PSAC member reaches out to MP for answers on sick leave attacks

When Yvonne Hein heard about Tony Clement’s plan to take away accumulated sick leave benefits from federal public service workers, the PSAC/Agriculture Union member decided to let her MP know exactly how she felt about it. She wrote the following letter to Shelley Glover, Member of Parliament for Saint Boniface in Winnipeg. She has yet to receive a response.

Hello Hon. Shelly Glover

Treasury Board President Tony Clement wants to take away accumulated sick leave benefits from federal government employees.

While you may feel that the most important issue for Canadians is to display a Canada Day flag, the fear that Mr. Clement plans to take away our accumulated sick leave is much more important to us.

Our union contract expires on June 20, 2014––only a few days away. I am a widowed senior working a government job. I have no long-term disability coverage, as it is not provided for staff over 65 years of age.

I do not abuse my sick time, so I have accumulated eight months of sick leave in my 15 years of employment. It is there if I require it. If I do not use it before I leave the government, the time is lost. Unused sick leave is not paid out when an employee retires or quits.

I have a question that I would like you to address.

In 2000 and 2001, Buhler Industries Inc. attempted to roll back benefits from employees headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mr. John Buhler used replacement workers and threatened to move the plant to North Dakota. The Manitoba Labour Board eventually found Buhler Industries Inc. guilty of bargaining in bad faith and this resulted in an $8 million settlement. I am taking this information from an article published in the Winnipeg Sun. This is also documented in the book Stickin’ to the Union by Doug Smith.

Please look into the details and then explain to me why, if a private company cannot roll back benefits, the federal government can?

I would like a prompt answer, as this is important to me. As a former Winnipeg Police Service employee, this issue should also be important to you.

Tony Clement says that our sick benefits are too generous. I previously worked for the University of Manitoba as support staff and I had the same sick benefits then as I now have with the federal government. Perhaps the university sick benefits have not changed in the past 16 years, but I certainly have not heard of them being rolled back.

Mr. Clement says the benefits are being abused. However, the people who are abusing the benefits are obviously not accumulating the time. So why are the good employees that are not abusing the time being punished?

Some employees have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and require the sick time. When I had my children there were no maternity benefits. I do not begrudge employees who are having children now and get a year of maternity leave. I also do not begrudge people who are injured or have a chronic illness and have to use their sick leave.

Taking away our sick leave and contracting out some form of short term disability to an insurance agency is not going to save the federal government money. It is just going to make it more difficult for government employees to get benefits as the insurance companies are only going to be concerned with their bottom line. The more employees they can prevent from using the sick time they need, the more the insurance company will profit. The insurance company will be laughing all the way to the bank.

I would like the privilege of a personal answer to the above-mentioned issues, not a form letter. Please also forward a copy to Mr. Clement.


Yvonne Hein