Author Archives: Pierre St-Jacques

Deal reached for Phoenix damages, PA group and common issues

Image conversation PSAC AFPC

In a victory for federal public service workers who have gone above and beyond to support Canadians during this pandemic, PSAC has reached a tentative agreement that provides fair wages, no concessions, and improved working conditions for the 70,000 members of the PA group, and Treasury Board common issues.

Alongside these successful talks, PSAC has also secured proper compensation for Phoenix damages to be paid to PSAC members for the pain and suffering caused by the broken pay system.

Phoenix damages

PSAC successfully negotiated a Phoenix damages settlement that is significantly better than the employer’s deal with other federal bargaining agents. Last year, PSAC rejected the government’s meagre offer of 5 days of cashable leave, which was too little and would have rewarded those who earn more while punishing workers who make less. The current agreement provides PSAC members with a fair and equitable lump sum payment of $2,500.

Unlike the tentative deal for Treasury Board bargaining that must be voted on by PSAC members in the near future, the Phoenix damages agreement required ratification by the PSAC National Board of Directors. The Board voted unanimously in favour of the offer on July 3, 2020.

Please read the following update which provides greater detail on the general Phoenix compensation portion of the settlement, as well as the expansion of the claims process for out-of-pocket expenses and for those who suffered major losses because of Phoenix.

PA Group settlement

The PSAC bargaining team successfully secured fair wage increases averaging at 2.11% per year.

PA group members would receive the following wage increases:

2018 2019 2020
2.8% 2.2% 1.35%

In addition to those wage increases, the following group-specific wage adjustments and allowances were also secured: ​

  • Improved retention allowance expanded for all employees working in compensation operations to $3,500 per year
  • A new $3,000 annual allowance for armed Fishery Officers
  • A new Primary Responsibility Allowance of $2,000 per year for parole officers and parole officer supervisors or Parole Officer Managers at Correctional Services Canada (CSC)

Other improvements to the PA collective agreement include: ​

  • Increase in maternity related reassignment or leave qualification from 52 to 78 weeks following the birth of a child
  • Several leave improvements including for a person who stands in place of a relative for:
    • Leave without pay for the care of the family
    • Bereavement leave
    • Leave with pay for family-related responsibilities
  • A new leave provision for members elected to union leadership
  • An increase in meal allowance for overtime from $10 to $12
  • New language to clarify that  the Employer shall provide an unpaid meal break of a minimum of thirty (30) minutes per full working day, normally at the mid-point of the working day
  • Renewal and update of a memorandum of understanding on a Joint Study on the Work Environment for Employees Working in Call Centres
  • New provision that provides call centre employees with training on crisis intervention and coping
  • Increases to funding for the Joint Learning Program, including a pilot study on health and safety training
  • Language that explicitly provides breaks for nursing employees (to nurse or express breast milk)
  • Memorandum of understanding for a Joint Study on employee support mechanisms for employees who in the course of their duties are exposed to explicit and disturbing material, and/or potentially threatening situations
  • Joint committee to review the use of Indigenous languages in the federal public service, examine Indigenous language skills in the performance of employee duties and consider the advantages that Indigenous language speakers bring to the public service
  • Memorandum of understanding regarding Occupational Group Structure (OGS) review

Common issues settlement

Alongside negotiations for the PA group, PSAC bargaining teams for the TC, EB and SV groups also joined talks to reach a settlement for Treasury Board issues common to all groups. Some of the key improvements include:

