Montreal’s police union promises more protests against pension reform after about 100 officers simultaneously called in sick over the weekend.
“It’s clear there is more to come in the next few days and weeks,” Éric Normandeau, spokesman for the Montreal Police Brotherhood, said in an interview Sunday.
He declined to specify what kinds of actions will be taken.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said that all officers who called in sick will be docked a sick day and that the costs for the overtime hours to cover for those who skipped work will have to be assumed by the union.
“You don’t play with the security of Montrealers,” Mr. Coderre told reporters over the weekend.
The union denies it encouraged members to call in sick.
City, police services and union officials are expected to meet this week to discuss the nature of coming sanctions against the union, said Ian Lafrenière, spokesman for the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal.
Municipal employees – including firefighters and police – have been protesting against pension reform legislation tabled by the Quebec government that would have workers and cities split the cost of filling the $4-billion deficit in their pension plans.
The Liberal government of Premier Philippe Couillard says it can no longer continue shouldering more than its fair share of the hefty burden of funding pension obligations.
Mr. Normandeau declined to comment on the sick-day action that took place Saturday morning, citing an order from Quebec’s Commission de Relations du Travail (CRT) that the union ensure its members attend work as scheduled.
In its decision, the CRT said the union contested the city’s allegations that the action contravened the collective agreement and that it also denied there was any violation of the provincial labour code.
Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau told CBC News over the weekend the pressure tactic was unbecoming of authority figures such as police officers and he suggested it was illegal.
Laval University professor and labour relations expert Alain Barré said it’s clear the sick-day action is the equivalent of an illegal strike, adding that public sympathy for these kinds of protests in tough economic times is low.
“Public opinion is not very well disposed towards the public sector, including at the municipal level. Pension plans in these sectors are very generous,” he said in an interview.
The latest round of protests by City of Montreal employees comes as the battle lines harden ahead of a parliamentary commission to discuss the Quebec government’s new pension legislation, Bill 3.
On-the-job protests by Montreal police include wearing camouflage pants and red hats, as well as slapping stickers on squad cars and stations.
The police union claims that the proposed changes under Bill 3 would shave $114 per week off members’ paycheques, a total of about $6,000 per year or 10 per cent of their salaries.
About a year-and-a-half ago, the City of Montreal reached an unprecedented five-year agreement with unionized blue-collar workers that requires them to pay more into their pension plans.
That contract signalled the union’s willingness to make concessions given the pension difficulties being experienced by governments at all levels.