EC tentative agreement: Employee wellness

February 17, 2017

Ec _col _barg

As part of our series of articles on the agreement in principle reached at the EC table, let’s now take a look at the sick leave plan.

Even before collective bargaining got under way in 2014, the previous government had announced its intention to reform the existing sick leave system and replace it with a short-term disability insurance plan. One of the government’s main arguments in favour of this action was that banked sick leave represented a considerable financial liability. However, the change in government following the last general election was accompanied by a change in the motives driving this reform.

While insurance is no longer being contemplated, there remains a desire to change the system. It must be acknowledged that the current system is unfavourable to some people, such as employees in the early stages of their careers who become disabled for a certain amount of time and don’t have a large amount of banked sick leave, or individuals returning from an extended leave period who no longer have any accumulated leave credits (it will take them years to bank enough leave credits to get them through to short-term disability coverage).

We therefore took an open-minded approach and accepted a memorandum of agreement that will allow us to explore jointly with the employer the development of an employee wellness support program that, among other things, would provide for salary replacement in the event of short- or long-term absences; it would also examine issues such as prevention, supportive care and attention, and returning to work. Other issues to be discussed would include the quality of the working environment and harassment in the workplace.

Our bargaining team had two choices: a model based on the memorandum of agreement negotiated with the Professional Institute of the Public service of Canada (PIPSC) and another patterned after the MOA negotiated with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). PIPSC’s MOA was very detailed and more binding in nature, whereas PSAC’s MOA remained purposely quite vague. In both cases, the MOA represented nothing more than a commitment to sit down with the employer and other unions to search for solutions that would be acceptable to all parties. It is important to remember that the existing sick leave system would remain in place throughout this process.

The EC Bargaining Team opted for the PSAC model. If the agreement in principle is ratified, we will participate in the work of the committees created under the MOA, namely a steering committee and a technical committee. Upon completion of this work, any resulting joint recommendation will be submitted to the members for a vote within the context of the next round of collective bargaining.

It should be noted that the TR bargaining team opted for the PIPSC model, which was the only one that existed at the time. This is clearly an advantage for all CAPE members because the union will have a presence in both of the forums in which federal public service employee wellness issues will be discussed. This is further proof that our diversity makes us stronger...