Public Service Week: Government HypocrisyMay 01, 1999
Amidst a backdrop of crumbling public service morale, a decade of neglect highlighted by the ongoing erosion of employee rights, and more recent actions to suspend access to arbitration, to discriminate against our members on leave provisions, and to plunder the public service pension plan surplus, V. Peter Harder, Secretary of the Treasury Board has extended an invitation to the Association to participate in ceremonies celebrating National Public Service Week. In a sharply worded statement, reflecting the frustration and anger of government employees, President Bill Krause has rebuked the government for its hypocrisy. The text of Bill’s letter follows:
Dear Mr. Harder:
In your letter of March 12 you invited us to participate during National Public Service Week 1999 in an event entitled Proudly Serving Canadians. While serving the Canadian public is the quintessential goal of government employment, and a goal that we share with you, I wish to inform you that our Association must decline your invitation.
As you are well aware, we did not participate in the past events of this kind, due to the government’s legislation limiting our members’ bargaining rights. Treasury Board’s announcement that the legislation prohibiting binding arbitration (already in place for three years) is being extended for a further two years, has both infuriated and deeply disappointed our membership.
When Treasury Board announced the further suspension of arbitration, our membership was in the middle of a referendum to select their preferred method of dispute resolution for the next round of bargaining. More than 99.5% of our members chose binding arbitration. Our members seek to resolve their differences with their employer through facts, rational discussion, and if necessary, the wisdom of an independent third party. Your announcement was taken as a slap in the face — a warning that you wish to resolve differences through a confrontational strike process, where power prevails, not reasoned rational arguments.
Recently proposed return to work legislation, only serves to illustrate how the Board wishes to impose its will on its employees. The government denies workers access to peaceful dispute resolution methods which would preserve service to the Canadian public, and then orders them to work if they select the only available method, a strike.
Please understand that this matter cannot be taken in isolation. In the last decade the government has acted against its employees with a number of regressive measures including:
1. the imposition of a wage freeze lasting 6 years;
2. the two year freeze on pay increments;
3. the suspension of job security rights lasting 3 years;
4. weaker job security rights negotiated under the threat of legislation;
5. the suspension of binding third party arbitration for 3 years;
6. the extension of the ban on binding arbitration for a period of 2 years;
7. legislation to seize the pension surpluses of government employees, RCMP officers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces; and
8. the refusal to accept the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on the issue of pay equity;
Such a pattern of behaviour is, without doubt, evidence of a government which acts without due regard for the rights of employees. On matters of little or no consequence, or those of media value, such as the ceremonies announced for Public Service Week, Treasury Board is prepared to sit down with us and engage in intelligent discussion. On matters of pay and working conditions, or those of any serious financial consequence such as our pension, the government is prepared to act unilaterally and impose its will through legislation.
We have always believed that federal government employees across this country are a world class organization, who constantly strive with well founded pride to serve the Canadian public. Unfortunately, over the last decade, governments have acted out of fiscal nearsightedness to undermine the very morale, productivity and dedication to service which are the foundations of our Public Service.
Finally, to participate in this event would give the employer, the government, the Canadian public, and our members, the mistaken impression that there is a healthy, caring and productive labour relations environment in the Public Service, based on respect for employees and their bargaining agents. Nothing could be further from the truth.