Negotiating

The battle of retreats (continued)

Among the arguments used by police officers, firefighters and other municipal employees to oppose Bill 3, whose purpose is to ensure the sustainability of their pension plans, there are three main ones.

  1. We voluntarily accepted less pay for a bigger old wool stocking.
  2. Our work is more demanding and riskier than that of any other worker, so we have to retire early.
  3. It was negotiated, we didn’t tape a pen to any mayor’s hand.

About ten days ago, we analyzed the first argument. Let’s go to #2 and #3.

#2 – Danger – Danger
Dangerous and difficult, the jobs of policemen and firemen? No one doubts it. Every funeral of these servants of society who died in the line of duty, with their procession of colleagues from the four corners of America, reminds us of the risks associated with the professions.

In the meantime, however, other men and women in other trades and professions are dying as a result of their professional activities without this making headlines or being the subject of cross-border solidarity.

As is the case with forest workers. Does a logger dying in the forest make noise if there are no cameras to tell his story? According to data from the Institut de recherche en santé et sécurité au travail (IRSST), where the rate of workplace deaths-that is, the number of deaths relative to the number of workers-is highest is in the forest industry. For every 10,000 workers, 8 will die in an average year. And in sawmills, it is 2.
In the mines, it’s almost three. In factories, on construction sites, and on roads, more or less one per 10,000 employees.

For example, in construction, 19 workers are injured every day. Every week, one worker is electrocuted, electrified, burned or learns that he or she has a lung disease caused by his or her job. In 2002, 33 workers died on construction sites. By 2011, we had managed to significantly improve the toll, with “only 11 deaths”.

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What about the police? There have been 9 deaths in the last 10 years, for a death rate of 0.6. Less than half are homicides: of the 119 police deaths since 1960, 44 were killed by criminals. In terms of work-related injuries, studies show that the relative frequency of accidents in the police force was about the same as in the labour force as a whole. The sectors cited above all have a higher frequency of work-related injuries and illnesses than that observed in the labour force as a whole.

Among firefighters, there have been some 400 accidents at work annually since 2005. Three have died since that year. This includes accident statistics for volunteer firefighters, who make up 80% of the province’s workforce. Proportionally, that’s half as many as in construction, an industry responsible for almost 8,000 accidents each year, for a workforce of about 150,000 workers on average (compared to 22,000 firefighters).

#3 – They’ve signed!
In fact, the pension plans of all municipal union members are the result of duly negotiated and signed collective agreements.

But unlike other unionized workers, particularly those in the private sector, municipal employees do not face the risk of being locked out by management. Or, like employees of the provincial and federal governments, to suffer the wrath of special legislation.
For many years, mayors have been calling for the right to lock out in order, they say, to rebalance the balance of power.

Although municipal union members are subject to the Essential Services Act, limiting the effect of their strikes, the wage and working conditions in general that they have been able to achieve take them to the top of the public sector workers. For many observers, the imbalance denounced by the mayors is in large part the result of that.

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