Our TC team returned to Ottawa this week to resume bargaining our next collective agreement. After our previous session in February, we questioned if the employer would have a mandate to address our issues, or if they would continue to recycle the previous Conservative government’s position.
Occupational Group Structure Review
Our team had asked the employer for an update on the work done towards Occupational Group Structure (OGS) and classification reform. The answer received was extremely disappointing: there had been no progress in over fourteen months towards TC OGS. This contrasts with previous commitments made over the years by the employer to actively advance OGS for the TC Group.
The focus for the employer is the PA Group and the pace of that work has slowed considerably. While we certainly support the work being done to advance PA OGS, having to wait years for work to begin on TC OGS is unacceptable.
Presentations on OGS classification challenges
Our team made three presentations to the employer on OGS and classification challenges. . Joining the employer’s bargaining team were two representatives of the Occupational Group Structure & Classification Standards division at Treasury Board. These presentations illustrated specific cases within the TI and GT groups as to how the current classification system is badly broken and in urgent need of repair. There are many more examples of this widespread and frustrating problem.
Modern classification system needed
Classification measures the work we do and negotiated rates of pay provide compensation for that work. Members need and deserve a modern classification system that accurately measures the work we do now, not fifty years ago. The complexity and diversity of the work performed by TC members contributes to the health and safety of Canadians and merits classification attention by the employer. Our team tabled a demand to this effect to try and accelerate the work of TC OGS and classification reform.
Advancing your Demands
Again this week, the team tried to engage the employer on our issues. We continued to table a number of monetary demands concerning leave, premiums, hours of work, and captive time. We presented the employer with a demand for early retirement without actuarial penalty for TC enforcement workers. A significant presentation was also made to the employer on how to improve the Workforce Adjustment Directive. The new government was vocal about their commitment to the public service during the federal election. Strengthening our job security provisions is a tangible way to realize this commitment.
We also pushed hard on our Health and Safety and Maternity Reassignment or Leave demands. Given the nature of the work performed by TC members, improving these protections in the collective agreement is important. While the Liberal government has committed to reviewing and consulting on the former Bill C-4, the Budget bill that made significant punitive changes to our health and safety and labour rights, members remain at a disadvantage. As we lobby the government to repeal these changes, we are attempting to enforce our health and safety rights within the collective agreement.
Work Force Adjustment
We reiterated the need for significant changes to the Workforce Adjustment Appendix in this round of bargaining. Our demands seek to make the rules more transparent and reduce the significant anxiety the process causes workers. We are also looking to preserve and improve public services, enhance protections against involuntary departures and ensure that seniority is recognized.
We addressed the ongoing sick leave issue this week by stating that we continue to seek either a renewal or improvements to the current sick leave regime. We made it clear that any improvements would need to be contained in the collective agreement. We reiterated that the underlying purpose of a sick leave system is to ensure that workers are not forced to choose between going to work sick or collecting a pay cheque.
The pace of bargaining remains slow and our team continues to wonder if there is a difference between the Conservative and Liberal governments. Sick leave remains an employer priority and little consideration is being given to our issues – the demands that members across the country submitted for negotiation.
Our team is concerned about the level of employer investment in this process. Are they just waiting us out, hoping we will cave on sick leave and drop our priority demands? If that’s the strategy, we have no intention of allowing this to happen. We are calling on the employer to commit to the negotiation process and come to the table with a mandate to bargain your key issues.
To realize this goal, we need members to mobilize in support of our bargaining team. We began negotiations in July 2014 and while the election did dampen our pace somewhat, the Liberal government now has the opportunity to bargain positive collective agreements that address the needs and priorities of the membership. We all need to get out and mobilize in support of this goal!