  • A one-time payment of $500 in recognition of the extended collective agreement implementation deadline and an additional $50 for every subsequent 90-day delay
  • 10 days of paid domestic violence leave
  • Better language on return to work following a maternity or parental leave, giving more flexibility to parents who wish to change positions within the federal public service.
  • Improvements to parental leave pay
    • Updated language to match the new legislation including a new extended leave option and the sharing of parental leave
    • Expanded supplementary allowance for every week an employee is on extended or shared parental leave
    • Additional weeks for parents covered under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, when both parents work in the public service.
  • New memorandum of understanding to explore the issues related to childcare in the public service
  • Updated and improved language to match the new legislation on compassionate care and caregiving leave
  • Better language to allow the use of employer facilities for union activities
  • New memorandum of understanding to protect certain working conditions of civilian members of the RCMP
  • New memorandum of understanding on mental health in the workplace to support the work of the Centre for Expertise on Mental Health
  • In the event of workforce adjustment, the education allowance has increased to $17,000
  • Deletion of Memorandum of Understanding on Supporting Employee Wellness. As a result, sick leave will remain untouched.

Full text and next steps

In the coming days when the final text and full details of the tentative agreement for the PA group and common issues are available, they will be shared with the membership. PA members will shortly thereafter be invited to participate in online ratification votes. Details about the votes will be shared as soon as possible.

The PSAC bargaining team unanimously recommends the ratification of the tentative agreement.

To ensure that you receive all updates and can participate in the ratification process, please ensure that you have either updated your contact information on PSAC’s member portal, or that you create an account if you have not done so already.

Other PSAC bargaining groups

Bargaining dates for the SV group will be announced in the weeks to come. Negotiations for the EB, TC and Canada Revenue Agency groups will resume next week.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.

PA bargaining update: Significant progress made, negotiations extended

Image conversation PSAC AFPC

After two weeks of discussions at the bargaining table, significant progress was made on contract negotiations for common issues,  PA group – PSAC’s largest bargaining unit – and Phoenix damages. Negotiations are still ongoing, and both the employer and the union team have decided to extend negotiations this week in order to reach a deal.

PSAC will provide an update to members shortly thereafter.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.

FB bargaining on hold until new employer negotiator is assigned

Photo of a border services officer with the words bargaining - FB group

Our FB bargaining team met with Canada Border Services Agency/Treasury Board last month in virtual contract talks. Our team was scheduled to meet with them again in July, but the Treasury Board negotiator assigned to the FB bargaining unit is no longer representing the employer.

Consequently, our dates for next month have been postponed while a new negotiator is assigned by Treasury Board. We have notified the employer that our team is prepared to schedule dates during the summer once a new negotiator is assigned. We’ll provide an update once we have more information.

COVID-19: Guidebook on Easing Restrictions on Federal Worksites

The following message was sent by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Chief Human Resources Officer.

We are clearly entering a new phase in our country’s efforts to fight the new coronavirus. As recent data shows a flattening of the curve of new COVID-19 infections in multiple jurisdictions across Canada, provinces and territories are announcing plans to ease restrictions and gradually re-open economies.

To guide your organizations’ plans in response to this easing of restrictions, OCHRO, Health Canada and Public Services and Procurement Canada have assembled guidance in the form of a Guidebook for Easing Restrictions: A guide to support a gradual, safe and sustainable easing of COVID-19 restrictions at federal worksites. It has benefited from contributions from a cross-section of deputy colleagues and members of the National Joint Council. Essential excerpts can be accessed here; for your convenience, I am providing direct links to OCHRO’s guidance, PSPC’s guidance and Health Canada’s occupational health tool kit.

Your organizations’ plans will need to be consistent with the same principles that have guided our collective response to the pandemic to date: being informed by the decisions of public health authorities, the direction of provinces and territories, and the local public health situation; putting the physical and psychological health of our employees first; and, preserving the delivery of services and programs.

As you adapt your plans to the particular circumstances of our diverse workforce, your worksites, your partners’ and stakeholders’ needs, and to the nature of your work, I invite you to continue to involve bargaining agent representatives in your planning through your respective Occupational Health and Safety tables.

This unprecedented situation will challenge the public service on all levels for some time, and we will continue to seize this unique opportunity for us to shape the future of our work. For example, employees of all levels will be able to continue working from home as we maximize the contribution of all members of our workforce through new telework collaboration tools and an expanded onsite presence.

