SV Compensation Survey 2015: PSAC’s analysis of the results


The key goal for SV collective bargaining has been to achieve fair pay by advocating for fair and consistent pay structures by establishing national rates of pay and market adjustments. Having relatively low wages for federal public service workers is unfair and has resulted in significant difficulties recruiting and retaining new workers. For example, a significant number HP positions consistently remain unfilled, and firefighters (FR) leave the federal public service in droves for higher pay in municipalities. Compounding this issue is a continued refusal by the employer to provide adequate investment in apprenticeship programs and other training opportunities to address these shortages and provide greater career progression for our members.

As a result of the pay study negotiated in the 2001 settlement, significant market adjustments were achieved in 2004 for SV members, though the adjustment amounts were ultimately inadequate and market gaps did persist.

Gross unfairness in SV pay structures was finally rectified in the 2008 settlement which saw the final elimination of regional rates of pay. That move also helped reduce some of the significant gaps that had arisen for many skilled trades members whose wage rates trailed behind the broader labour market. That being said, market gaps continued to persist, and for groups that already had national rates of pay, the gaps continued to grow.

In 2010, certain Firefighters had two allowances rolled into base salary which resulted in pay being equalized across the country. Ships’ Crews had wage grids harmonized, and two allowances were increased. Unfortunately, the employer refused to agree to an additional increase for the HP group, despite the fact that that group was identified as having the largest wage gap in the 2004 settlement. We did however achieve the same pay study language that we achieved in 2001, in order to better prepare us for the 2014 round of bargaining.

It took significant pressure to get the employer to sign onto the terms of reference in 2012, and the PSAC continued to pressure the employer to ensure the pay study was both methodologically sound  (e.g. the same or similar to the study that was conducted in 2002) and that it be timely. As such, a study conducted in the first half of 2014 was optimal for an agreement that is set to expire in August 2014.

After many months of work, the results of that joint study are now ready for release.

The final report from HayGroup, (HG) the research firm that conducted the study, was received by the parties in Spring 2015. The report contains wage and benefits data on 17 jobs that were matched to SV positions. In total, the HayGroup report reflects information they collected from 47 employers, covering 23,517 Canadian workers in jobs matched to SV jobs in the federal government.

To help SV members interpret the significance of the data collected, PSAC research staff have prepared this report, entitled SV Compensation Survey 2015: The PSAC’s analysis of the results. Since the HayGroup report only reflects raw data collected from outside employers, it is this PSAC report which we expect will be of greatest interest to members looking for an interpretation of the survey results, and how the results will be used in bargaining.

An overview of the results

  • Our overall finding is that the data confirms a significant gap between compensation for SV positions and comparable jobs outside the federal public service.
  • Of the 17 jobs that came back with matched results, SV members fall on average 22% behind their external market. SV rates were higher for 5 classifications while the remaining 12 classifications were behind market. At the extremes, we were ahead by 19% in one classification but behind in another classification by more than 95%.
  • The benefits survey indicates that most of the employers provide a range of benefits similar to the range provided by the federal government (pensions, dental care, extended health, life and disability insurance, and pay for time not worked).
  • The PSAC SV bargaining team has begun its review of the study results and is determined to make full use of the overall results of the study to negotiate wage increases for the entire SV bargaining unit in the negotiations process now underway.

General background on the study process

  • The firm selected to perform the study is called HayGroup, a global human resource and compensation firm. They began the study in February of 2014.
  • The firm was hired to collect data, and not to comment on the adequacy or comparability of federal compensation. The data generated from the study is intended for the use of both parties in the collective bargaining process. Treasury Board will analyze the data from one point of view, and we will do the same from our point of view. In fact the HayGoup report does not even present the data on what SV members are paid.
  • Once the firm was hired, intensive work on the development of the survey began. All of the technical decisions about the study were agreed to jointly between TBS and PSAC, with HayGroup providing technical advice at every step in the process.
  • Interim reports were presented in June and September 2014 to test the method of calculation and presentation.
  • The final report was received by Treasury Board and PSAC in at the end of March 2015.

Detailed background about the survey process

  • The wage survey covered 21 positions. The parties agreed to select positions from the FR, GL, GS, HP and SC classifications.
  • Unfortunately, the survey did not yield a sufficient response for the four, Ships’ Crews (SC) positions.
  • Benefits survey looked at pension, health, dental, short and long term disability, and also at pay for time not worked (holidays, vacation).
  • The survey was sent out to a total of 360 public and private sector companies across the country. The companies were selected by HayGroup. Forty-seven of those organizations agreed to participate and provide a submission. The private sector included major companies, both union and non-union, from all industrial sectors. In the public sector, the survey was sent to provincial governments and municipalities.
  • The final results include compensation data from 47 organizations. Data covers a total of 23,517 workers.

Information on the Jobs surveyed

The survey asked outside employers for wage data for 21 jobs that compare to SV positions. The 21 jobs were selected jointly by PSAC and TB staff.

  • Using a database of existing job titles, we chose job titles which most reflected the jobs for a given classification and level. Example, for EIM-10 we chose “Electrician” because it was far and away the most common job title (as compared to all others such as Auxiliary Power Technician, Fire Alarm Technician, or Lineman).
  • Once the titles were selected we agreed upon short one paragraph descriptions of the jobs in the federal public service for inclusion in the survey materials.

