Common Issues bargaining: Time to make work-life balance a priority 

As Canada continues to navigate the pandemic, the federal government should be a leader when it comes to offering better work-life balance to workers with remote work and the right to disconnect. But Treasury Board made it clear that they don’t recognize the need when the Common Issues bargaining table January 31 to February 3.

The pandemic has radically changed the way our members work. We continued to serve Canadians, whether we were working from home or in the workplace and proved that it’s time to rethink the future of work. The results of PSAC’s bargaining survey of federal public service employees showed three out of four respondents have been mostly working remotely since the pandemic started. Another 90 per cent of respondents want to continue working remotely after the pandemic.

PSAC's proposal for remote work would give employees the opportunity to voluntarily participate in remote work – or not — based on their unique and individual circumstances. It also outlines the process for requesting a remote work agreement, makes sure workers are properly equipped for remote work, and ensures their requests are not unreasonably denied.

Treasury Board refused PSAC’s proposal, arguing it’s unnecessary given their Directive on Telework. But the government’s policy, which came into effect in April 2020, is already out of date two years into the pandemic and leaves far too much up to the discretion of individual managers which could lead to discrimination against some workers.

Remote work has become a part of everyday life for most workers and is widely supported by the majority of Canadians. It’s time for the government to look to the future by enshrining it into our collective agreements.

The right to disconnect

That’s why PSAC is also fighting for the right to disconnect. The increase in remote work has blurred the lines between work life and private life. We need to ensure employees aren’t subject to unreasonable expectations outside of work hours with clear language in our contracts.

Smartphones and other technology shouldn’t be used by employers to force employees to work longer hours, but that’s exactly what’s happening. One out of five respondents in PSAC’s survey said they felt they were expected to look at emails or work outside of their scheduled working hours at least a few times a week.

Our proposal is clear — employees should be under no obligation to answer calls or emails outside of normal working hours, or be disciplined for exercising their rights, unless they are on standby.

It’s not complicated, but the employer doesn’t want to acknowledge that our members have the right to disconnect. We will keep on fighting because workers shouldn’t feel tethered to their work by having to check their emails and work phones after hours.

Wages and new submissions

Despite having received our wage position last December, Treasury Board once again came to the table empty handed. They weren't even prepared to discuss our general economic increase proposal. We expect the employer to provide a full response to our proposal for fair wages that reflects the rising cost of living when we meet in March.

PSAC also submitted new memorandums of understanding. These MOUs aim to ensure continued financial support for the Joint Learning Program, establish an ongoing Child Care Joint Union-Management Committee, and recognize Treasury Board’s commitment to address issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace in collaboration with PSAC.

Next steps

The next bargaining dates for the Common Issues team, March 29–31, 2022, will be a critical moment in our negotiations.

We know firsthand the impact rising inflation is having on our families, and we should expect to mobilize and take action if the employer doesn’t come to the table with an offer that keeps up with skyrocketing prices.

With over 165,000 members in bargaining with the government this year, we have a lot of power at the table. We can leverage our strength in numbers to improve our working lives and push the government to lead by example, making life better for all workers.

Get involved

Register now for our upcoming national panel discussion on remote work and work-life balance to learn more about this important issue. At the end of the panel, you will have the chance to take part in a digital action with members across the country to support the fight for remote work and improved work-life balance.

You can also continue to show your support by using our virtual bargaining materials: 

Please be sure to keep your contact information up to date via the member portal to receive all the latest updates as we negotiate your next contract. 



February 4, 2022