As you are aware most of our public sector collective agreements expired March 31, 2012. All of our negotiating teams have been at the bargaining table however the process is moving forward very slowly. At this point one of the main stumbling blocks is government’s insistence that their new Job Evaluation System (JES) and its implementation have to be dealt with as part of the bargaining process.
The government’s JES covers approximately 25,000 bargaining unit employees, it affects multiple bargaining units, and multiple unions. The JES will cover 750 classifications of which NAPE represents more than 700. All four unions have objected to the JES being a condition of reaching collective agreements. We continue to meet with government in an attempt to resolve this impasse and we expect to continue to meet over the summer months.
To further complicate the collective bargaining process, this week, government introduced an Act to amend Public Sector Collective Bargaining legislation. The change would permit government to have the Labour Relations Board submit the employer’s final offer to a vote. While this may seem simple enough it has many negative applications when applied in the public sector. Government, unlike other employers, has the ability to change the rules of collective bargaining as it sees fit. Additionally, government has powers under the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act that do not apply to private sector employers.
Under public service legislation government can request up to 50 percent of employees to be essential. Government has the authority to deny employees the right to strike and to legislate settlements which they have done many times in the past. They now want an additional right to decide when and how employees can vote on the employer’s offer.
Under the legislation the only information that will be provided to employees will be government’s final offer. At that time employees will not receive the union’s proposals. There won’t be opportunity for employees to ask questions and seek clarification of the offer. As you are aware collective agreement language can be complex and legalistic and often requires explanations.
Currently when NAPE receives a final offer from government we take the offer back to the membership for review, discussion and debate. Following this votes are conducted and the ballots are counted in the presence of the membership.
We can now find ourselves in a situation where we spend weeks consulting with members with members making a decision only to find the government could force members to vote again, bargaining unit by bargaining unit. This could delay the process indefinitely.
In this scenario, if the members reject the employers vote the government can then simply legislate the settlement. Either way the government wins. If they want the right to order a vote among the members they should be bound to accept the result and not then use their power to legislate a settlement.
Government at no time prior to introducing this legislation consulted with NAPE. We are also sceptical about the timing of this amendment as we are in the middle of negotiations. This amendment gives government a far greater control over the process and could create endless delays in ever reaching an agreement.
We are very concerned even with the logistical problems. I will give you an example, during the job evaluation process the employers had to generate lists of employees to complete questionnaires. When the list was produced there were numerous inaccuracies, with people listed who were retired, deceased, in management, etc. We can only imagine the kind of list that will be created for the purpose of their vote.
Since you chose me as your President I have committed to ensuring the best possible collective agreements for you with the process of negotiations having with the least impact on you and your families. I believe by any measurement we have met that commitment. In spite of recent setbacks, we will work with government and employers in a co-operative manner as long as they are committed to treating you fairly in the bargaining process.
Negotiations will likely be on hold during the summer months due to summer vacations. NAPE Secretary-Treasurer Bert Blundon and I will continue to meet with government over the summer to try and move the process forward.
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