PSAC's SV bargaining team and government representatives were in three days of hearings at a Public Interest Commission (PIC) from January 22 to 24. Unfortunately, the government once again squandered the opportunity to address key member concerns and doubled down on a range of previously presented concessions that the union already rejected.
PSAC presents improvements to contract
The bargaining team used the PIC opportunity to continue presenting proposals that address member concerns, including:
fair economic increases that keep up with inflation;
market adjustments to ensure members earn comparable wages to those of operational services workers external to the federal public service (e.g., firefighters, tradespersons, ships’ crews, and heating, power, and water treatment operators);
improvement to group-specific allowances;
various measures to improve work-life balance.
The government rejected all these proposals.
Instead, they doubled down of the following concession proposals:
Reduced call back provisions
The government wants to reduce call back pay by giving itself the right to request that call back assignments be performed at home. In such situations, employees would no longer earn a minimum of three hours at the overtime rate of pay for each call back and instead be paid only for one hour at straight time or actual hours at time and a half, whichever is the greater.
PSAC rejects this proposal as it will create the expectation that problems in the workplace—for instance, those involving malfunctioning vessels, heating plants, building or freezer alarms, or water treatment systems—be addressed remotely. This would be dangerous and allow the government to forgo ‘eyes on the ground’ in high-risk situations in exchange for a shortsighted reduction in wage costs.
Weakening of Correctional Services Specific Duty Allowance (CSSDA)
The government's proposal opens the door to excluding those who work outside of Correctional Service of Canada penitentiaries from receiving the CSSDA. The union does not accept this proposal as it denies the CSSDA to many members who interact with or are in proximity to offenders—for example, those working at facilities that operate offender training programs.
PSAC believes this change is unnecessary and will prevent workers that currently qualify for and receive the CSSDA from continuing to receive it.
Reduced notice for scheduling changes
The government is insisting on reducing the notice of schedule changes to just 48 hours. Currently, FRs are provided with a minimum of 96 hours-notice of schedule changes and those in the GL, GS, HP and HS groups are provided with seven days- notice. Under the proposed changes, members will only earn compensation at the rate of time-and-a-half if they are advised of new schedules within a 48-hour window.
Moreover, for those in the Ships’ Crew (SC) group covered by Annex E (Lay-day work system), whose schedules are normally set a year in advance and are given at least fourteen days (14) notice of any schedule change, the government wants to reduce the notice period to a mere 48 hours. Under this scheme, a worker could be out to sea for 28 days with little notice.
The union strongly rejects this regressive proposal, which would severely interfere with the work-life balance of many members and provide no compensation in situations where workers are required to significantly alter personal obligations, commitments, and plans.
Weakening of Inmate Training Differential Allowance Plan
The government proposed a single percentage rate of 7% for the allowance. This will result in a reduction in allowance for a third of members currently receiving the ITD.
PSAC rejects this proposal as it would amount to a major concession for many members. Furthermore, moving from the current tiered rate to single percentage rate would prevent the ITDA from recognizing the varying levels of responsibilities, skills, and stress associated with inmate training held by current recipients of the allowance. The existing provisions recognizes the number of offenders that a worker is responsible for and the associated work (i.e., training plans, training assessment, incident reports).
New cap on travel costs for firefighters
The government is seeking a targeted kilometric cap for firefighters in situations where it requires a firefighter to travel back in for an overtime shift from off-duty status. No other classification or occupation group faces such limitations.
The union will not accept this proposal. The government’s attempt to shift the burden of costs associated with overtime on to workers is unreasonable.
The PIC will likely issue its recommendations by late winter.
PSAC will continue to mobilize its membership through increased workplace action, up to and including a strike, until a fair settlement is reached. Stay up to date with the latest on bargaining by signing up for email updates.
Under the law that governs contract negotiations in the federal public service, once impasse is reached at the bargaining table, 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 chairperson also has the option of convening additional talks. The PIC then issues a report with recommendations for settlement. The recommendations are not binding. Once the PIC releases its report, the union’s bargaining team will meet to discuss the recommendations.
Traditionally, following this, PSAC and government representatives have returned to the table to resume negotiations. We expect the SV group PIC report to be issued in winter 2020.