Canadian unions fight new PM Trudeau on employment reforms
Canada’s largest public sector union has warned of a “make-it-or-break-it” moment for negotiations with the country’s Liberal government over contracts for federal government workers.
Talks are resuming this week between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Treasury Board, the official employer of the federal public service, over proposals that, among other things, would change sick leave terms for around 80,000 staff.
In June, when the two parties last met on the issue, PSAC claims the Treasury Board refused to concede that any significant changes were needed to the proposed changes, which had been brought in by the previous Conservative administration. This is in spite of Canada’s new Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau promising a new relationship with organised labour in last year’s election campaign.
“This is an insult,” said PSAC national president, Robyn Benson. “The Trudeau government needs to show that respect for the public service is more than just a campaign slogan. They can start by breaking from the Conservatives’ approach; we need to see real movement at the bargaining table.”
In a statement marking the resumption of talks this week, PSAC outlined a number of demands it will be seeking in the latest round of bargaining. Among these, the union wants the government to back down on a proposal that it claims will force workers to “choose between a pay cheque and going to work sick”.
“This session represents a make-it-or-break-it opportunity for the Liberal government,” PSAC said. “Despite promises of ‘sunnier days’, Treasury Board seems insistent on continuing to take direction from the former Conservative government’s play book.”
Relations between the federal civil service and the Liberal government have become increasingly strained in recent months after glitches with the Phoenix payroll system resulted in thousands of public sector workers being improperly paid or not paid at all.
“Unfortunately, after the debacle with the Phoenix pay system, the relationship between the government and public service workers is severely damaged,” added Benson. “How can we now trust the government to ‘modernize’ sick leave?”
PSAC said the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board was due to hear its complaint over the Phoenix system issue this week.
“By not providing timely and accurate pay to its employees, we believe the employer has changed the conditions of employment during collective bargaining and has violated the Public Service Labour Relations Act,” PSAC said.
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