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”
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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