“The future of the industry is at stake”

Engineers working on government contracts denounce the wage gap between Quebec and other provinces

Posted at 7:00 am

Isabelle Dube

Isabelle Dube
The press

The salary the government allocates to engineers and technicians working on public contracts has not increased since 2009. Result: The hourly rate of a senior engineer is 40% lower than elsewhere in Canada.

The Association of Consulting Engineering Firms – Quebec (AFG), which published a study on the subject on Wednesday, is calling for increases in the wake of inflation.

“It is the future of Quebec’s consulting engineering industry that is at stake right now,” Bernard Bigras, President and CEO of AFG, said over the phone.

The salary of a senior engineer in Quebec performing public sector jobs is $117 an hour, while one in British Columbia can expect $178 an hour, the lowest rate observed in the country. The hourly rate is $163 in Ontario, $169 in Manitoba, and $170 in Alberta.

“We’re not asking for the same rate as British Columbia, but we want fair, equitable and competitive compensation, taking into account of course the cost of living in Quebec, which is not the same as the rest of Quebec Canada,” says Bernard Bigras.

Based on the consumer price index, the indexation is set at 24% by the association. The lead engineer’s hourly rate would drop to $159, a rate that is still lower than the hourly rate in the four provinces in the study.

Wages fixed by decree

In Quebec, Decree 1235-87, passed in 1987, regulates hourly rates for engineering services offered to 300 public bodies and departments.

When consulting engineering firms perform a job for a school board, a senior citizens’ center, a hospital, the Ministère des Transports, or the Société Québécoise des Infrastructures, the decree sets rates based on a maximum hourly rate grid for engineers, technicians, and support staff. However, the network has not changed for 12 years.

Meanwhile, consulting engineering firms need to raise wages. So we see that the profit margins of engineering consulting firms operating in Quebec are falling. On the other hand, in the implementation of private sector projects, the rates required by the industry are applied.

Bernhard Bigras

The association’s president worries that there are increasing numbers of Quebec engineers finding themselves on projects elsewhere in Canada where remuneration is “fairer and more equitable”. “It doesn’t make sense if we have a labor shortage,” he says.

Technicians’ salaries are also in question as enrollments in CEGEP training programs have declined.

The hourly rate for a senior technician is $80 per hour in Quebec, while in Manitoba it is $169, the highest rate observed in Canada. It’s $127 in Alberta, $132 in Ontario, and $133 in British Columbia. The study compared salaries in four provinces using six major Quebec engineering consultancies that also operate in the rest of Canada.

Architects have the same problems.

The Association met three times with Treasury Board Chair Sonia LeBel. The association welcomed Monday evening that she was ready to discuss increasing hourly rates for government services by engineers, starting at the end of June.

The association’s study notes that the hourly rates of government bodies not subject to the regulation have been indexed. At Hydro-Québec, a senior engineer earns $140 an hour and a senior technician earns $101. However, these hourly rates remain below the average observed in the energy sector elsewhere in Canada.

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