Quebec Paramedics Are Blocking SAQ Warehouses To Protest Their Very Expired Contract

Paramedics are fed-up. No union contract? No booze!

Assistant Editor, MTL Blog
Quebec paramedics protesting outside of the Montreal SAQ distribution centre.

Quebec paramedics protesting outside of the Montreal SAQ distribution centre.

Without a contract since April 2020, Quebec paramedics are now protesting outside the Montreal and Quebec City Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) distribution centres.

According to a February 25 statement released by the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN), the paramedics are still waiting for an offer from the government to respond to the sector's issues. In the meantime, they're protesting directly outside the SAQ, a corporation that brings in major revenue for the government.

"By gathering today to block the two warehouses of the Société des alcools du Québec in Montreal and Quebec City, the paramedics want to highlight that it is not a question of financial means for the government but rather of political will," the union said.

The Quebec paramedics are calling for some major changes, one of which includes a wage adjustment.

The FSSS-CSN stated they want the government to ensure that paramedics' salaries are just as competitive as those of other public safety services and hospital emergency rooms.

"Non-competitive pay contributes to the difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in the sector," the paramedics union said.

The union is also demanding ways to ensure that staff can eat and finish their shifts in time — a shift schedule the FSSS states is "outdated".

The current shift rotation requires paramedics to be available 24 hours a day for 7 consecutive days to respond to emergency calls, the statement said. The FSSS said that paramemics are not stationed in ambulances, but at home — which can easily add 10 minutes to the response time.

"At the heart of our negotiations is the quality of services to the population," says Christian Beaudin, President of the Syndicat des paramédics de l'Estrie CSN. The union states that eliminating these outdated schedules allows for more uniformity in the services that Quebecers are entitled to.

The Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux represents more than 3,600 workers in the pre-hospital sector, paramedics, emergency medical responders (EMRs) and support staff — and they aren't getting the respect they want.

"What we want is to be respected. We want the government to listen to our needs on the ground," says Alexandre Gargourie, President of the CAM-CSN Paramedics' Union.

The blockade at the two SAQ distribution centres is only the beginning for FSSS-CSN. "This large-scale action is a precursor to others to come, the paramedics promise," reads the statement.

In response to the ongoing protests, the SAQ released a statement. "The demonstrators are not SAQ employees, but unionized paramedics affiliated with the CSN who have chosen to target our distribution centres," they said.

As for whether this will impact SAQ's daily operations, they aren't too worried. "These demonstrations have unfortunately disrupted our activities, but we are confident that the consequences on our operations will be minor," the SAQ stated.

Jean Gagnon, a paramedic with Urgences-santé and FSSS-CSN préhospitalier representative also shared his thoughts on the current situation.

"For many years, paramedics have already made a little but of salary catch-up , but we still have a lot of salary catching up to do when we compare ourselves to the emergency field, firefighters, etc., and when we compare ourselves to the medical side like nurses and all that, there is a lack of salary," he said.

Gagnon also touched on the overworking of paramedics and issues with shift work, which he described as "unbearable."

"Yes, these may seem like big demands, but what we want is to get paid again and to have working conditions that are worth their value," Gagnon said. "Our people are at the end of their rope. We're going to make ourselves heard, we're going to blockade these two places, and we're going to make ourselves seen and we hope that the government will understand."

Mike Chaar
Assistant Editor, MTL Blog
Mike Chaar is an Assistant Editor for MTL Blog focused on recalls in Canada and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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