Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairie Region
Report to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council
This report covers the period from my last report of March 2017.
PSAC REGIONAL CONVENTION
The 7th Prairie Region Triennial Convention was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba from April 21–23, 2017 with a registered total of 336 in attendance, including delegates, guests and observers. Delegates passed 18 different resolutions throughout the weekend, including a call to lobby the federal government with regards to legislation for survivors of domestic violence and legislation for historical DNA samples for missing persons.
Thank you to the affiliates who attended our Rally for Workers at the Manitoba Legislature. While we as PSAC are often focussed on federal politics, it was important for us to show solidarity for our members under provincial jurisdiction in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Thanki you to Tom Lindsey, Official Opposition Labour Critic in MB and Brother Kevin Rebeck for speaking.
Guest speakers at Convention included PSAC National President Robyn Benson, CLC President Hassan Yussuff and MFL President Kevin Rebeck.
TREASURY BOARD BARGAINING
PSAC is taking swift action in response to Treasury Board’s admission that it will not be meeting the implementation deadline for the Program and Administrative Services (PA) Group, Education and Library Science (EB) Group, the Technical Services (TC) Group, and the Operational Services (SV) Group. Collectively, these agreements cover over 100,000 federal public service workers, including approximately 3,000 in Manitoba. On their behalf, PSAC has filed a complaint with the federal Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board.
In a meeting last week, Treasury Board officials confirmed that it would not meet the 150-day implementation deadline for all the workers covered by the four collective agreements. These agreements, which took over two and a half years to negotiate, were signed on June 14, 2017.
This admission confirmed PSAC’s suspicion that Phoenix would derail implementation. PSAC has asked the Board to order the Employer to pay damages to those affected, and to take all necessary steps to immediately comply with the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Act and implement the terms of the Collective Agreements.
PSAC and other unions representing federal public service workers are working together to ensure that the government pays damages to its employees for the ongoing Phoenix fiasco. PSAC has also been continuing to mobilize to keep the pressure on the government to fix the troubled pay system. PSAC members across the country are holding demonstrations in front of their MP’s offices.
The Senate has expressed its intention to move its payroll out of the federal government pay system. PSAC will closely examine the RFP (Request for Proposal) but we are very concerned and sceptical that the Senate is looking to a private company to perform payroll.
If the federal government were to contract out the work of public service workers, it would mean job losses for those affected by Phoenix and the very people struggling to make the pay system work.
If Phoenix has taught us anything, it is that just buying new software is insufficient. Experienced compensation advisors are required to make the payroll system work, not to mention the requirement of training for working with a particular software program. This is why cutting over 1000 experienced compensation advisor positions was a key contribution to the creation of the Phoenix debacle. A lesson that our provincial government should take to heart as they push forward with their austerity agenda.
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 nearly two years, the federal government still can’t pay its employees properly.
We know that our members are struggling with the consequences of inaccurate pay and PSAC will continue to push the government for additional help and support for our members. The government needs to step up its hiring process and expand the compensation capacity both in the pay centres and in departments.
MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU
When Winnipeg members learned that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be in Winnipeg on July 29, an impromptu early morning info picket was set up outside the hotel where the Prime Minister was meeting with the Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister. Following discussion with RCMP and security staff, I was invited into the hotel for a 5 minute face-to-face with the Prime Minister. Brother Dave Clark, newly-elected National UCTE President also attended. Issues discussed included the UCTE 50600 Winnipeg Airport strike, the Vegreville CPC closure and the struggles and pain caused by the Phoenix pay system, and the urgency of a swift resolution to the closure of the Port of Churchill and OmniTrax’s refusal to repair the rail line to the community of Churchill. No commitments were made at the meeting. FYI, we took 10 minutes!
WINNIPEG AIRPORT STRIKE
Approximately 150 hard-working duty managers, administrative workers, tradespersons, IT specialists, airfield maintenance workers and laborers at the Winnipeg Airport are now back at work, thanks to the strength of the workers of UCTE Local 50600.
We have had strong support from the Manitoba Federation of Labour and affiliates, including the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and MAHCP which was very active on our behalf and in support of picketers on the line. As well, I was given the opportunity to address the 1,100 delegates at the Manitoba NDP Leadership Convention September 16 with the members on strike to address our concerns.
Many thanks to the unions who collected donations and organized picketers. As we have all faced the threat of contracting out and/or privatizing, it is important that we support all efforts to stop the trend. Thank you again for your solidarity. I know it was difficult to navigate away from the airport but at the end of the day members got a good deal and made no concessions to the employer.
SUPPORT OUR PORT
It is clear that Omnitrax is not willing to live up to its responsibilities, having renounced its obligation under the 2008 contract that it signed with the federal and provincial governments to keep the rail line operational and conduct needed repairs. Businesses are suffering, food prices are soaring, and there is no end in sight.
