What are occupational groups?

Occupational groups were developed by Treasury Board in 1999 to combine a number of classifications that perform similar work into one group. For example, the Program and Administration (PA) occupational group consists of several different classifications including AS, CR, PM and several others that share one collective agreement.

What is the Occupation Group Structure (OGS) review?

The review is a first step toward classification reform. It was negotiated into the PA Treasury Board collective agreement in November 2008.

The classification system, with over 70 different standards, was originally established by the employer in 1967. That was a very different era in terms of the organization of work and the technology used by workers, and the classification standards have not kept up.

If done properly, the Occupational Group Structure (OGS) review will build on our pay equity victory of 1999 by establishing a modern classification system and addressing some long-standing classification issues.

The OGS review is the first of five steps in our effort to get the employer to establish new and modern classification standards that will address long-standing pay inequities. We are also aiming to achieve higher rates of pay for our members.

The five steps of the process toward classification reform for the PA group include:

  • Reviewing the current occupational groups

  • Developing classification standards

  • Rating jobs using the new standards

  • Assigning positions to new groups and negotiating new salaries

  • Establish a fair procedure to settle new classification disputes

The review gives us an opportunity to address long-standing classification issues. The new classification standards should finally reflect the work our members are performing now, not as it was 40 years ago.

What is PSAC's involvement?

The employer is responsible for creating the new occupational groups and developing the new classification standards.

Throughout this process, we expect Treasury Board to consult PSAC in a meaningful way.

Work started in earnest in 2010 with a long process of information gathering. Five large departments with PA group members were consulted, as were the PSAC Components with members in these departments.

Several meetings have taken place, where the union provided feedback on the employer's ideas and proposals for the new groups. We will continue to provide our feedback as the process continues.

Nevertheless, it is Treasury Board that will make the final decisions on the new occupational groups and the new classification standards.

Once these are in place, PSAC will negotiate the salaries for each of the new classifications and levels.

Steps in the process: When will this turn into results that you can see?

Changes to the Occupational Group Structure and classification reform will still take time. PSAC will do everything it can to defend members' rights and interests throughout the process.

Step 1: Reviewing Occupational Groups

The occupational group structure determines the composition of bargaining units. The new OGS will determine what types of work and what jobs should be grouped together into bargaining units.

The PA group is the occupational group – it is a combination of 9 different classifications. The new structure will reflect a different combination of jobs. The new structure proposed by Treasury Board would see the PA group transformed into three or possibly four new occupational groups.

Once this is finalized, the process will move along to the next step: developing the classification standards.

Step 2: Developing Classification Standards

Classification standards are the tools that the employer uses to rate each job. Usually these standards assign points to different aspects of the work you do. While the employer is responsible for developing these standards, we will ensure that the standards measure your work fairly and include consideration of the four factors required by the Canadian Human Rights Act: Skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.

The employer has indicated that work will begin on the standards before the proposed occupational groups are finalized. While PSAC has not seen anything yet, we believe the standards may look similar to the new FB classification standards.

Step 3: Rating Jobs using the new standards

The employer hasn't told us yet how they expect the job rating process to unfold. In recent years they have moved the job description writing and classification processes to individual departments, so we expect that the rating work will be done by human resources staff in each department.

The employer has also been developing many generic job descriptions that include identical and similar jobs under one job description. It is unclear right now whether the employer will use existing job descriptions or develop new ones. Either way this is a very time-consuming process. Our best guess is that it may take 18 months to two years for this process to be finalized.

Step 4: Negotiating the new salary rates

Once we have all positions rated according to the new classification standards, we will enter into negotiations over rates of pay in order to establish the rates of pay for all the new groups and levels of jobs that will come out of the OGS reform process.

This step will take place during a round of collective bargaining.

The negotiations process will involve bargaining the rates of pay for each position, how people will move from the old salary grids to the new salary grids, and any other issues related to compensation.

The current PA collective agreement expires in June 2014. While it is not yet clear that this issue will be at the table for our next round of bargaining, it is certainly hoped that we will be able to negotiate the new pay rates at that time.

Step 5: Classification Grievance Procedure

At the end of this entire process, we intend to negotiate specific classification grievance language that will allow members to challenge their point ratings under the new classification standards. We traditionally negotiate language that allows for an expedited process after a change to a new classification system, to deal with the number of grievances that arise.

We also recognize that a process for dealing fairly with existing classification grievances should be negotiated with the employer. We have raised this with the employer and will keep members updated on this important issue.

What will the review mean for PA group members?

Regardless of what the final occupational groups look like, all of the former classifications will disappear. Members will no longer be classified as AS, CR, PM, WP, IS, DA, OE, ST, or CM. A new classification standard will be developed for each occupational group, which will be given a new name.

The review of the occupational groups and the classification standards will not affect the deals that were signed in the last round of negotiations.   

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January 18, 2012
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