Essential Services - Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What is an Essential Services Agreement (ESA)?

An ESA is a written agreement between the Union and the employer that certainwork duties are essential to the safety and security of the public and must continue during a strike.  ESA's are required by the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA)

2.  How is this different from Designations?

Under the law that was in effect before 2005, the process was different and referred to “designations”.  Designations were about people and positions, whereas ESA's are about essential services/duties. In the past, a position containing an essential duty would be designated and the incumbent had to perform the full range of the duties, essential or not. Designations were renegotiated with every round of collective bargaining; while amendments will be possible to the ESA, it is presumed to stay in place round after round.

3.  What is an Essential Service?

The PSLRA defines an essential service as a “service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be at any time, necessary for the safety and security of the public or a segment of the public.” 

4.  What is the “public”?

The term public is to be given a broad meaning. It includes the general public as well as fellow employees and inmates.

5.  How will I know if my position is essential?

The employer is responsible for notifying members who are in essential service positions. 
Notification should be done by the employer with the local union in attendance.

6.  What do I do if, during a strike, my supervisor orders me to perform non-essential duties or to handle a striking workers' duties?

Work now-grieve later :If your supervisor orders you to perform non-essential duties, write down the date, time, manager's name and the duties performed and provide this to your Union representative immediately.  If your supervisor asks you to perform the duties of an employee who is on strike, say no.  If you are ordered, follow the steps above and grieve.

7.  How does the employer identify essential services?

The employer must:

  1. identify the service, facility or activity they believe is necessary
  2. identify the level of essential service that must be provided ( this cannot be disputed but can be the topic of discussions between union and management)
  3. establish how they will maintain that level of essential service with the LEAST amount of people
  4. review the organization and all positions involved in supporting that activity to determine which duties are essential
  5. identify the specific positions that are essential and assign the minimum number of workers needed to maintain the required level of essential services necessary.

8.  What do the Essential Service Codes mean?

Codes are used to describe categorize the types of essential services jobs.  Factors considered are the work conditions, environmental circumstances, probability, or even the possibility, that human life or public safety would suffer if a work stoppage interrupted the duties of these employees. 





Full Time

Essential services are required on a daily basis
Employees will report to work and perform only those duties which have been identified as essential



A position whose incumbent would serve as an alternate to a full time Essential Services Position



Essential services are to be performed when specific conditions are met and agreed to by the parties (e.g., essential at certain times / circumstances).

9.  How can essential service employees participate in strike action?

Essential service employees should attend regular membership meetings where the Strike Captain will explain how they can support the strike.  Essential service employees should follow the instructions of the picket line captain when crossing the line to go to and from work.

10.  How can essential service employees support their colleagues on strike?

The Local will establish strike funds.  Essential workers will be asked to contribute a portion of their salary to the Local strike fund.  



April 24, 2013