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By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Technicians and professionals from the CIUSSS de l’Estrie—CHUS voted 93 per cent in favour of a 10-day strike mandate, backing the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS).

The APTS represents 60,000 members and, according to provincial representative for the Estrie region Danny Roulx, the government needs to improve working conditions, which starts with a new collective agreement. The offers currently on the table are unsatisfactory.

“The government’s proposals would exacerbate the exodus to the private sector and the already acute labour shortage,” Roulx explained.

This is a clear message to the government, he continued, the APTS is fighting for more than just crumbs. Roulx added that when it comes to employment agencies, private laboratories and the construction industry, they pull out the chequebook without question.

Roulx and the APTS submitted several proposals to the Conseil du trésor in an effort to attract and retain workers in the health and social services network. The union is waiting to hear back from all of its members before striking, though. They will know by mid-May.

He told The Record that the plan is not to use the strike mandate tomorrow or in a month from now. There is a clear problem in the Eastern Townships, Roulx continued, and it’s something that has persisted for more than a decade.

“What we see is we have difficulty with wait-lists, we have difficulty with workforce, and what we see is they will just continue having the same problems,” he said.

There was a significant labour shortage before the pandemic, Proulx added, but COVID-19 exposed all of the problems to the public. There are a lot less people entering professional and technician programs because salaries are low and people are overworked.

“The network has never been as bad as we see it now,” said Roulx. “The pandemic demonstrated that we’re hanging by a thread, so now we’re going to stand up and defend ourselves.”

He also explained the situation with private clinics receiving government contracts and use of x-ray imaging technology. The wait-lists were too long, Proulx continued, but contracting out to private clinics only hurts the public health sector.

“I think it came out last week that private clinics made a 25 per cent profit thanks to all of these contracts that they were given,” he said.

This is a crucial moment for technicians and professionals, they need a morale boost, according to Roulx, they need the public to stand with them. Although there is no strike date set, and nothing planned in the near future, the workers are mobilizing.

“We have some time in front of us,” said Roulx. “the objective is not to use it, the objective is to make a point to the employer, that they understand almost all of the employees are behind us.”

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