Report to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive, March 2018
Regional Executive Vice-President
PSAC – Prairie Region
This report covers the period from the last MFL Executive meeting in November, 2017.
Phoenix Pay System
On Tuesday, February 27 the Trudeau government delivered the 2018 Federal Budget. PSAC was encouraged by the funding for Phoenix in the budget, as well as the commitment to put an end to the Phoenix pay system. But these positive aspects do not mean that the government is off the hook for the suffering that our members and other public service workers have faced.
PSAC’s priority remains getting our members paid correctly and on time. We welcome any system that would pay our members. It is unacceptable that, after two years, the federal government still can’t pay its employees properly. Nearly 200,000 federal public service workers – included some two-thirds of federal employees in Manitoba - have suffered, and continue to suffer financial and emotional consequences as a result of the government’s implementation of the Phoenix pay system.
That’s why the next day, February 28, PSAC held rallies across the country to mark the second anniversary of this fiasco, and to deliver “Phoenix First Aid” to members who have been burnt by Phoenix. As part of this Day of Action, members also gathered signatures for our petition calling on the federal government to make our federal public service workers whole. This petition is still live and online, and we ask that all of our friends in the union movement sign it.
In Winnipeg, members gathered in front of 280 Broadway in the morning with coffee, donuts and materials for members with information on what to do if they have been affected by Phoenix. We were thankful for the support we received from the MFL, MGEU, CUPE and other allies who braved a very cold morning to show their solidarity.
A rally was also held in Brandon. PSAC members were joined by allies from the Brandon and District Labour Council, MGEU and Brandon Teachers for a rally in front of Conservative MP Larry Maguire's office at over the lunch hour. They took the opportunity to speak to the constituency staff and have requested a follow up meeting with the MP.
Both of these actions received wide and positive media coverage in the local media, and fed into larger national stories.
This pressure – and your solidarity – has resulted in a real, tangible victory for our members.
In response to pressure from PSAC and our allies, the federal government has finally agreed to halt recoveries of overpayments, emergency salary advances and priority payments until employees’ pay files have been cleared of all outstanding transactions. This means employees will receive any and all funds they are owed before they must reimburse the employer for any overpayments or emergency pay. No recovery of an overpayment is to commence until an employee’s pay problems, such as incorrect or no pay, have been resolved.
PSAC has stressed the need for a “whole person” approach to those affected by Phoenix. There is a lot of work still to do in order to make sure that this new process rolls out smoothly for our members – who have seen far too many “fixes” come and go with the same negative results. That is why we will be pursuing damages for our members, who continue to deliver high quality public services even though they live in constant fear of what their next pay cheque would look like – or if they would receive one at all.
In Manitoba, we continue to work with other unions particularly on healthcare cuts and wage freezes that affect our members at Deer Lodge Centre, and in the university sector at the University of Winnipeg and Brandon University.
PSAC stands in favour of strong pensions that protect not only our members under federal and provincial legislation, but all workers. That is why we have made a submission to the government’s review of the Pension Benefits Act. Target benefit pension plans are not the appropriate solution and do not provide the platform employees need for their retirements; target plans will become part of a growing retirement income problem in Canada not its solution. Predictable and secure pensions are not the problem that requires addressing today. The real pension problem is that two thirds of Canadians have no workplace pension at all. They rely on the Canada Pension Plan and a hodgepodge of high-fee, finance industry-friendly private retirement savings plans that are inadequate to the task of real retirement savings.
Members working at Canada Post ratified a new collective agreement in a series of votes held in the last two months across the country.
Our Parks bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with the Agency February 16, 2018, which the team unanimously recommends. The Public Service Alliance of Canada will be holding an electronic vote for members of the Parks Canada Agency to ratify the tentative agreement between March 19 and April 26, 2018.
After 3-1/2 years at the table, the bargaining team for FB members who work at Canada Border Services Agency has been informed that Treasury Board has a new mandate to negotiate. As a result, we are in the process of setting dates to return to the bargaining table during the week of March 19th.
Over 100,000 federal public service workers under Treasury Board are preparing to go back to the bargaining table. Bargaining teams will be elected at a national bargaining conference at the end of March and we hope to be at the table as soon as agreements expire in June and August.
Bargaining in Manitoba
Employees at the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg ratified a new collective agreement in November.
Negotiations are underway for the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees members at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg. UVAE members are subject to Bill 28 which mandates 2 years of 0%, 1 year of 0.75% and 1 year of 1%. PSAC Prairies is participating in a charter challenge with other unions looking to have Bill 28 declared unconstitutional.
Negotiations for Union of Canadian Transportation Employees members at the Port of Churchill are progressing slowly but the goal is to have a tentative agreement in place should any sale of the Port be finalized.
Bargaining demands have been prepared and negotiations will soon commence for UCTE Local 50602 SRG members (airport security not screeners) at the Winnipeg Airport Authority.
Negotiations continue at CAHRD (Canadian Aboriginal Human Resource Development) Local 55602.
A tentative agreement has been reached for the English Language Program at the University of Winnipeg. First contract negotiations for the Research Associates/Assistants Unit, and the Academic Capacity Unit is in negotiations for its second contract.
A tentative agreement has been reached at Brandon University. In this round of negotiations, we were faced with the Public Service Sustainability Act (Bill 28). This new legislation introduced by the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government imposes a 2-year wage freeze on all public sector workers – including students who work at BU – and wage restrictions for another 2 years. This legislation violates our constitutional right to free collective bargaining, and we have joined forces with other unions to file a court case against the Pallister government.
Following a difficult round of negotiations, Union of National Employees members at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights ratified a collective agreement on December 20th. This is the second agreement for this bargaining unit and the first agreement negotiated since the Museum officially opened. A priority for the bargaining team going into this round of negotiation was for issues related to front line staff and managements use and abuse of precarious workers. The team was successful in gaining protections for these members.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies