Collective Bargaining

Sick leave, wage increases and setting the tone for bargaining

Over the past few weeks and months, the issue of public sector sick leave has dominated the headlines. Many of our fellow bargaining agents have produced research lately that stands in stark contrast to the information put out by the government when they first decided to raise the issue in the public’s mind.

What has been clear for quite some time is that the government’s arguments are, at best, dubious. Checks and balances exist to mitigate the risk of abuse of the system. Questionable claims about the cost of sick leave fail to recognize that sick leaves can’t be cashed out and work missed by employees on sick leave doesn’t just disappear or get done by someone else – it sits and waits for the employee, who often has to work extra hard to catch up when they return.

Sadly, it’s becoming clear that such differences of opinion between the government and its employees on issues like this are not only rampant but likely the result of willful obfuscation of fact.

Last week, PressProgress received information under Access to Information that, in their words, “undermined [Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s] talking points about overpaid public servant,” another key theme in the government’s rhetoric as of late. Indeed, it would seem the government knows full well that rates of pay for the public sector have increased slightly less than their private sector counterparts in the past 20 years.

Add in the recent agreement over the public sector health plan, an agreement reached with the threat of legislation hanging over our heads as we sat down to attempt to negotiate, long after the budget announcement was made and the pattern is clear.

Our next round of collective bargaining will start in the next few months. Contrary to what seems to be the prevailing sentiment in some corners, we aren’t looking to fleece Canadians or line our pockets at their expense. After all, our group works hard every day to ensure fiscal prudence and maintain the careful stewardship of the public trust. We just want to ensure conditions exist that will allow us to continue to recruit the best and brightest minds to this incredibly important cause.

But in order to strike a deal that’s fair, we need a realistic and objective view of the world in which our members work. When the government is engaged in a campaign of disinformation even before we sit down to negotiate, it sends a message. It says that scoring perceived political points is more important than fairly negotiating with the dedicated professional public servants who play such a critical role in the financial accountability of the government.

It’s a message that’s been received by our members. And it only serves to strengthen our resolve.

31/3/2014
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