What is Alternation?

Alternation allows employees to exchange positions with non-affected indeterminate employees who wish to leave the public service (6.2.2). This system is only available to opting employees, not to surplus or laid-off employees.

When can an employee alternate with another employee?

During the 120 day opting period, opting employees can alternate with non-affected employees who wish to leave the public service with a transition support measure oreducation allowance.

There are a few requirements:

  1. both positions must be at the same level or equivalent (maximum rate for higher paid position is no more than six per cent higher than that of the lower position);
  2. the opting employee must meet the requirements of the position, including language requirements;
  3. the alternating employee must meet the requirements of the other position unless they won't be performing the job and will be laid off within five days of the move;
  4. they have to exchange positions on the same day.

Management decides whether to allow the employees to alternate. Article 6.2.4 of the WFAA states that management will decide if the proposed alternation "is likely to result in retention of the skills required to meet the ongoing needs of the position and the core public administration." As well, they must be qualified for the position. As such, they will do a merit assessment of the person requesting the alternation.

While it is management that decides whether to allow the alternation, they must be fair and seriously consider all requests. The requests for alternation and potential matches should be discussed at the WFA committees. If management refuses a request for alternation, they should be able to demonstrate why they refused and the refusal should be reasonable. The union should try and deal with any issues or disputes at the WFA committees.

How will job matching for alternation work?

All departments must participate in alternation and departments should also have their own alternation process in place.

The union supports the use of web based alternation tools, as long as these tools are not a barrier to participation, employment equity and accommodation considerations, union representation and other more interpersonal tools already in place. The union has some concerns about the accessibility of this web forum; for example, not all of our members have ready access to a computer. The union does not believe that web based tools exempt the employer from active participation and management of the alternation process, and we will be working hard to ensure that a process is put in place to assist all employees who are eligible to alternate.

What should I do if I want to alternate now or if I need an Alternate now because I'm opting?

If you are an opting employee and want to alternate, or if you are an alternate and want to leave the public service in the place of an opting employee, we recommend:

  • That you immediately advise your manager in writing that you are interested in alternation. Request in writing that your employer provide you information on the process for alternation presently in place and how they intend to facilitate and assist you in finding a match.
  • Ensure that your union representative is aware of your intention and give the union representative a copy of the letter to management expressing your intention.
  • Use the GCForums/Alternation site or any internal site your department or agency may have set up that will help you find a match.
  • The GC Forums/Alternation site has significant limitations, but it may be helpful in finding possible matches employed in other departments in your region or municipality.
  • Once you have found what looks like a good match, we recommend that each matching employee notify their local union representative, in writing, about the possible match and in which department the other employee (alternate or opting) resides.
  • In the same letter, and with your union representative in attendance, alert your manager or Chief Human Resources officer and request in writing: (1) that the Employer meet their obligations under 6.2 of the WFAA and (2) that the manager/HR officer contact their counterpart in the home department of the other (alternate/opting) employee. This request should include a reasonably short time limit (i.e. 2 or 3 days) for a response. Opting employees only have 120 days within which to alternate, so timeliness is important.
  • The union representative should report the details of the possible match to their leadership representatives in the region (or province), or to the union representative(s) on the regional or national Workforce Adjustment Committee, so that they are aware of it and can also monitor the progress of the potential match.
  • The potential new employer of the opting employee can refuse the alternation on the grounds that the proposed match or alternation isn't likely “to result in retention of the skills required to meet the ongoing needs of the position and the core public administration" or if the opting employee is not qualified for the position. The employer must demonstrate why they have refused the alternation, and why some retraining couldn't address the perceived gap in qualifications.
  • The potential new employer cannot simply say that they refuse to participate - because they want to take care of their own employees first, or because it doesn't match their HR planning. Alternation is an obligation under the collective agreement.

Discussions around alternation and proposed alternation opportunities must be addressed at WFA committees, UMC committees or whatever union management consultation forum is in place and works.

If managers violate the collective agreement, there may be cause to initiate both an individual grievance and/or a policy grievance, depending on the situation.

Should grievance action be ultimately required, it is extremely important to have all aspects of the steps taken, and responses from management to both individuals and the union, in writing.



September 17, 2013