MONTREAL — Nurses and other workers demonstrated in front of health-care centres across the province Wednesday to protest their working conditions and lack of vacation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the first of three days of planned protest, Quebec Nurses' Federation members and other health-care workers took to the streets behind the slogan "dead tired."
They were voicing their opposition to a ministerial decree, adopted by the Quebec government in the context of the pandemic, which allows regional health boards to refuse leave and postpone vacations.
"Summer Vacation, Period," read one of the signs held by workers on the grounds of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci long-term care home in northern Montreal.
Quebec Nurses' Federation president Nancy Bedard told workers and reporters on site that members have given everything they've had for months. Bedard says there are concerns that if there's a second wave next fall, workers will not have had enough rest to handle it.
"They need to have their vacation. It is the minimum that we can expect," Bedard said.
David Routhier, a local representative of another union representing health-care workers, the APTS, said the situation has improved to the point where refusing holidays or to postponing vacations isn't justified.
"There are fewer and fewer residents who are sick, and fewer and fewer employees are absent," Routhier said in an interview.
While Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci reported an increase in cases, the contamination rate in other homes is going down. So Routhier said there's no reason the cut vacations or restrict them as a precaution.
Health Minister Danielle McCann said the government's intention is to give everyone the time off they need with a possible second wave in mind.
"We are aiming for a two-week vacation for everyone," McCann said in Quebec City. "That will be important so that people are more rested to come back in the fall to help us."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2020.
Lia Levesque, The Canadian Press