WFA Answers: Alternation


  • Is an employee who is volunteering for alternation considered to be an “opting” employee for the purposes of the WFA?

Under the workforce adjustment appendix, a surplus employee who has not been given a guarantee of a reasonable job offer (an “opting employee”) may alternate with a non-affected employee.

  • Can you withdraw your submission for alteration? If so, is there a cutoff date?

If you are a non-affected employee, you can submit your interest for alternation at any time.  If change your mind, you can withdraw your request at any time prior to exchanging with an opting employee.

  • Once you become an “alternate”, are you eligible for ALL options listed under 6.3 of the WFA?

Alternating employees will only be entitled to either option B (transition support measure) or option c (education allowance).

  • In my workplace, management has told us that we have to go through the retention process and will not be able to voluntarily surplus ourselves, even though there are some employees who would like to alternate. Is this correct?

Any process for selecting volunteers should be done in consultation with the union. Speak to your union representative if you are affected and wish to leave the public service. Alternation is the process for volunteering to leave under the workforce adjustment provisions.  If you are going through a merit process, but wish to leave the public service, you can wait to see if you are declared surplus.  If you are declared surplus and not provided with a guarantee of a reasonable job offer, you will have access to the options. If you are not declared surplus, you can indicate your interest in alternating with someone who is opting.  

  • I have sufficient years of service to retire and would like to be placed on an alternate inventory list to trade positions with another member who may be affected. Is there such an inventory in place? How would I approach this situation with my employer?

The employer has prepared a web forum to facilitate alternation. It is available on the government’s intranet (Publiservice) in GCForums. GC forums is a useful tool that can help you find an appropriate match if you are opting or if you wish to alternate. Employees must follow-up with their manager to make alternation work. The PSAC recommends that members who have found a possible match make requests in writing to management and immediately inform the union in your workplace.

All departments must participate in alternation and departments should also have their own alternation process in place.

If you are an opting employee and want to alternate, or if you are an alternate and want to leave the public service in the place of an opting employee, we recommend:

  1. That you immediately advise your manager in writing that you are interested in alternation. Request in writing that your employer provide you information on the process for alternation presently in place and how they intend to facilitate and assist you in finding a match.
  2. Ensure that your union representative is aware of your intention and give the union representative a copy of the letter to management expressing your intention.
  3. Use the GCForums/Alternation site or any internal site your department or agency may have set up that will help you find a match.
  4. The GC Forums/Alternation site has significant limitations, but it may be helpful in finding possible matches employed in other departments in your region or municipality.  
  5. Once you have found what looks like a good match, we recommend that each matching employee notify their local union representative, in writing, about the possible match and in which department the other employee (alternate or opting) resides.
  6. In the same letter, and with your union representative in attendance, alert your manager or Chief Human Resources officer and request in writing: (1) that the Employer meet their obligations under 6.2 of the WFAA and (2) that the manager/HR officer contact their counterpart in the home department of the other (alternate/opting) employee. This request should include a reasonably short time limit (i.e. 2 or 3 days) for a response. Opting employees only have 120 days within which to alternate, so timeliness is important.
  7. The union representative should report the details of the possible match to their leadership representatives in the region (or province), or to the union representative(s) on the regional or national Workforce Adjustment Committee, so that they are aware of it and can also monitor the progress of the potential match.
  8. The potential new employer of the opting employee can refuse the alternation on the grounds that the proposed match or alternation isn’t likely “to result in retention of the skills required to meet the ongoing needs of the position and the core public administration” or if the opting employee is not qualified for the position.  The employer must demonstrate why they have refused the alternation, and why some retraining couldn’t address the perceived gap in qualifications.
  9. The potential new employer cannot simply say that they refuse to participate – because they want to take care of their own employees first, or because it doesn’t match their HR planning. Alternation is an obligation under the collective agreement.

Discussions around alternation and proposed alternation opportunities must be addressed at WFA committees, UMC committees or whatever union management consultation forum is in place and works.

If managers violate the collective agreement, there may be cause to initiate both an individual grievance and/or a policy grievance, depending on the situation.

Should grievance action be ultimately required, it is extremely important to have all aspects of the steps taken, and responses from management to both individuals and the union, in writing.

  • What are the consequences of declaring yourself an alternate? How long can a person keep this status? If I don’t succeed to alternate with an opting employee, do I have to leave my department?

If you are interested in alternation, let your manager know.  This is simply an indication that you are interested, not a commitment to any specific alternation. You can submit your interest for alternation at any time.  If you change your mind, you can withdraw your request at any time prior to exchanging with an opting employee.

  • If I declare myself as an alternate and successfully exchange my position with an opting employee and collect TMO or education allowance, can I work for the public service again in the future?

Yes, but if you return to the public service within the period for which you received a WFA payment, you may have to reimburse part of that payment.  For example, if you receive 52 weeks of TSM, and you return after 32 weeks, you will have to pay back 20 weeks.

  • Can an alternate be someone who has an indeterminate position but has already put in for retirement but has not received any letters?

You may or may not be able to alternate depending on whether you have already applied to retire and whether that has been accepted.  Inquire with your manager about your status, and indicate that you wish to alternate if possible.

  • I’d like to see a situation where members who wish to exit to do so. How can the union play a role in what’s going to happen?

Any volunteer process would have to allow for employees to receive their entitlements under the workforce adjustment appendix.  The union can suggest a volunteer process through consultation with management on the Workforce Adjustment committee.

  • If you receive an affected letter and choose alternation, but don’t find a position that’s similar to what you do or  don’t like the options, can you go back in line for retention?

Only opting employees and non-affected employees can alternate with each other. An opting employee is an employee that has been declared surplus and not given a reasonable job offer.  Opting employees have 120 days to decide on one of three options, or to alternate with an employee who has not be given an affected letter.

  • Is there an age limit for being an alternate?

No, there is no age limit.

  • Would someone on leave without pay qualify as an alternate if their position has not been backfilled while they are/were off?

If an employee is on leave and his/her position has not been filled indeterminately, and they wish to leave the public service, they may be able to alternate with an opting employee.

  • Is CRA swapping jobs with other departments?

CRA has its own alternation process in place for alternation within the Agency. Employees in CRA cannot alternate with employees in the core public service, and vice versa.

For more information, please see the PSAC’s Alternation page.