I would like to thank you for your ongoing efforts towards a successful and sustainable transition, most recently through the participation of your designated lead planners to ensure a coherent approach in this significant government-wide transition exercise. This is a time for leadership at all levels to shine.

Guidance – Non-Medical Masks and Screening

The following message was sent by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Chief Human Resources Officer.

In advance of sharing a more comprehensive guide and occupational health advice to assist you in your planning for easing of COVID-19 restrictions and possible increased access at your federal worksites, we have some important information to share on the use of non-medical masks or face coverings, and screening. This information may assist you in preparing plans for your organizations.

During this transition period, we know that employees will have many questions and concerns. Organizations should assure employees that the government is working on guidance to reduce the risk of transmission at worksites, including supporting employees in continuing to work remotely, ensuring physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing workspaces frequently and installing engineering controls, such as physical barriers, where feasible. Encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick and following public health guidance continue to be crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

It is important to remind employees that good hygiene practices (hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette) and physical distancing remain the most important measures they can take to protect their health and the health of others.

Your organization will need to update and review your hazard prevention programs based on the latest risk-mitigation advice. You should also consult Health Canada’s updated general occupational health advice, which will be available on canada.ca in the coming days. You can tailor this advice to your specific workplace needs by working with your occupational health and safety committee to review procedures and programs as necessary.

Non-Medical Masks or Face Coverings

When all other measures are exhausted, impractical or not feasible, Non-Medical Masks (NMMs) or cloth face coverings are an additional measure that can be used to protect others around them. They are to be worn for short periods of time where physical distancing is not possible or is unpredictable.

The purpose of non-medical masks (NMM) or face coverings should be clearly communicated to employees.

NMM or face coverings:

  • are generally recommended as an additional public health measure, when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded settings
  • are meant to contain the wearer’s respiratory droplets to protect others – they do not protect the wearer
  • are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) because they do not meet the requirements under the Canada Labour Code

The latest occupational health advice points to key factors that you will need to consider when updating your procedures:

  • Occupational requirements of workers and their specific workplace configuration. For example, there could be instances where an employee’s face covering could become lodged in a piece of equipment
  • Inclusion and accessibility issues, such as allowing lip reading (translucid panel masks can be procured) and interference with cultural or religious headdresses
  • Some employees may want to wear NMM even when it is not recommended for added protection; consider allowing this within acceptable parameters of life cycle management and security considerations
  • Others may refuse to do so even when distancing cannot be maintained. Safety of workers must prevail; involve your OHS Committee and Labour Relations as may be required
  • Consider the local context for COVID-19 regarding community transmission in each location.

Recognizing the challenges in maintaining a two-metre distance at all times, departments will provide NMMs and/or cloth face coverings and instructions about their appropriate use and disposal.

PSPC has launched an online catalogue through which departments and agencies can purchase necessary supplies to help keep employees safe. The catalogue includes items like hand sanitizer, wipes and non-medical masks, which may be purchased in preparation for employees’ return to the workplace. Departments and agencies can request access to the online catalogue via email.

The use of protective equipment is only one tool in a broader strategy for a safe return to the workplace, and given the market realities for the goods, requests should be based on a careful review of departmental needs.

Screening

Employees should be encouraged to self-assess for symptoms of COVID-19. Health Canada’s online self-assessment tool helps employees complete a self-assessment. Employees can also access the tool through the free Canada COVID-19 app, which also provides access to useful resources and information.

Passive screening should be implemented and supported through signage and other information material.

In some locations, especially where services to the public are provided, organizations might consider active screening as described by Health Canada.

Public health authorities have signaled that physical distancing requirements will remain in place and many employees will find themselves continuing to work from home for some time to come. The easing of restrictions will bring a new phase for Canadians and for all of us in the public service. We will continue to work together and with you as we move forward.