Nunavik education and health workers unions denounce Quebec’s tax treatment of vacation pay

“It is urgent that our elected officials grant the same rights to government employees as they do to themselves”

Pitakallak School in Kuujjuaq is shown here. Unions representing Nunavik education and health workers say that their provincial government is treating them unfairly by partially taxing money paid to their members to reimburse travel costs. (File photo)

By Larry Imbeault, president of Association of Employees of Northern Quebec
Carolane Desmarais, president of the Union of Educational Professionals, Kativik
Annie Chartier, president of the North West Union of Professionals in School Milieu

Once again, we feel the sting of being considered second-class citizens.

In 2019, the expense allowance of members of the National Assembly and elected municipal officials became taxable at the federal level. These officials wasted no time giving themselves an increase of $5,000 to $8,000 to compensate for this new tax loss. And yet, when it comes to us education and health workers, similar adjustments continue to be denied.

For several years, the federal and provincial governments have partially taxed the reimbursement of travel costs between our home of origin and the remote communities where we work (referred to as “outings” in our collective agreements).

In 2015, we filed for compensation at the bargaining table. The result? The Conseil du trésor pushed the issue into a joint working committee.

In 2020, following the committee’s work, we again filed a request for compensation. The result? A complete absence of the subject in the offers by government negotiators in order to camouflage an outright refusal.

How long will we, simple public servants, have to wait to obtain what elected officials gave themselves without delay?

It’s a perfect instance of double standards. When a private business or a state-owned corporation (including Hydro-Québec) transports its employees to their place of work, employers pay the transport costs directly. This expense incurred as part of the organization of work is not taxable. In the education and health networks, travel expenses must be paid out of pocket by the employee who must then request reimbursement from their employer. Reimbursements for the third and fourth outings are considered taxable income. For teachers who work in Akulivik (Blanc-Sablon/Fermont/etc.), this means that nearly half of their $1,500+ return ticket has to be paid out of pocket.

It is the responsibility of the Québec government to provide education and health and social services throughout the territory. The government will not succeed in attracting workers if they’re the ones bearing the costs of the organization of work in remote communities. Moreover, high turnover rates, the shortage of staff, and the lack of funding limit access to comprehensive services in many regions.

It is urgent that our elected officials grant the same rights to government employees as they do to themselves. Compensation for the tax loss related to the reimbursement of the third and fourth outings would be a step towards a more just recognition of our contribution to the development of all of Québec.

Larry Imbeault, president of the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec (AENQ-CSQ)
Carolane Desmarais, president of the Union of Educational Professionals, Kativik (SPPCSOM-CSQ)
Annie Chartier, president of the North West Union of Professionals in School Milieu (SPPMSNO-CSQ)

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Question? on

    Question for Mr. Imbeault.
    He refers to this as a “double standard”. Was Mr. Imbeault able to correct the “double standard” that existed between the southern teachers and the Inuit teachers hired locally?
    Are the local hires now eligible for paid annual leave trips to the south and cargo allowances? Or does this “double standard” still exist?

  2. Posted by peter thomas on

    About time this issue was brought up. Also our pension is based solely on our salary although we pay taxes on our cargo, house or apartment and the third flight and they are not included in our pension determination. This is outright discrimination against workers who choose a career in the north. All we ask for is to be treated fairly, has not been happening to me for 13 years. Just saying.

    • Posted by Just saying….. on

      How much rent do you pay per month for a fully furnished 1 bedroom apartment? Is it the same amount of $$ that the local teacher working in your school pays to KMHB?
      Just saying…..

      • Posted by Allocation on

        The local worker receive a amount for their rent since 1 year. Depend hoy many bedroom they have.

        • Posted by KI Inuk teacher on

          this doesn’t apply to Inuit teachers!!! We pay full amount to kmhb!!!!

  3. Posted by Crying with a full belly on

    1. Only for employees hired more tha 50 km away from their place of work get these perks (housing and trips), pretty helpful to attract local employees right ?

    2. 2 first trips south are tax free, 3rd is taxable if not for medical, (pretty sure most teacher,( and nurses) get a dentist appointment to avoid the taxes)

    3. Charters that come to Nunavik few times a year are not prepaid by teachers….

    4. If teachers want to be transported like Hydro Quebec employees “for free” they should also stop claiming the tax deductions for northern living (Hydro Quebec workers are not entitled these deductions)

    5. Why don’t the union fight for the local employees instead of the transient employees that will last only a few years after realizing that they don’t make more money than if they worked in the south….

    6. Please try to attract people (teachers) that will stay, move in, not just drop by thinking they’ll make a fortune$$$ ,
    Work on retaining your local staff….

    • Posted by KI local employee on

      I agree with you 100%!!!

      • Posted by oh my on

        I am a southern hire and have worked for several organizations or 10 plus yrs. The union for the most part responds to the needs of workers from the south,there should be a bargaining mechanism that addresses the needs of local hires organizations state that they encourage local hiring however the unions do not reflect that mandate. It creates tensions between workers, the southern hires appear to be a privileged whiners,I suggest a discussion on this issue be undertaken

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