Can you afford to lose a week’s pay each year?

In the responses we received to January’s job action survey, a number of members indicated that they either did not want to or could not afford to participate in possible job action measures if CAPE and Treasury Board failed to reach an agreement and negotiations broke off.

While it is true that CAPE members have always chosen arbitration over conciliation/strike to resolve bargaining impasses in the past, the government has now amended the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) to eliminate the possibility of a choice, leaving conciliation/strike as the only possible settlement mechanism.

In this context, and in light of the setbacks which the government is seeking to impose, you may at some point be forced to withhold your services for an hour or a day in order to pressure the employer. Some job action measures will not translate into financial losses for you (e.g., work to rule, extended breaks, lunch-hour demonstrations). Others could financially affect groups of workers in a particular region, department or agency for a specified amount of time. In this second case, workers could receive strike pay or lose an hour’s pay or a day’s pay as applicable. CAPE will try to find creative ways to disrupt the employer’s operations; nevertheless, an impact on your wages remains a possibility.

But have you really taken the time to calculate just how much of a recurrent financial loss the employer’s sick leave and short-term disability proposals represent? Consider the following example.

A financial loss equivalent to one week per year for the rest of your career

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, public servants take an average of 11 days of sick leave each year. Under the existing system, all of those days are fully paid.

Now let’s jump ahead to the year 2017 and assume that the employer has successfully imposed its new sick leave and short-term disability plan. Instead of 15 days of sick leave per year, you now have only 6 days and they are not bankable. At the start of the year you come down with a really bad flu that keeps you away from work for six working days. When you go back to work, you note that you are now out of sick leave.

In May, you are unlucky enough to get a serious infection and your doctor prescribes seven days of bed rest, including five working days. Since you are out of sick leave, you want to go on short-term disability, but you can’t because there is a 7-day unpaid waiting period.  

This case may be hypothetical, but it is also very plausible. If you follow the average for public service employees as a whole and take 11 days of sick leave per year in future years, what the government is proposing will cost you a week’s pay each year – that’s 2% of your salary taken out of your pocket and off the government’s books each year.

Can you really afford to accept the government’s proposals?