Nurses must do overtime Monday, but only in cases of emergency, labour tribunal rules

The overtime strike organized by Quebec’s largest nurses union will proceed as planned Monday — but with certain restrictions.

Nurses union calls decision a victory because it states overtime should be used in 'urgent' situations

Monday's strike has also been organized to remind the Coalition Avenir Québec government that it promised nurses it would put an end to mandatory overtime. (Chantal Poirier/CP file photo)

The overtime strike organized by Quebec's largest nurses union will proceed as planned Monday — but with certain restrictions imposed on the nurses by the province's administrative labour tribunal.

The tribunal ruled Friday that nurses would be expected to do overtime Monday, but only in the event of an emergency.

The ruling states that on April 8, the nurses "must accept, without conditions, all requests for overtime in urgent and exceptional situations."

The judge presiding over the administrative tribunal, Hélène Bédard, ruled that the FIQ's mandatory overtime strike risked compromising "the service to which the public has a right."

It will be up to employers to determine if a situation is urgent and exceptional, labour tribunal spokesperson Céline Jacob told CBC.

The nurses union, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé (FIQ), is considering the ruling a victory for its 76,000 members.

"A judge recognizes that mandatory overtime has to be used in urgent and exceptional situations," said FIQ president Nancy Bédard in an emailed statement.

"It's a nice victory for the FIQ and healthcare professionals," she said.

It "is not an emergency" when mandatory overtime is planned and scheduled in advance, said FIQ spokesperson Sandra Gagné said last Monday, when the federation called on its members to refuse to work mandatory overtime on April 8.

One union representative called the planned pressure tactic a protest against daily "detention."

"They are forced to stay, and work and they fear reprisals from their employers," said Cindie Soucie, the FIQ head for the Lower St. Lawrence region.

Hospitals prepare for April 8

The strike is meant to remind the Coalition Avenir Québec government that it promised nurses it would put an end to mandatory overtime during last year's election campaign.

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said in a statement the addition of $200 million to her ministry's budget to hire more nurses and other health care workers will mean working conditions will improve by the end of 2019. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Earlier this week, Health Minister Danielle McCann urged health care institutions to plan for the overtime strike and staff accordingly.

She called on nurses who have the health network or retired to return and help with staffing during the overtime strike day.

"I say to our retirees: come back to help your colleagues. We need you!" McCann said in a statement Monday.

Some hospitals have plans in place.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) said it doesn't anticipate it will have to close beds or cancel surgeries because of the overtime strike.

"We have mobilized our teams to thoroughly review the work schedules of all areas of our sites to ensure the quality and safety of our patients' care," MUHC spokesperson Gilda Salomone said.

With files from CBC's Sudha Krishnan