Quebec and public workers unions reach agreement-in-principle

After months of negotiations, pressure tactics and rotating strike days, Quebec's public workers and the government have reached an agreement-in-principle.

400,000 public servants, including teachers and health care workers, to vote on deal in January

Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux says the proposed deal respects the province’s financial constraints. Workers will vote on the agreement-in-principle in January. (Radio-Canada)

After months of negotiations, pressure tactics and rotating strike days, Quebec's public workers and the government have reached an agreement-in-principle.

Martin Coiteux, the Treasury Board president, announced that the two sides reached a deal Thursday afternoon.

"After many hours of work, work that was very constructive, I'm able to confirm that we have an agreement-in-principle with the Front Commun," Coiteux said.

'Rigorous and fruitful' talks

"The work was rigorous and fruitful," said Louise Chabot, president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, adding that the unions will recommend to their membership acceptance of the proposed deal.

The common front of public-sector workers' unions represents 400,000 public servants, including teachers, health care professionals, caretakers and white-collar workers.

The workers have been without a collective agreement since April.

Over the last few months, union members said they were dissatisfied with the slow pace of the bargaining talks.

The two sides started off "light years" apart, with unions demanding a 13.5 per cent pay increase over three years. The government proposed a three per cent increase over five years. That included a two-year salary freeze, as well as changing workers' retirement age from 60 to 62.

Unions, angry with the government's counter-offers, said negotiations continued to lag, and members voted overwhelmingly in support of holding six rotating strike days throughout the fall.

Details of Thursday's agreement-in-principle are not being released.

"We won't go into details about the content of the agreement... to give them a chance to present the details to their membership," Coiteux said.

"It's an agreement that comes in the context of a difficult budget situation. That was a particular challenge in this situation, but we were able to do things that were really positive and respect the financial constraints. So we're happy about that."

A news conference is to be held on Saturday in Montreal, at which time more information about the proposed deal will be revealed.

Union members will vote on the agreement-in-principle in January.

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