The Treasury Board mandate remains unchanged – Conservative-era offers still on the table under the new government

June 30, 2016

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After a single frustrating day at the EC bargaining table, the members of CAPE’s team reached the sad conclusion that, even though the Liberal government had voided the anti-labour measures enacted previously by the Conservative government, the Treasury Board bargaining team was still operating under its old mandate. The employer’s offers with respect to sick leave, short-term disability and even wages are substantially the same in the Trudeau era as what they were when the Harper government was in power.

Frustrated and disappointed, the EC bargaining team will nevertheless work to prepare a response to Treasury Board for the upcoming bargaining sessions, which are scheduled for September 27 to 29. As part of its response, the team will have to decide (a decision is required by September 1)  whether to reopen the possibility of binding arbitration as an option for the current round of bargaining, since it is now available to us.

At the start of June, the Liberal government restored the collective bargaining process to what it had been prior to the changes imposed by the Harper government’s passage of Bill C-4 in 2013.  In fact, the government announced its decision just as the legal challenge to these changes mounted by federal public service unions was about to go to court.

The members of the bargaining team and of the EC Bargaining Committee will be meeting next week to discuss their next steps as well as what response should be given to Treasury Board concerning the choice of a settlement mechanism in the event of an impasse for the remainder of the round.

Bargaining team members saw their level of frustration rise when the employer refused to discuss its proposals or the proposals made by CAPE. It appears that Treasury Board has no leeway to negotiate outside the strict parameters of the mandate assigned to it by the previous government. Hence, the employer reiterated its intention to adopt a short-term disability plan that would not give adequate protection to all employees; it is also sticking to its demands concerning the elimination of banked sick leave; and its wage proposals are still on anemic side. The employer even intends to limit to 12 months the retroactive pay period for any salary increases that are negotiated, even though we have been without a collective agreement since June 2014. It is as though the employer wants to reward itself for having dragged out the entire collective bargaining process.

Regardless of our choice of dispute resolution process, the team hopes that the government will shows signs, come September, that it is serious about negotiating. CAPE intends to continue working in solidarity with the other bargaining agents toward the joint goal of obtaining a plan to provide income protection plan in case of illness that is just as good as or better than the one we have now.

Lastly, we want to welcome Joni Janson back to the bargaining team; Joni has been away on maternity leave. We also want to thank Karen Johnson for her fine service; Karen is leaving to pursue new challenges within the public service.

The parties will be meeting again from September 27 to 29. Let’s hope that Minister Brison comes to the realization that the Conservatives are no longer in office and that he should respect the work of the bargaining teams.