APTS installs a Forest of the Unloved symbolizing Legault government’s disrespect for lab personnel

10 décembre 2020
APTS installs a Forest of the Unloved symbolizing Legault government’s disrespect for lab personnel
Québec City – One hundred and three scrawny and stunted fir trees were set up last night in front of the National Assembly by members of the APTS (Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux), which represents employees working in labs. Placed at the security gatehouse through which MNAs pass to go into the Parliament Building, the trees – embodying a reference to a song by Québec artist Pierre Lapointe, La forêt des mal-aimés – illustrate the Legault government’s complete lack of recognition of lab workers throughout the current health crisis. The Forest of the Unloved symbolizes the 103 laboratories in which over 5,000 people are working flat out to analyze not only COVID-19 samples, but also samples for clinical follow-up and pre-operative assessment.

“Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, lab employees have been ignored by the Legault government and health and social services minister Christian Dubé. The government is fully aware of the fact that it is not giving them the same consideration as other job classes,” says APTS president Andrée Poirier. “This is an outright insult to their expertise and professionalism. Lack of recognition will have an impact on our capacity to carry out lab analyses and fight COVID-19. These highly qualified people are simply going to leave the health and social services system if the government keeps on disrespecting them.”

When the director of public health, Dr. Horatio Arruda, requested a significant increase in testing last summer to halt the spread of COVID-19, the APTS called on Minister Dubé to take steps favouring personnel retention as he had done for other job classes. This call was reiterated during the fall. However, nothing has been done and while the premier has continued to utter occasional words of thanks at press conferences, this is looking more and more like hot air.

The most appalling aspect of the story is that the government is quietly continuing to centralize the labs as part of the OPTILAB project, which is stripping Québec’s regions, outside of metropolitan areas, of their ability to perform laboratory analyses.

“In Sorel, they’re sending samples to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,” says Laure Letarte-Lavoie, 4th APTS Vice-President and officer responsible for laboratories. “In the Chaudière-Appalaches region, coolers are piling up because there’s no room in the freezers, and boxes of samples are accumulating on trolleys. Surely the one thing we’ve learned from this crisis is that we need to maintain our capacity to carry out analyses in all of our laboratories. But the MSSS is fixated on OPTILAB and it’s willing to let Quebecers pay the price as they wait longer for test results. The CAQ was elected by Québec’s regions, but its actual regard for them seems pretty slim.”

2020-06-26 Decent conditions Vital 150X150Take your break!
A genuine movement is spreading throughout labs where employees are reaching the breaking point. In response to the frantic pace imposed by the need to perform an overwhelmingly large number of analyses under unbearable conditions, they are choosing to take their breaks. Workers in a given lab are forcing themselves to take their coffee break and lunch break even if this means a reduction in the number of analyses performed. This is done in full compliance with the collective agreement. At the end of the day, they challenge another laboratory to do the same, and the movement continues.

“How hard are you going to squeeze people? At a certain point, you’ve got to stop,” says Andrée Poirier. “Evening and night shifts are being added, and now we’re seeing compulsory overtime. Our people can’t take it anymore. And the government isn’t taking them seriously – that’s really the last straw. Unless something is done, this movement is going to gain momentum. We’ll be seeing all of the labs taking their breaks at the same time. At that point, Mr. Dubé will have to explain to Quebecers why he’s been disrespecting our members for such a long time.”

The APTS wants it to be known that the trees will be removed by a company that will dispose of them responsibly.

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.