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Not Content to Attack Unions, Minister Coiteux Goes After Municipal Autonomy

Amendment to Bill 110

Following a resolution by Sorel-Tracy municipal council this past Monday evening to reject the potential enforcement within its limits of Bill 110, An Act respecting the process of negotiation of collective agreements and the settlement of disputes in the municipal sector, Martin Coiteux, Minister of Municipal Affairs, has taken a provocative step by amending his own bill to empower the government to interfere with the negotiation process concerning the working conditions of employees in the municipal and transportation sectors against the will of the parties involved.

The amendment to section 5 of Bill 110 allows for government intervention in union-employer negotiations. Where the parties might agree to extend negotiations in the interest of arriving at a settlement and put off bringing in a mediator, the minister has just determined that this option will be taken away from them.

The minister speaks of municipal autonomy at the same time as he seeks to impose a term on collective agreements.

The resolution of Sorel-Tracy municipal council sends Minister Coiteux the message that the National Assembly’s adoption of Bill 110 would compromise people’s basic right to negotiate and create a labour relations imbalance between the parties with potentially negative repercussions on the work climate and labour relations in general.

Other municipalities have also expressed their opposition to the bill, including Mont-Joli and Amqui in the Lower St. Lawrence, Rouyn-Noranda and Ville-Marie in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Shawinigan and the Vallée-de-la-Gatineau RCM in the Outaouais region. More may add their names to this list over the coming days.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Fédération des employées et employés de services publics (FEESPCSN) have loudly condemned this latest anti-democratic manoeuvre by the Liberal government.

By trampling on local democracy in this manner, Martin Coiteux is showing that the real purpose of this exercise is not to achieve sound fiscal management of our municipalities but in fact to control our municipalities,” stated CUPE-Quebec president Denis Bolduc. “Even if a local administration wants to maintain harmonious labour relations, the minister will apparently have the last word. It’s shameful!”

For FEESPCSN president Denis Marcoux, the contempt shown by Minister Coiteux toward the province’s municipalities is evident. “These provisions of the bill restrict the freedom of the parties involved to reach a negotiated settlement, in many cases avoiding a labour dispute,” he said. “It’s unheard of! With his actions, Minister Coiteux is undermining the power of mayors and municipal councils to manage their own cities, towns and villages democratically, and they need to be on high alert in this regard.

CUPE-Quebec and the FEESPCSN are coming together to ask mayors and employers to ensure that they grasp the full significance of Bill 110 and the manner in which these provisions reduce their independence. No longer content to attack the unions, Minister Coiteux is now moving on to attack the municipalities, which could be tempted to refrain from invoking this bill, preferring industrial peace over confrontation.

For the two union organizations, which signed a no-raiding pact last week with a view to mounting a common front against the government on this issue, it is difficult to avoid making connections between Minister Coiteux’s tabling of this latest amendment and the stance adopted by Sorel-Tracy municipal council and numerous other municipalities currently in the process of deliberating about following in the footsteps of Mayor Serge Péloquin and his municipal council.

CUPE and the FEESPCSN represent nearly all municipal employees in Quebec.

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