc-André Martin, confirmed to The Press at the end of the day Friday the sending of an official notice to the Secretariat of the Treasury Board for an unlimited general strike in two weeks, if no significant reconciliation intervened by then on the salary question. Negotiations have been dragging on for two years, and around fifty discussion meetings between the parties have failed to resolve the impasse.

Without giving details, APIGQ said that a salary offer received Thursday “will not improve the problem of attracting and retaining expertise”, because their salaries remain uncompetitive with the private sector. .

“Overall, says Mr. Martin, we are told that if we want to earn more money, we have to work more. In principle, we are not against. Our engineers want to be more involved in government projects. A majority of members are already working more hours than what is scheduled. »

But engineers are good with numbers, and it doesn’t take them long to figure out that making more money by working more hours isn’t a pay raise.

Marc-André Martin, President of APIGQ

Joined by The Press Friday, Minister Sonia LeBel’s press attaché, Florence Plourde, commented on the filing of the strike notice, assuring that Quebec had “filed [jeudi] a significant offer which meets the concerns raised [par le syndicat]. This is a pay rise and proposals that demonstrate how seriously the government takes engineers.”

“Now, the means of pressure used by the APIGQ belong to it, indicated Mr.me Ploude by email. We will continue negotiations and still want to reach an agreement quickly. »

Delayed works

There are more than 1,800 engineers employed by the Quebec government, of which 1,200, or about two-thirds, work at the Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ). More than 300 APIGQ members work at the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change. The others are scattered in about twenty other government departments, agencies or commissions (Building Authority, CNESST, etc.).

In the event of a general strike, says Marc-André Martin, the MTQ road sites monitored by state engineers would all be stopped. Construction projects that are not already out for tender would line up waiting for the required signatures.

Municipalities waiting for grants for water and sewer projects should wait while no one analyzes their projects. And private developers who do not yet have their environmental authorization certificate to build may have to postpone deadlines.

“We currently have a project for preliminary work for the new Île d’Orléans bridge,” added the president of APIGQ. If this work does not start this year, it could result in a one-year delay in the start of construction of the new bridge. »

Marc-André Martin ensures, however, that the APIGQ will not hesitate to interrupt its pressure tactics if a situation that could put the health or safety of the public at risk should arise, such as contamination in a drinking water system or a breakage unexpected on a major bridge or infrastructure.

For the population in general, assures the union leader, the only tangible effect of an engineers’ strike on daily life is that there may be fewer orange cones everywhere in Quebec.

The union wishes to negotiate on the basis of the recommendations of the Gendreau report, tabled in 2019 by a committee created jointly with Quebec and which was chaired by a former judge at the Court of Appeal. The report recommended a substantial salary increase to attract new engineers, retain existing engineers, and improve the state’s engineering expertise.

According to data on employee compensation from the Quebec Institute of Statistics, Quebec government engineers earn, on average, 34% less than the average of other public sector engineers, who also work in Quebec. The catch-up, estimates the APIGQ, would cost 60 million to the Quebec Treasury, and would continue to weigh from year to year on the payroll of the State.

Comparative annual salaries of engineers according to public employers

  • Government of Quebec : $82,775
  • Quebec municipalities: $97,593
  • Average of other public sector engineers: $108,363
  • Parastatals: $111,611
  • Government of Canada: $112,168

Source: Statistical Institute of Quebec, 2020

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