Collective Bargaining

Reality Check: Collective bargaining, sick leave and Bill C-59

Historically, ACFO has avoided going into great detail about what transpires at the bargaining table in a public forum. We strongly believe in the collective bargaining process; the professional standards of the community we represent begets a professional approach to bargaining.

However, recent comments by Treasury Board President Tony Clement have cast aspersions on the way in which we have represented the FI Community at the bargaining table. To suggest, as he did in the Ottawa Citizen on May 11, that we are being “obstructionist” and that we are “stonewalling” at the table implies that we are not representing our community in good faith.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

ACFO and the FI Community have never asked for more than what we know to be fair – fair to the public service’s financial professionals and fair to the people of Canada who we so proudly serve.

Like the members of other unions, our community refuses to make concessions on sick leave that will result in a lower quality of care. ACFO has no lack of solidarity with its union partners on this issue and we respect their positions at the table. We will not agree to change our existing deal – a deal fairly struck with the employer in accordance with our Charter right to associate and collectively bargain – unless there is a better deal that can be negotiated through fair and equal collective bargaining and endorsed by the community we represent.

The employer presented us with a short-term disability plan that fails to meet any objective measure of what is adequate for a professional workforce. We know this because we’ve brought fair short-term disability programs to the bargaining table in each of the last two bargaining rounds. Each time we were told the employer was not interested in discussing them.

This time around we presented the employer with an alternative solution informed by one with a 10 year track record of decreased absenteeism and an increase in the quality of care. Their initial response to this effort? Outright rejection, saying the plan was “too rich” and one agreed to “by a private sector monopoly.”

Undeterred, and in good faith, ACFO arranged to invite two employer representatives in from the private sector, along with one high level and extremely experienced insurance industry expert, to illustrate what a decent and fair alternative looks like. This session was attended by half of the entire roster of Treasury Board negotiators just two days before the Budget Implementation Act was tabled.

This is clearly not obstructionist bargaining or stonewalling and the employer knows it.

The employer has indeed improved its very poor initial offer very incrementally and we fully anticipate it intends to do so several more times to appear that it is providing concessions. The reality is, however, that its model is so far removed from the industry standard and what is actually fair that incremental improvement will only serve to shift the offer from dismal to awful and consistently unfair.

We will continue to make our best efforts at the table despite a constant undermining of our constitutional rights by our own government and we’ve offered bargaining dates in June and August to that end. And we’ve done so despite a bargaining partner informed by ideology rather than good sense; and government that, at best, has not been informed about progress at our table and, at worst, ignores that progress in order to make misleading, politically-motivated statements to Canadians through the press.

We are also considering a constitutional challenge, an unfair labour practice complaint and a complaint to the International Labour Organization. At the same time we take our responsibilities to negotiate seriously and will continue to do so.

We take a great deal of pride in representing the FI Community in a professional way. Our community, in turn, takes an immense pride in its professionalism and commitment to serving Canadians. Minister Clement told the Citizen he’d “love to sit down with them to talk about this and to come up with a mutually acceptable solution.”

Minister Clement, you name the time, we’ll bring the market-tested private sector plans.

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

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