Now, Omnitrax has declared its intention to sue the federal government under NAFTA rather than live up to its duty to repair the rail line.
Waiting for lawsuits and counter suits to solve this issue will only mean more delay, more devastation and more hardship for the people of Churchill. The time is now to bring the Port and the railway into public hands.
PSAC has consistently called on the federal government to bring the Port of Churchill and the rail line back as a national asset so that it can return to full operation in the short term, and remain so for generations to come. Similar to an airport authority, port authority status would allow community and government representatives to sit on the board and be accountable to various stakeholders, including municipalities and Indigenous communities, instead of being focused solely on corporate shareholders. The Minister of Transport has the authority under the Canada Marine Act to amend the list of regulated port authorities by Order in Council or regulation.
It is also urgent that the Province of Manitoba institute a fuel subsidy to offset the exorbitant gasoline prices that northern communities are facing, and sit down with all the partners in Churchill to help develop an economic plan that includes fixing the rail line and re-opening the valuable Port of Churchill for business again.
Unfortunately, despite the significant media and community attention this issue has received, the provincial government failed to even mention the community of Churchill in their recent Speech From the Throne.
The people of Churchill deserve a path forward that protects their future and treats them with respect. It is time to put an end to this desperate situation and provide real solutions, now.
Sisters and Brothers, we would appreciate your support for a matter of urgent importance to our friends in Alberta. In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a Town Hall at the University of Saskatchewan. In response to a question about the Vegreville Case Processing Centre closure, he said: “Compensation and packages will be made available to those employees who do not wish to relocate.”
However, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has since informed public service workers who do not wish to relocate that there will be no compensation and no packages. In fact, those who do not accept the department’s final offer to relocate will be laid off in August 2018.
That’s not right. And that’s not what the Prime Minister said would happen.
PSAC is fighting this broken promise through the policy grievance process, while also continuing the fight to keep the Vegreville CPC open. But at the very least it’s not too late for the department to change course and keep the promise made by Prime Minister Trudeau.
Recent revelations about Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s failure to both disclose all his financial assets and put his investments in a blind trust has renewed calls for the Liberal government to abandon Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act.
C-27 would allow employers in the federal private sector and Crown Corporations to shift from good, defined benefit plans that provide secure and predictable pension benefits, into the much less secure form of target benefits. If passed, this bill would open the door to a disturbing trend of shifting all the risk of pension plans onto workers and retirees.
PSAC is encouraging members and other concerned Canadians to send Minister Morneau a letter, urging him to abandon Bill C-27.
In Manitoba, I spoke at legislative hearings on Bill 23, the Fisheries Amendment Act. Our members at the Winnipeg processing facility are the engineers that maintain the plant’s equipment.
We are concerned with the government’s decision to introduce Bill 23, especially the decision to withdraw from its participation agreement under the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act. While we acknowledge that fishers will still have the option of selling their fish via the FFMC, PSAC believes that a fundamental link in the fishing economy will be severely damaged – hurting fishers, their communities, and undermining the workers at the processing centre here in Winnipeg.
PSAC believes that FFMC should remain a monopoly single-desk for the economic security and stability of all Manitoba fishers.
FFMC was created in 1969 and is located right here in Winnipeg. It was designed to give our small fishing communities strength and stability in terms of price and quality.
The corporation purchases, processes and markets the catch of some 1,700 commercial fishers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. Its head office is in Winnipeg and it employs about 150 people.
Time and again, we have seen the ideological approach to “market freedom” has the same effects: small operators are cut out and wages are depressed.
In many ways, this feels like an re-play of the disastrous decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. As such, it may be instructive to look at the results of that ideological decision to attack a single-desk marketing body.
Notice to bargain has been issued for SRG Security Resource Group at the Winnipeg Airport.
A collective agreement has been ratified for our members at the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp.
No negotiations are scheduled for a first collective agreement at Bouygues Energies and Services Canada Limited pending legal decision on whether Winnipeg Airport Authority is the true employer. If successful, the bargaining unit will be folded into the current UCTE General Bargaining Unit collective agreement.
Negotiations are underway for the UVAE members at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg.
Negotiations are underway at CAHRD (Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development).
Negotiations for UCTE members at the Port of Churchill are ongoing.
Negotiations are underway for the English Language Program at the University of Winnipeg. First contract negotiations are underway for the Research Assistants and Research Associates at the University of Winnipeg. Negotiations are set to begin shortly for the Academic Capacity Unit at the University of Winnipeg. Negotiations also continue at Brandon University.
Negotiations continue at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. A priority issue for the local is the high incidence of precarious work.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies