Nothing to improve working conditions or halt the exodus of youth protection workers

31 mars 2021

Québec City – The Legault government has officially made youth protection a priority in the current contract talks, but the new offer received today by the APTS  from Treasury Board president Sonia Lebel shows nothing but contempt for thousands of youth workers employed in youth centres and by the DPJ (Director of Youth Protection).

“If this is how the government treats a high-priority issue, imagine how it’s dealing with everything else. It is not just quibbling about whether to pay us four quarters or a dollar – it is seriously shortchanging us and making us lose out,” declared APTS president Andrée Poirier after reviewing the government’s comprehensive offer. “If Ms. Lebel thinks she’s going to halt the current exodus from DPJ jobs with this kind of offer, she’s living on another planet. Youth workers are doing highly specialized work to protect our most cherished asset – our children. There’s nothing here acknowledging that. Ms. Lebel is even contradicting her colleague, Lionel Carmant, who’s been repeatedly proclaiming that we have to improve working conditions for DPJ workers.”

The APTS is appalled by Sonia LeBel’s claim that the offers she has tabled are “a significant improvement in conditions of practice for workers employed in youth centres and by Youth Protection.” In fact, the complete opposite is the case. Ms. LeBel, the Legault government’s highest financial authority, has no hesitation about reducing the floating days off of youth workers who need this time off to cope with unspeakably painful situations as well as the violence and abuse to which they are subjected on a daily basis. And when she says she’s creating a 3.5% premium, she’s neatly concealing the fact that in order to get it, workers will have to renounce premiums they’re already entitled to. And that’s not all – further analysis shows that her premium consists of a permanent portion (worth 1.5%), and a temporary portion (worth 2%) that will disappear after two years. With these manipulative and underhanded ploys, Ms. Lebel is further devaluing the vital work carried out by over 10,000 professionals and technicians providing services to children and families.

“If you look at critical care workers, they get a 14% premium for working in a hospital setting,” says Andrée Poirier. “In terms of psychosocial services, the DPJ is the equivalent of intensive care. It’s the emergency ward for children who are victims of violence. In this context, I’d like to invite Ms. LeBel to come and present her offer directly to youth workers in youth centres, so that she can tell them specifically how she’s going to improve their working conditions. Because in the government’s document, there’s just nothing to help our people on the ground, and nothing to respond to the distress that was so clearly expressed at the hearings of the special commission on children’s rights and youth protection chaired by Régine Laurent.”

To encourage personnel attraction and retention at the DPJ, the APTS is asking that all employees be given a 5% premium, as well as 5 floating days off every year to help them cope with a job that is far too likely to leave deep scars. The union is also asking for a retention premium ranging from 5% to 10% for experienced workers. This would encourage them to prolong their career at the DPJ and be there to provide support for colleagues who are facing overwhelming workloads. The APTS demands are reasonable, as becomes clear as soon as one makes a comparison with measures taken in hospital settings. On another topic, the APTS welcomes the opening of 500 full-time jobs at the DPJ and in youth centres. But if working conditions are not improved, this proposal will be no more than a smokescreen, or a way for the government to ease its conscience.

“CISSS and CIUSSS managers aren’t even able to fill the positions that are available right now,” the APTS president noted. “Workers are exhausted and overworked, and they’re leaving youth protection in droves. Minister Carmant is even having to withdraw employees from his Agir tôt program so they can lend a hand in youth centres. If the government ever understands that it needs to pay for the true value of youth workers’ expertise, then maybe these contract talks will start going somewhere. Until then, well, Ms. LeBel will keep on hearing from us.”

The APTS

The APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux) represents a total of 60,000 members who play a key role in ensuring that health and social services institutions run smoothly. Our members provide a wide range of services for the population as a whole, including diagnostic, rehabilitation, nutrition, psychosocial intervention, clinical support, and prevention services.