Election day: Where the parties stand on public services and Phoenix

Of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s 200,000 members, more than 140,000 work directly for the federal government and have the opportunity to elect their next employer on October 21. Canada’s new government will have a tremendous impact on the future of the federal public service and the work we do for Canadians.

That’s why it’s imperative to vote for candidates that respect public service workers, pledge to compensate victims of the Phoenix pay fiasco, and stand up for the rights of all workers.

We’ve reviewed all of the party platforms and broken down their visions on four key issues – Phoenix, federal public services, contracting-out and a single tax system in Quebec – that will have the greatest impact on PSAC members.

Public services

The NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party have all made overtures to federal public service workers to create a stronger, more representative public service. Meanwhile, the Conservatives plan to slash government operations and cut government regulations, which will impact the services Canadians receive and result in significant job losses.

The NDP promises to help close the wage gap of racialized workers in the public service and strengthen labour laws to ensure equitable hiring practices. The Liberals pledge to promote more qualified, diverse Canadians to senior positions within the public service, while the Greens will fully implement federal pay equity rules and establish an impartial federal ombudsman to review cases of harassment in the public service.

Both the NDP and the Liberals will implement a $15 federal minimum wage that will cover over 900,000 workers. The Liberals also plan to reduce the time it takes to hire new public servants, with the goal of cutting the time in half from 10 to five months.

The Tories want to institute a freeze on the number of full-time public servants and cut $14.4 billion from the government’s operations budget. They also plan to reduce the size of federally-used office space by 30 per cent.

The Bloc Québecois plan to introduce a bill that prohibits receiving or providing public services with a face covering, including voting. PSAC condemns this proposal as it does not address any actual problems and will stoke an increase in anti-immigrant, racist, and sexist sentiments as well as incidents, both in the workplace and outside of it.

Phoenix

The New Democrats and the Green Party have both promised to make amends for the hardships federal public service workers have endured under Phoenix, while the Liberals plan to eliminate the current backlog of Phoenix pay issues. The Conservatives, while responsible for implementing the disastrous pay system, make no mention whatsoever of Phoenix in their platform.

The NDP plans to bring compensation advisors back into departments, provide fair compensation to workers impacted by Phoenix and replace the ailing pay system.

The Greens say they’ll work with PSAC and all political parties to provide immediate compensation to Phoenix victims, while ensuring public servants get support from their departments to correct their pay files and can get salary advances directly from their department.

Privatization and precarious work

Canada’s robust public services are under threat from privatization and precarious work that reduce the quality of public services and leaves workers vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to elect a government that fights to eliminate precarious work and outsourcing.

The NDP will put in place rules requiring part-time and contract workers to be compensated the same as full-time workers. They’ll also ban unpaid internships outside of education programs and update the Labour Code to ban the use of replacement workers in labour disputes.

While the Liberals plan to grant greater labour protections for people who work through digital platforms, they continue to double down on the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which encourages private, for-profit companies to take over public services. PSAC has been clear; privatization wastes public funds and reduces the quality of public services.

The Conservatives are planning to eliminate the Canada Infrastructure Bank and instead create fund managed completely by the private sector – which would also harm the quality of public services and create more precarious work.

The Greens will reject back-to-work legislation as a bargaining tool and protect workers whose jobs will be disrupted by AI and the transition away from fossil fuels.

Quebec single tax

The Bloc Québecois is proposing that Revenu Québec should administer both the federal and provincial income tax. Quebec is the only province in Canada where personal income taxes are collected separately by Ottawa and the provincial government, meaning those living in the province must file two separate tax claims.

The NDP and the Liberals have both spoken out against a single tax form in Quebec, while the Greens haven’t taken a position for or against.

The Conservatives have said they will negotiate with the government of Quebec to introduce a single tax return administered by the provincial government.

PSAC rejects this proposal for two key reasons. Nearly 5,500 Canada Revenue Agency workers in Quebec – and hundreds more across the country – would lose their jobs under a single tax system. And more importantly, there are other avenues to explore that would allow Quebeckers to file a single claim, including having both the federal and provincial taxes collected by the federal government.

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October 18, 2019