Federal Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer have said little about how they will treat federal public service workers during this election campaign.
While they recently promised to cut federal regulations by 25% — which will undoubtedly lead to public service job cuts — they have been silent on how they will address the 140,000 PSAC members working for the federal government and currently at the bargaining table.
Scheer’s silence speaks volumes.
Here is a review of some of the ways Conservatives attacked the collective bargaining rights of public service workers last time they were in power.
Legislated wage restraint
The 2009 Expenditure Restraint Act set maximums for federal public service pay increases for the four years between 2006 and 2011 and rolled back previously negotiated increases that exceeded the maximum. Thousands of PSAC members had their negotiated wage increases rolled back as a result.
Fines for pay equity complaints
The Expenditure Restraint Act also introduced a new federal pay equity regime that made it harder to address pay equity claims, while also imposing a $50,000 fine on any union that assisted or encouraged members in filing pay equity complaints.
Weakened collective bargaining rights
Bill C-4, passed in 2013, attacked the collective bargaining process in multiple ways, including by:
- Undermining the right to strike. The government gave itself the exclusive right to designate any position as an essential service, without recourse to the Labour Board.
- Denying arbitration. The government gave itself the right to veto the decision of public service workers to settle contracts through arbitration.
- Eliminating independent research and analysis. The bill cut the compensation analysis and research function of the Public Service Labour Relations Board. In the past, this research program had resulted in pay studies that helped unions and the government reach agreements.
- Compromising independent labour dispute mechanisms. The bill tied the hands of Public Interest Commissions (PICs) when making recommendations for potential settlements before a strike takes place by forcing PICs to follow the political direction of the government rather than impartially evaluating the evidence before them.
Exemption of sick leave from bargaining
The 2015 budget implementation bill (C-59) allowed the government the right to unilaterally remove negotiated sick leave benefits from contracts and impose a short and long term disability plan.