Engineers strike | The MTQ ready to pay 50% more

On May 20, the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) adopted “temporary” reductions in its usual contract award process, to allow its regional managers to approve contracts even if the requested price is up to 50% higher than estimated. cost of the work.

Posted at 7:00 am

bruno bison

bruno bison
Press

The relief described in the memos obtained by Press they intend to “allow the continuation of the contractual activities” of the Ministry despite the general strike of the 1,800 state engineers, two thirds of whom work for the MTQ.

The analyzes and second opinions that are normally required before the approval of a contract that far exceeds the expected costs are suspended or “simplified” until the engineers normally in charge of preparing them return to work.

In addition, the approval of these contracts by an assistant or deputy associate minister will no longer be required, unless the cost of a contract exceeds the estimated price of the work by more than 50%, provided that the engineers strike.

Finally, for the duration of the strike, and during the 20 days following the end of the conflict, the MTQ will pay, upon receipt of the usual invoices and documents, up to 90% of the professional fees provided for in the contracts of the private engineering firms. ., without verification or approval of these invoices.

A sum equivalent to 10% of the value of the contract will be withheld “in order to maintain a margin of maneuver if credits are claimed when the technical verification is to be carried out by the engineers”, after their return to work.

The government cash cow

The MTQ is one of the Quebec government’s largest contract machines. According to the 2020-2021 annual management report, this department awards an average of approximately 2,600 contracts of all kinds each year and has nearly $2 billion in studies and various works on the Quebec road network.

Spring is one of the peak periods for this annual distribution. In addition to maximizing the duration of the road works season, this period also allows companies to plan the manpower, machinery and equipment they will need during the year to execute the contracts obtained.

The award of all these contracts is governed by the General Directive on the award and management of contracts for works, services, supplies and technology and informationa 43-page document that dictates the rules to be followed at each stage of the award of a contract, from the presentation of an initial official file to the final rendering of accounts.

However, since the start of the indefinite general strike launched on April 22 by the Professional Association of Government Engineers of Quebec (APIGQ), the well-oiled mechanism for awarding contracts has stalled.

Unionized engineers play an approval, verification, design, or supervisory role at multiple stages of the contract evolution process. Due to the strike, a large number of road works projects are blocked before the call for tenders or during the analysis of offers.

The contracts already awarded cannot be started, due to the lack of an engineer who approves their mobilization.

The construction industry is getting impatient.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Bitume Quebec president Tytus Zurawski said dozens of bitumen suppliers and producers of bituminous mixtures in the province are now considering “an unprecedented wave of mass layoffs” if the conflict between the state continues. and its engineers.

“Abnormally Low”

The May 20 memorandum suspends indefinitely only two articles of the general guideline that refer to “abnormally low” offers and those that exceed the price estimated by the MTQ by more than 15%.

The central measure of the amparo is the withdrawal of the systematic obligation to carry out a second opinion. »

Louis-André Bertrand, spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Transport

“Analyses on the price difference are still mandatory, although simplified, and must always be justified, documented and saved for later use or verification,” explains the latter.

In each territorial directorate, continues the spokesman, the general directors will also have to approve these analyses. “If they wish, they can also ask for a second opinion” before awarding a contract whose cost is much higher than expected, although they are not obliged to do so.

The MTQ does not have data on the number or value of contracts that have benefited from these “simplified” award processes since May 20.

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