Striking engineers could cause 'monster' traffic jams, Quebec government warns

If you're stuck in a "monster" traffic jam, starting as soon as this week, the Quebec government says it's because of pressure tactics by the 1,400 engineers striking in the province.

Since September, the government engineers have refused to work overtime or outside business hours as part of the strike, meaning 25 structures that need their inspecting would have to be closed during the day.

The Decarie Expressway is included in those structures and Transport Minister André Fortin said it would be affected as of next week, during a news conference Tuesday held with Treasury Board Minister Pierre Arcand.

"If [engineers] refuse to do these inspections at night, it will mean … tens of thousands of citizens will live through important traffic jams, monster traffic jams," Fortin said.

Mandatory night worksite inspections rejected

Arcand and Fortin's conference came a day after Quebec's labour tribunal refused their request to make the inspections an essential service, which would have allowed the government to require they be done at night when deemed necessary.

The engineers offered to do partial inspections to speed up the process. Fortin said that's not feasible for security reasons.

Arcand showed signs of impatience at the conference, saying it's time for the Professional Association of Quebec Government Engineers to come back to the bargaining table. There have been no negotiations since July.

'It's getting late'

"The message I want to send is to say it's getting late and there needs to be true compromises that are going to be made to come to an agreement," Arcand said at the conference he held alongside Fortin.

Engineers have been asking for a 20 per cent salary increase over seven years, which the association says would bring their salaries up to par with similar sectors.

Arcand said what the engineers are asking for is higher than what Quebec taxpayers can afford, adding the board has submitted eight proposals to the association, but that they were all rejected

The Treasury Board's offers have been closer to nine per cent. 

Quebec's government engineers have been without a contract for three years. 

Engineers say 'onus' on the government

The association's president, Marc-André Martin, told Radio-Canada the onus is on the government for the lack of night inspections.

"We gave the government all the means to be able to do night inspections, to not put people in traffic," he said. "They're the ones deciding to do it during the day."

The government passed back-to-work legislation in the spring forcing striking construction workers back on the job, engineers were not subject to it.