Comparing the HayGroup results to SV

One of the simplest comparisons to make is between the maximum salary attainable for an SV job, with an average of the maximum salary levels attainable for the equivalent job outside of the federal public service. We feel this is the most accurate comparison for experienced, journeyperson salaries. This is commonly referred to as the “Job Rate”. For the purposes of this study however, HG’s definition of “Job Rate” could also include the midpoint in a pay range depending on participant responses, and not necessarily solely the maximum salary. For this reason, we are comparing an average of the outside Max’s, to SV Max’s, for each classification.

This is the comparison shown below:

Hay Job Title

Hay Average Range Max-Hourly

SV equivalent



Group & Level

Current Hourly-Max

Difference $

Difference %

Fire Fighter






Fire Lieutenant / Chief






Construction/Maintenance Supervisor












General Labourer / Trades Helper






Refrigeration/HVAC Technician






Driver, Heavy Vehicle






Painter / Sign Painter - Construction






Plumber / Pipefitter






Sheet Metal Worker






Automotive / Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic


















Food Service Helper


















Stationary Engineer (2nd Class)


















Engine Room Assistant


















As can be seen in the last line of this table, the average maximum rate found by HayGroup is 21.34% above the average maximum rate within SV jobs surveyed.

We are confident that the overall results are consistent with past studies, other sources of data, and our expectations. The SV bargaining team is intending to use the wage data to support the wage demands of the entire bargaining table.

What about benefits?

  • Employers participating in the survey were also asked to provide some data on the benefits plans provided to both unionized and non-unionized employees.
  • The main reason for requesting this data was to ensure that the employers surveyed are generally comparable to Treasury Board in terms of the range of benefits provided, and the employer’s share of the benefits programs. The study does not compare the details of each program – only the availability and the share of funding.
  • HayGroup noted that while 47 organizations participated in the survey, not all organizations were able to provide all of the benefits data requested.
  • The results of the benefits survey show that at least 50% of all employers cover 100% of the costs of the extended health care, dental care, life insurance and disability insurance plans they offer. The vast majority of emp
  • Almost 80% of all employers provide a “defined benefit” pension plan, and the employer share of contributions averages about 54%. Most other employers provide a “defined contribution” pension plan, although a few employers provide for a mix of plans.
  • Vacation and holiday data indicates that our current provisions are generally comparable with these other employers.
  • Treasury Board’s overall pension and benefit costs for SV are significantly lower when compared to the other employers in the survey. TB’s annual cost of these benefits, as a percentage of payroll, is 13.9%, while the average cost for the surveyed employers is almost double, at 22.2% of payroll.

Strengths and weaknesses of the SV Compensation Survey Results

Every survey has a particular methodology which has certain strengths and weaknesses, and this study is no different. It is important to know the particular strengths and weaknesses of this study:


  • The data is up to date; employers were asked to provide information for Spring 2014.
  • TBS and PSAC agreed on the jobs, job profile, participant selection process, and all aspects of methodology throughout the process.
  • Data is collected and reported by a reputable third party who had no stake in the outcome.
  • The results of the survey are consistent with the data we have used in previous rounds of bargaining, including the previous 2003 SV pay study.
  • There were a wide spectrum of participants from across the country, from various sector of the economy and from various size of organization.
  • Consistent with past practice, the results are weighted by incumbent. Results weighted by organization were also presented, and they too revealed that SV is behind market. 


  • Mail-out and mail-in survey makes it easier to mismatch jobs than a survey which involves workplace visits
  • Low participation rate and low number of workers for some jobs (e.g. Ships’ Crews).

What can we expect Treasury Board to say?

We won’t really know their reaction until we are discussing wage demands at the bargaining table.

How should they react? In previous rounds of SV bargaining, in its presentation to the Conciliation Board, the Treasury Board outlined in broad terms its compensation policy. One of the key points was:

that public sector compensation is related in a reasonable and acceptable way to the private sector, with compensation not materially exceeding that paid for similar services by private sector employers;

From that point of view they ought to look carefully at the results of the study and recognize that SV employees are significantly underpaid in relation to the market.

What happens next

  • PSAC will make extensive use of the Joint Pay Study report and data. The SV Bargaining Team will use this in developing detailed bargaining demands on wages. We will also use this in communications and mobilization work.
  • Treasury Board has stated at the bargaining table that they want to “…bring public service compensation in line with comparable public and private sector employers.” Great. They can start with SV wages; this pay study shows them how.
  • The study will be used by PSAC in making presentations to a Public Interest Commission (PIC), if a tentative agreement cannot be reached through the regular negotiations process. A PIC is established as part of the conciliation process. After receiving presentations from both parties in hearings, the PIC issues a non-binding report containing recommendations they believe will assist the parties in coming to an agreement.
  • One of the “Preponderant factors” that is to guide the PIC in formulating their recommendations, is “…the necessity of attracting competent persons to, and retaining them in, the public service in order to meet the needs of Canadians;…” [recruitment and retention]. The PIC may also take into consideration “…the compensation and other terms and conditions of employment relative to employees in similar occupations in the private and public sectors, including any geographical, industrial or other variations that the public interest commission considers relevant;…” This joint, compensation study speaks directly to this factor.



November 23, 2015