Collective Bargaining

Bill C-59: Our freedom of association matters

Since 1989, the Association of Canadian Financial Officers has represented the FI Community with the same sort of professionalism and decorum that the Community itself shows in its day-to-day work for Canadians.

And for 25 years, ACFO has been able to count on receiving an appropriate amount of professional courtesy from the parties across the table. No matter the political stripe of the government of the day, ACFO has been able to negotiate, in good faith, deals that are fair. We’ve been able to do this because we’ve negotiated with an employer that respected the professionalism of our group; respected the principles of fairness under which we made proposals; and respected constitutionally-protected collective bargaining rights.

With Bill C-59, introduced yesterday in the House of Commons, the Harper Government has completely undone 25 years of good faith bargaining and violated the constitutional rights of each and every member of the FI Community.

In the coming weeks and months, you’ll be hearing politically motivated talking points from your employer and government.

  • They will claim that the short term disability plan they will legislate is fair and will protect you when you are ill but in actual fact it will leave you with significantly reduced income when you most require it and routinely force you to choose to go to work sick.
  • They will press that this is necessary to be fair to taxpayers, ignoring that both the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Statistics Canada have refuted all claims by this government that sick leave is too costly or that a short term disability plan will save money.
  • They will say that this is necessary to balance the budget, as though the non-existent right to a balanced budget somehow supercedes the rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • They will say that this is necessary to bring the public sector in line with the private sector but they will ignore the private sector examples we provided in good faith at the bargaining table such as the plan in place for FIs at NAV Canada.

But the reality is that this is about so much more than sick leave.

The Harper Government has willfully violated your constitutional rights. They have placed themselves above the law, above the Charter and Rights and Freedoms, all so they can keep a political promise to be seen to be balancing the budget.

It’s illegal. It’s immoral. And it’s an affront to the professionalism and loyalty of the FI Community. In the coming days the ACFO leadership team will evaluate all options and plan the next course of action. Options already being assessed by our legal team include:

  • A constitutional challenge seeking to void this legislation and to uphold our rights and freedoms;
  • A formal complaint to the International Labour Organization;
  • An unfair labour practice complaint to the Public Service Labour Relations Board;
  • A sustained work to rule campaign to assert our rights.

The FI Community is known for its professionalism and its commitment to serving Canadians. Professionalism should not be mistaken for weakness. The right to assemble and to bargain collectively is not a mere inconvenience that can be legislated away at will. It’s a fundamental right enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that serves as the very bedrock upon which our Canadian society is built.

We won’t stand idly by as it’s trampled upon in the name of cheap political points.

Milt Isaacs, CPA, CMA, CPFA
President, Association of Canadian Financial Officers

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