Unions hold 59-hour vigil at National Assembly

Several Unifor locals were among Quebec labour unions that converged at the National Assembly in Quebec City for a 59-hour vigil May 31 to June 2 to demand changes to a contentious health and safety bill.

While Bill 59 has been touted by the Legault government as a necessary modernization of the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety, the bill is instead part of a move to reduce the financial burden of employers on the backs of injured and sick workers.

To achieve this, Bill 59 provides for a significant rollback of the rights of workers.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor’s Quebec Director. “We have been demanding improvements to our occupational health and safety act for over forty years. We can’t wait another 40 years to assert our rights.”

Bill 59 represents a huge step backwards in terms of both prevention and compensation. The amendments will have a particularly serious impact on women, notably the proposal to limit access to preventive withdrawal for pregnant women.

The union activists held the marathon demonstration through to send a message to elected officials that they will not give up.

“There is no way we’re going to let the Legault government encroach on workers’ rights like this,” said Gagné. “We have to take a stand together to make our voices heard.”

The study of the bill by the government continues in the National Assembly. The mobilization of Unifor activists will continue for as long as it is necessary.