Next steps in our fight for a fair contract and Phoenix damages

Nearly 140,000 PSAC members working for the federal government and represented in nine bargaining units are currently working without contracts.  

While negotiations for new collective agreements for most members began over a year ago, the government repeatedly refused our reasonable proposals for a just settlement, even as the Phoenix pay system continues to wreak havoc on members’ lives.  

Government rejects improvements to working conditions 

At the Treasury Board (TB) tables, the government insisted on wage increases that would not even keep up with inflation as well as a waiting period of up to 18 months after contract signing for retro pay. At the same time, the government rejected our proposals for: 

  • implementing market adjustments where pay discrepancies exist; 

  • providing a full top-up for the new 18-month parental leave option; 

  • reducing contracting-out and precarious work in the public service; and 

  • improving mental health in the workplace. 

Meanwhile, in negotiations with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), management consistently refused proposals to address work-life balance and scheduling concerns, and repeatedly ignored our wage proposal without presenting an alternative. Furthermore, in Parks bargaining, agency representatives repeatedly came to the table unprepared to address key member proposals

Because of the government’s unwillingness to address our demands and concerns, PSAC was forced to declare bargaining impasse for the TBCRA and Parks Canada units. All these tables (but not including the FB/Border Services unit) are now proceeding to separate Public Interest Commissions (PICs).  

Phoenix damages: members are owed a fair deal 

Progress also hit a wall on negotiations for Phoenix damages. After more than two years of talks, the government offered a meagre compensation proposal of 5 days of leave, which we could not accept. To add insult to injury, moreover, the government recently ended an incentive package for the recruitment and retention of federal compensation advisors, jeopardizing its ability to resolve Phoenix cases. 

PSAC members are owed nothing less than fair compensation for more than three years of suffering they and their families have endured under Phoenix, a situation the Parliamentary Budget Officer says could go on until at least 2023

We have the power of numbers 

Although other federal bargaining agents have recently reached new collective agreements with the government and accepted the abovementioned Phoenix offer, we believe our members deserve better. PSAC represents more than 50% of all unionized federal government workers and we will use our significantly greater bargaining power to lead the way to a better deal, as we’ve done many times in the past. 

 

What is a Public Interest Commission (PIC)? 

Under the law that governs contract negotiations in the federal public service, once impasse is reached, a PIC is established to help the parties reach an agreement. The PIC is a panel of three people – a chairperson appointed by the Labour Board and nominees appointed by the union and management. The union and the employer submit briefs and explain their positions on the outstanding issues at a hearing with the PIC. The PIC then issues a report with recommendations for settlement. The recommendations are not binding. 

Once the PIC releases its reports on TB, CRA and Parks bargaining, PSAC’s respective bargaining teams will meet to discuss the recommendations. Traditionally, following this, PSAC’s teams and government representatives have returned to the table to resume negotiations. We expect the PIC reports to be issued late this year or early in 2020. 

Will we strike? 

Regardless of which party forms government after the fall federal election, PSAC will continue pressing for a fair deal that addresses members’ demands. However, if PSAC and the government are still unable to reach an agreement after the PIC reports are issued, members in the respective units will have the legal right to strike. All members impacted will have the opportunity to vote in favour or against strike action. In preparation for this possible situation, PSAC will ensure that strike training is offered to members in the coming months. 

PSAC will also provide updates on the PIC process and other bargaining developments as appropriate.    

Major government bargaining units (click on your unit for the latest specific updates) 

Members represented 

Treasury Board (click here if you’re not sure which unit you belong to

100,000

Canada Revenue Agency

27,000

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

4,200

Parks Canada

4,300

Communications Security Establishment

2,000

 

 

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July 24, 2019