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Q’s and A’s on the Tentative Collective Agreement

In response to an overwhelming number of queries with regard to the tentative collective agreement posted on the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) website, please note the following:

Q: Is the information regarding the details of the proposed collective agreement on the PSAC website accurate?
A: Absolutely and without question.
Q: If we vote against the proposed collective agreement, what are the next steps?
A: Next year, Treasury Board and the PSAC bargaining team will meet again and another round of bargaining will ensue.
Q: If we go back to the bargaining table, are we likely to get a better deal or one where severance pay is not included?
A: The PSAC bargaining team expressed confidence that the deal struck is the best one we can possibly hope for and Treasury Board will not move on the severance pay issue. Concerns were expressed that if this tentative agreement is not accepted, that at the next round of negotiations the offer of wage increases would be withdrawn.
Q: If the PSAC bargaining team and Treasury Board meet without success next year, what are the next steps?
A: The groups who have tentative collective agreements are all on the conciliation/strike route, so a strike would be the last step in the process.
Q: Can we retain the severance pay option if we refuse to sign a contract that includes it?
A: The Employer has a number of options available to them to eliminate severance pay outside of the bargaining process. The political, economic and social climate is not in our favor at this time. Unfortunately, and through no fault of ours, the country is in a serious deficit position. The struggle to get positive media coverage and public support for our position would be difficult at best.
Q: With reference to employees with less than 10 years of service, is it true that they are entitled to one week of pay for each year of service rather than as it has been in the past with no entitlement to the severance pay without a minimum of 10 years of service to qualify?
A: Under the current contract, employees who resign before reaching 10 years of employment are not entitled to a severance payout, and those with between 10 and 26 years of employment are entitled to only a ½ week of pay for each year of employment. In the proposed new agreements, we negotiated that all employees with at least one year of employment will receive a cash out of one week of pay for each year of employment (from their starting date up to the second day of the new agreements) if they resign or are let go. For employees with 10 years or more who would have resigned before retirement, this represents a doubling of what their accumulated entitlement would have been under the current contract.

Currently, employees who retire, are entitled to one week’s pay per year of service to a maximum of 30 weeks’ pay. Under the new agreements, they will receive one week’s pay for every year of service accumulated to the second day of the new agreements with options to either bank those funds until retirement or to access all or part of the existing accumulated funds.

In closing and without prejudice to any party, the political parties have a mandate to get elected and, to accomplish that, they need public opinion on their side. At this time, unfortunately and through no fault of ours, the general public perception of Public Servants (and PSAC members) is that of a privileged workforce. It is unlikely that Canadians will feel empathy for our battle to retain severance benefits (this type of benefit is rare amongst any other industries/corporations) that none of them have and will not likely have in the future. This is the dilemma and there is the risk that the opposition party would not oppose return-to-work legislation without a contract in place – meaning that if a strike should occur, that we would be legislated back to work after three days and many of us will remember that, in the early 90’s, that very situation occurred. Zero (0) salary increases were imposed and legislation was introduced that reduced the workforce. A repeat of that sort of clawback situation is not outside the realm of possibility so the retention of severance pay might not be possible even if we choose to fight the Employer. This is all speculation and my personal perceptions but there are many experienced union activists who share my concerns.

Rotha Lennox
President of Local 70713

Questions or concerns can be directed to Rotha Lennox at rothalennox@gmail.com

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