On October 8, more than 250 members demonstrated at the Montreal-Trudeau Airport to demand greater border security in Canada. More than 1,000 positions, including front-line border workers, sniffer-dog teams and intelligence officials have been cut by the Conservative government.
In 2013, CBSA installed Automated Border Clearance (ABC) kiosks at three airports: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. These kiosks are having a detrimental effect on the security of Canadians. You can’t replace people with machines. Since the introduction of this technology, seizures have dropped by 25%. On October 8, more than 100 CIU members demonstrated at the Pearson Airport to demand greater border security in Canada.
On Thursday October 8, one hundred CIU members in Vancouver voiced their concerns regarding the Harper government systematically attacking our rights and collective agreements. First it was severance, then it was our right to strike. The Conservatives are putting national security at risk by cutting CBSA staff and replacing officers with machines.
This morning, Pierre Poilièvre and other Conservative candidates in Ottawa made an announcement directed towards federal public service workers.
The press conference, along with an open letter from Stephen Harper to the public service, followed campaign announcements regarding the federal public service by the NDP and Liberals earlier this week.
“It is clear the Conservatives are worried,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President, “they know that many public service workers are looking to make different choices this election.”
The Harper Conservatives’ record when it comes to the public service has been devastating as it relates to the elimination of thousands of jobs and the attempt to eliminate sick leave by legislating away bargaining rights.
Silence on the cuts to public services
PSAC’s Vote to the Stop the Cuts campaign has revealed key information about the cuts and their cumulative effect. By 2015–16, these cuts will be more than $14.5 billion a year
Despite this, the announcement today remained silent on these cuts. No mention was also made of closure of service centers across the country, including nine Veterans Affairs offices.
“Many essential public services have been threatened by reckless cuts by the Harper Conservative government, without regard for the safety and welfare of millions of Canadians,” said Benson.
“Our members are on the front lines and see how frustrated Canadians are. Government departments have been stripped bare and workers are struggling to maintain crucial services under very difficult circumstances.”
The government’s proposal on sick leave will force public service workers to choose between going to work sick or losing pay for basic necessities. The latest announcement made no changes to their proposal.
The Harper Conservatives made it clear with their last budget implementation act, Bill C-59, that they do not intend to negotiate, but simply impose their go-to-work sick plan.
Public service pensions
The announcement promises that no changes will be made to the pension plans of our members. However, the Conservative government is drafting legislation that will allow for the conversion of pensions from defined benefit plans to target pension plans in other federally-regulated workplaces. Public service employees have every right to be concerned that what the Conservatives want for the federally-regulated private sector could be extended to federal employees.
“Actions speak louder than words. This government has consistently undermined and attacked the public service, not worked cooperatively with them, contrary to what Harper says in his letter,” said Robyn Benson.
It has been some time since we have provided an update to our members with respect to those of you who cannot take the CDT and Arming course based on a ground listed in the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) or who have tried and been unable to successfully complete the course.
Much has transpired since last April when the CBSA issued its Letters of Confirmation. The CBSA remains fixed on having only tooled/armed members with face to face enforcement duties working on the front line. While the CIU/PSAC disputes that the employer has established this as a bona fide occupational requirement, we are nonetheless working with the CBSA to ensure that our members are treated fairly.
With that in mind, the CBSA and CIU/PSAC (CIU National Executive: Mark Weber, Brea Lewis, André Beaulieu, Chantal Rajotte and myself as well as CIU National EO Representative Murray Star, PSAC Legal Officer Lisa Addario and CIU Labour Relations Officer Laurel Randle) have been working to establish a strategy for the placement of the CBSA employees/CIU members who require accommodation or placement for reasons outlined in the first paragraph above.
We first worked to agree on some principles. In the meantime, the employer undertook to have regional management and human resources compile preliminary lists of employees who hold front line positions and who need to be accommodated under the CHRA, and to look at placement opportunities for these employees within those regions.
The CBSA has asserted that our members who are already in accommodated positions that do not involve face to face enforcement interactions with clients will remain in those positions.
For those employees who are in face to face enforcement positions, have limitations that are at least twelve months in duration and who will require accommodation by the March 31, 2016 arming implementation deadline, accommodated positions will be offered to them at their substantive level. This accommodation will be negotiated on a case by case basis. The employer has asserted that it has sufficient meaningful work for all these employees.
Under federal law, the employer has a duty to accommodate employees to the point of undue hardship and CBSA recognizes this obligation.
The CIU will be monitoring this process closely. We must also make sure that the list of employees compiled by the employer is comprehensive.
We have asserted that the employer ought not to be offering our members demotions in this process and the principle agreed to by the CBSA is to find positions that are at the members’ substantive group and level.
With the above principles established, the parties agreed to a pilot for Southern Ontario Region within the Border Services Officer community. During the third week in August, CBSA management met with CIU representatives in Niagara Falls. Preliminary discussions were held wherein the CBSA brought forward the names of our members impacted as well as potential placement opportunities. Initially, the next step was for CIU representatives to meet with members individually to discuss their particular needs and options. However – and because we recognized that once such discussions would start, news would certainly spread and questions would abound – it was decided that before taking that step we would provide our membership with this piece of communication to inform them of the strategy and the meetings that will take place over the coming months.
The SOR Branch Presidents, National Vice-President for that region and CIU/PSAC staff members as required will meet in the near future with the impacted members individually. Subsequently, the employer, employee and Union representatives will meet so that accommodation arrangements can be determined.
Once the pilot in SOR is reviewed, such meetings will take place across the country, with the next region being the Atlantic. A schedule will be made available for the remainder of the country (before the end of September).
As a party to the accommodation process, the Union’s obligation is to not block a reasonable accommodation plan. The employer intends to canvass employees who currently meet the use of force requirements and are not in front line positions, inviting them to consider other positions in this regard so as to ensure continued employment opportunities for those members who require an accommodation in an unarmed/untooled position.
CIU and PSAC will be making every effort to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. If you have any questions regarding the above, please see your union representative or Branch President.