Quebec consulting firms resist having to pay union salary rates
June 27, 2001
By Canadian Consulting Engineer
The Association of Consulting Engineers of Quebec/Association des ingenieurs-conseils du Quebec (AICQ) has grave co...
The Association of Consulting Engineers of Quebec/Association des ingenieurs-conseils du Quebec (AICQ) has grave concerns about Bill 31 that was passed by the Quebec National Assembly just before it broke up for the summer recess.
The Bill – which replaced an earlier aborted Bill 182 – was meant to clarify rules in the Quebec Labour Code, including certain parts of Article 45. The AICQ, however, believes the new Bill has still left the rules in Article 45 unclear, and the result could seriously damage Quebec consulting engineering firms’ ability to do business.
The troublesome part of Article 45 of the Labour Code affects whether collective agreements apply when an operation or business is transferred from one entity to another. Recently, when a municipality has decided to outsource an operation or service to the private sector, labour organizations have brought court challenges, saying that Article 45 applies. If they are proved right, then the consulting firm taking over the operation would have to pay the same rates as government staff engineers whose wages are set by collective agreements.
Though the government’s stated intent was to make the provisions of Article 45 more precise, AICQ feels the amendments in Bill 31 are still not enough to ensure that consulting engineers will be safe. If the courts decide that Article 45 does apply to consulting engineers in certain situations, then the decision could be devastating for firms and means they would hamper the ability to do business in the province. Many engineers employed by government and large corporations such as Hydro-Quebec are unionized, and consulting firms would have to pay their staff the same salary rates in certain situations. Some estimates put the added costs for consulting firms at 25%-50% more.
Despite AICQ’s petitions the legislation has ignored its requests (president and director-general Johanne Desrochers made a presentation to the parliamentary commission to ask the minister to amend the predecessor Bill 182). Now consulting firms must watch as cases relating to Code 45 make their way through the courts before they know whether their bottom line is in serious jeopardy.