Date: Tue, 3 Aug 1999 00:03:39 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Montreal: Nurses' chief slams dissenters
Article: 71670
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** 213.0 **/
** Topic: Nurses' chief slams dissenters **
** Written 3:55 PM Aug 1, 1999 by labornews in **

Nurses' chief slams dissenters

By Kate Swoger, Montreal Gazette, Saturday 31 July 1999

You're only helping Quebec government in labour dispute, union boss Skene says

Quebec Federation of Nurses president Jennie Skene read dissenting members of her union the riot act yesterday, accusing them of providing the provincial government with ammunition against the nurses in their labour dispute.

The tongue-lashing followed media reports this week that several Montreal-area union locals, in their anger over the union executive's handling of the latest round of negotiations, had decided to withhold their dues from the federation and were considering pulling out of the union altogether.

Skene called on the dissenting nurses, a group she says is in the minority, to put aside their quarrels with the union leadership until the nurses' labour dispute with Quebec is resolved.

Who does it serve to publicly air their disagreement, their opposition to majority decisions—nurses or the government? Skene asked at a press conference in Quebec City.

How can these disputes help move the nurses' cause forward?

If dissidence is permitted, it should not and cannot put the nurses' priorities in peril.

Although union representatives from Montreal Children's Hospital, the Verdun pavilion of Angrignon Hospital and Le Gardeur Hospital in Repentigny have said publicly they will hold back their dues to the federation, Skene said the federation has yet to hear from the locals themselves.

Union representatives from the three hospitals could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Skene warned that if the locals refuse to pay their fees, they will also forfeit the services the union provides.

Of course, we will discuss it with them, that it means, if they are no longer paying their fees, they won't get services any more, either - defence of nurses, defence before the court over fines imposed by the law (because of the recent illegal strike), she said.

She added that she is not interested in taking a heavy-handed approach with the renegade nurses and hopes the union members can resolve their differences among themselves.

While Skene maintained the federation has not received official notice from any units that they have decided to stop paying their union fees, she said its survey of the locals has shown that only about 10, mostly in the Montreal area, are dissenting from the union's negotiation strategy.

Sonia Ryan, vice-president of the United Nurses, an affiliate that represents 7,500 of the union's 47,500 members, said most of her nurses have been very clear about wanting to pull out of the Quebec Federation of Nurses.

But their priority right now is on the negotiations, she said. Once these negotiations are over, we'll look at it.

During yesterday's press conference, Skene emphasized that those lashing out against the union leadership are targeting decisions made by majority votes by their delegates.

But Ryan said nurses have turned against the union because the delegates decided to call off the nurses' 23-day illegal strike a week ago without putting the decision to a vote by the general membership, as they had with other major decisions during the labour dispute.

While none of the United Nurses locals, at 75 institutions, most on Montreal Island, have voted to withhold their dues from the federation, some individual nurses have asked the United Nurses to hold back their fees for them.

(The union locals at Le Gardeur Hospital, the Children's and the Verdun pavilion are not part of the United Nurses.)

Ryan couldn't say how many nurses had decided to withhold their fees, but said it was not a big movement.

Each nurse pays about $350 a year in dues to make up the federation's annual budget of $15 million.

The nurses, among the lowest-paid in the country, walked off the job to press their demands for higher wages. The government hasn't budged from its original offer of a 5-per-cent raise over three years.

The nurses make between $30,000 and $44,000 annually. They have been asking for a 6-per-cent salary hike over two years and an immediate 10- per-cent catch-up raise to achieve wage parity with other professionals with similar training.