Bill C 25 – the Public Service Modernization Act

October 03, 2003

On September 2, 2003 Association President Bill Krause appeared before the Standing Committee on National Finance and presented the Association’s view of Bill C 25. Claude Danik, Director of Professional Services, and Peter Engelmann, legal counsel from Engelmann & Gottheil, assisted.

(To place this presentation in perspective, The Social Science Employee’s Association (SSEA) appeared before the House of Commons Committee on Bill C 25 prior to the formation of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE). We were subsequently called to appear before the Standing Committee on National Finance on Bill C 25, to share the presentation and concerns which we had expressed before the House of Commons Committee. In the interim, however, CAPE had been formed. We were subsequently invited to appear before the National Finance Committee of the Senate, to reiterate the position previously presented to the House of Commons Committee on Bill C 25 by SSEA.)

After an exhaustive review of the proposed legislation, we had the following observations to make: while the legislation carries some fine philosophical changes in labour management relations, there exists the very strong possibility that these objectives may not be achieved owing to needed improvements.

“We must keep in mind that this legislation will shape labour relations in the public service for many years to come. In its current form, it is almost exclusively a reflection of managerial interests. There is a need for more balance if we truly want these reforms to bring forth an era of labour peace in the federal public service,” Association President Bill Krause.

The primary objectives of the legislation are laudable – most notably the institution of a co operative labour management relationship that supports a collaborative public service, one that is essentially non confrontational in nature. The Association also strongly supports the notion of flexibility in staffing combined with reinforced safeguards to protect merit.

Under the new Public Service Labour Relations Act, discrimination grievances go to a Labour Relations Board and not the Human Rights Tribunal. This will allow for more timely and effective action, and we are in support of this change.

The decisions of the new Public Service Labour Relations Act will be final and binding. This provision is important because it will discourage unnecessary litigation, and we are in support of this change as well.

The new legislation creates an Advisory Board on compensation. The Association is currently actively participating in such a venture, and as such we are fully in support of labour management compensation analysis. The legislation, however, is unclear regarding the matter of the composition of the Advisory Board: it should clearly state that at least 40% of the membership must be from labour, while another minimum of 40% must be from management.

We are pleased with the fact that the new PSLRA maintains the right to arbitration or strike in the resolution of bargaining impasses. Our members have always relied on arbitration as a method of dispute resolution.

There are, however, areas of the Bill that cannot be supported in their current form. Our recommendations are designed to improve the bill in the public interest of better labour management relations and effective staffing…

Section 8 of the PSLRA must be amended so that consultation committees are conducted in good faith.

Section 10 must be amended to include a dispute resolution process in the case of co development initiatives. Without such a process the default decision making process is a managerial decision. If such a requirement for a dispute resolution mechanism is not included in the Act, we respectfully suggest that all references to co development should be removed from the act.

Section 41 of the new PSLRA must be amended: the Board’s right to waive a hearing should be condition to agreement by the parties to the matter.

Paragraph 76 (1) must be deleted. This provision directs the employer to withhold union dues from a union until an exclusion proposal has been decided. This authority could be abused with the intent of adversely impacting on the operations of an organization. Indeed, the employer could unintentionally harm a bargaining agent as a result of this new provision.

Section 209 must be amended – the adjudicator’s right to waive a hearing should be conditional to agreement by the parties to the matter of the grievance.

Section 230 must be amended – termination or demotion should be for just cause, not for reason of opinion.

Section 11 of the current Public Service Employment Act must be retained this would place an onus on the Commission to appoint from within the public service except where in the opinion of the commission it is not in the best interest to do so. This preference for internal staffing is an important element of career progression and development. It also serves to counterbalance the propensity to staff from outside the public service.

Section 30 of the proposed Act must be amended – the PSLRA must ensure that staffing is conducted in such a manner that the PS will continue to strive for excellence.

Section 35 must be amended in order to extend to non partisan employees on Parliament Hill the right to compete for PS jobs – a right which is being extended to separate employers under section 35.

77 (1) of the Act must be amended in order to extend the tribunal complaints process to appointments by Deputy Heads. It must also be amended so that the grounds for a complaint include the failure to fairly assess qualifications as a result of error, an omission or improper conduct. (This concern is based solidly upon the latest survey results of government employees in which 30% expressed concern over the lack of perceived fairness. Strong rights of appeal create a strong foundation for correct action by managers.

(For the complete text of the presentation to the Standing Committee on National Finance in PDF format, please ( click here.)