Presentation on theme: "Questions and answers on Bill C-4, Budget Implementation Act."— Presentation transcript:
Questions and answers on Bill C-4, Budget Implementation Act
What impact will the proposed new designation process have on collective bargaining? The bill will give the federal government the unilateral right to designate employees as essential. The bill will also says that if 80 per cent or more of the employees of a bargaining unit are essential, the bargaining unit can’t take strike action.
Impact continued We can anticipate that the government will use this new power to greatly expand the number of employees who are essential, thereby significantly restricting the right to strike. The right to collective bargaining by definition must include the right to strike, or access to a fair and impartial third-party arbitration system when bargaining reaches an impasse. The new bill will limit the right to strike, and at the same time change the rules of arbitration such that it is neither fair nor impartial.
Who is designated essential right now? Under current law, a service, facility or a particular work activity can be designated essential if it is necessary for the safety and security of the public, or a segment of the public. Our union agrees that the health and safety of the public must never be put at risk. We have come to agreements with the government on what is essential. When we can’t agree, the current system allows a neutral and knowledgeable third party to make the decision. Not only is that the current system, but it’s also the system in place for other employers under federal jurisdiction (under the Canada Labour Code).
Who is designated essential right now? What the government wants to do is decide all by itself what is essential and who is essential. We believe that it will use this new and unprecedented power to do away with our collective bargaining power.
How many federal public service workers are designated essential now? Right now approximately 40,000 positions in the PSAC bargaining units are affected by essential service designations. We have approximately 140,000 members in total in the public service. It is important to note that under the current system, an employee who is designated essential is not required to carry out non-essential duties in the event of a strike.
Essential Emloyees Under the proposed rules, all employees designated essential by the employer will be required to complete all of their duties (essential or non-essential). We know the government is going to want to increase the number of essential workers by a lot if it gets new powers to do so
Essential Services When Treasury Board President Tony Clement was recently which workers would be deemed essential and whether workers could be deemed essential part way through a labour dispute, he refused to answer. He said that we would know that answer only after the law is passed. Parliament should have that answer before it votes on the law and so should all Canadians. Collective bargaining is a democratic right
Is it not better for contract disputes to be decided by arbitration? It is always better for the parties themselves to freely negotiate the new terms of a collective agreement. Labour relations experts agree on this point. It is the workers and the managers who have to live by the collective agreement so it is better for them to decide what is in it.
Arbitration However, when that’s not possible, arbitration is an alternative. But for arbitration to work, it has to be fair. The third party arbitrator has to be neutral and knowledgeable. The problem is the federal government is also proposing to change the rules of arbitration.
What changes to arbitration is the government making? First, they are going to make all arbitration awards subject to review by the chairperson of a new Public Service Labour Relations Board, who is appointed by the government. This makes the process subject to political interference.
Changes continued Second, they are proposing to change the criteria that arbitrators must now take into account when they make a decision. Currently, arbitrators are required by law to make the award fair with respect to what other workers have in the way of compensation. With this new law, arbitrators will be required to base their awards on only two things: (a) the government’s budget policies, and (b) what is required to attract competent people and retain them.
Changes Second, they are proposing to change the criteria that arbitrators must now take into account when they make a decision. Currently, arbitrators are required by law to make the award fair with respect to what other workers have in the way of compensation. With this new law, arbitrators will be required to base their awards on only two things: (a) the government’s budget policies, and (b) what is required to attract competent people and retain them.
How many settlements are achieved by arbitration now under the PSLRA? Under the current law, bargaining agents can choose between the arbitration route and the conciliation/strike route. Currently PSAC has 15 bargaining units (2,150 members) on the arbitration route and 13 (141,219 members) on the conciliation/strike route.
When was the last federal public service strike for PSAC? The last PSAC strike of federal public service workers was in 2004. Federal public service strikes are rare and rarely prolonged. The government risks making strikes much longer by limiting the number of workers on strike. Strikes that have real impact do not drag on.
Why is the right to strike important? Free collective bargaining is an essential democratic right and a cornerstone of effective labour relations. This right was recognized in 2007 by the Supreme Court as a constitutional right. Having the power to strike can lead to collective agreement disputes being settled much more quickly and it is an important part of our right to free collective bargaining.
Right to Strike The employer has an enormous amount of power at the bargaining table. Having the right to go on strike provides unions with the bargaining power required to achieve fair settlements.
Doesn't the federal government already have the power to end a strike? Did it not do that in the case of Air Canada or Canada Post? Yes. The government has introduced special laws to deal with specific labour disputes. In the case of Air Canada, this government went as far as passing a law when it thought a strike might happen. It forced Canada Post workers back to work even though they were not on strike but rather locked out by the Crown Corporation.
Rights Legal experts have criticized such laws as a violation of democratic rights. The International Labour Organization has also ruled that such laws violate international conventions that Canada has signed.
What do you think you can do to stop this bill given that the government has a majority in Parliament? We will be asking the opposition parties to separate out the proposed changes to labour laws from the other measures set out in the Budget Implementation Act. We will be mobilizing members and citizens to pressure the government to change its course.
What do you think you can do to stop this bill given that the government has a majority in Parliament? All of the federal public service unions are to pursue every option and opportunity to stop the proposed amendments. We have the full backing of the labour movement in Canada.
Are you going to work to rule or take a general strike? We are exploring all of our options. The federal government should not discount or underestimate the support of federal public service employees and the general public for fair collective bargaining. Our members will be quick to understand the implications of the federal government’s proposed changes on their rights as employees and as citizens.
Will you be launching a legal challenge against the law if it is adopted? Our first priority is to get the proposed labour changes removed from the Omnibus Bill. If the Government of Canada wants to avoid yet another legal challenge on labour rights, it should withdraw its proposed changes and consult with both unions and employers.
Are you going to campaign for the NDP? Our priority is to convince the government to remove its proposed labour law changes from the Budget Implementation Act. We will speak to all Members of Parliament about our concerns.
Are you going to campaign for the NDP? We will work with all Members of Parliament to win a fair, new and genuinely modern labour relations framework for federal public service employees.
You say you want the same labour relations regime that private sector workers have. What changes would that mean? The collective bargaining rights of federal public service employees are already greatly restricted in comparison to private sector workers and almost all other public sector workers in Canada. The Budget Implementation Act proposes to restrict our rights even more.
You say you want the same labour relations regime that private sector workers have. What changes would that mean? Other workers have access to fair and impartial arbitration processes to resolve contract disputes. The government is proposing to change the arbitration rules in its favour. Other labour laws allow for the employer and union to negotiate which workers perform essential services. If they cannot agree, an impartial Board decides. The federal government wants unilateral and exclusive control over designations.
Are you saying that you would agree to changes in labour law? We want an effective, streamlined labour relations regime for federal public service workers. We have a long-standing policy that calls for federal public service workers to be covered under the Canada Labour Code. We want a modern labour code that extends the same rights to federal public service workers the same rights as private sector workers in federal jurisdiction.
Are you saying that you would agree to changes in labour law? We do not agree with the government’s attempt to amend the Canada Labour Code through the budget bill. The government is proposing to take away important health and safety protections.