VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATION OF NATIONAL TRADE UNIONS (CSN)
This year, March 8 is a special day for women. For the past year, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of women have been on the front lines to stem the health crisis that is shaking the entire planet. At the same time, a large number of Quebec women are suffering the repercussions of a growing precariousness due to the slowdown in certain economic sectors. Men and women are not equal in the face of crises. And this one is no exception.
Yet, it is well known that women play a leading role in times of crisis. The pandemic has brought to the forefront crucial occupations in which they are over-represented (healthcare workers, educators, teachers and lecturers, support staff, secretaries, cashiers, salespeople, etc.). Women care for us and save lives. They educate and instruct our children, care for the young, help the elderly and the most vulnerable, and support many sectors behind the scenes. We meet them at the counter of grocery stores and pharmacies, where they give us access to essential goods. In hotels and restaurants, where they welcome and serve customers with professionalism. Very present in culture and leisure, they soften the arid corners of our lives. Women are also at the forefront of the great vaccination campaign that will finally allow us to get out of confinement.
According to recent data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec, women and young people aged 15 to 24 are among those most affected by the net loss of 208,500 jobs in 2020 in Quebec. A report by the Observatoire québécois des inégalités and the Association pour la santé publique du Québec pointed out in December that women were twice as likely to lose their jobs as men.
But why is the government insisting on standing up to them in the current negotiations with public sector workers, when they are increasingly abandoning these trades and professions? And why doesn’t it allow those at the bottom of the wage scale, mostly women, to move up a few steps by substantially raising the minimum wage?
This year’s increase will bring it to $13.50 per hour effective May 1. This wage will never succeed in reducing inequalities between women and men and in lifting low wage earners out of poverty. The CAQ should not despise and neglect these jobs, which are more than necessary for the smooth running of the economy.
François Legault acts as a sycophant by praising women, especially those in the health field, without wanting to recognize the value of their work. The reform on occupational health and safety proposed by Minister Jean Boulet is a source of great concern for women, particularly with regard to the recognition of the real levels of risk in this field. If he is open to our concerns, he must make amendments to Bill 59 to that effect. Otherwise, what will the Prime Minister do when they have abandoned public services, exhausted by the hard work and the glaring loss of earnings in terms of working conditions and health and safety?
Finding staff: a puzzle
Until not so long ago, labour shortages were on everyone’s lips. Due to a lack of staff, restaurants and grocery stores remained closed on certain evenings or Sundays. Staff turnover at dizzying heights in private seniors’ residences resulted – and still does – in aberrant situations, such as maintenance workers being forced to serve meals at lunchtime. The indecency of the wages paid by employers in these residences certainly had something to do with it.
Once the crisis is over, the labour shortage problem will remain. Will François Legault persist in his inaction? It is this same Legault who, in 2012, advocated the importance of increasing teaching salaries to attract more men to the profession and tweeted that “girls attach less importance to salary than boys”. Through his inertia, he demonstrates that his thinking has remained the same and that there is no need to concretely recognize the work accomplished by women. It’s irrelevant to him.
While the health crisis continues its course, the Premier of Quebec has already announced his intention to return to a balanced budget in five years. Most observers agree that this objective cannot be achieved without major cuts in public services. It is undeniable that women will have enabled Quebec society to get through the pandemic. And what will they gain as a bonus for their dedication? A one-way ticket