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In the midst of public sector bargaining, a new Minister (Jerome Kennedy) was appointed President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance. I immediately called Minister Kennedy’s office and set up a meeting with him to discuss negotiations. On Monday, Jan 30th, your secretary-treasurer Bert Blundon and I met with the Minister. We discussed many issues including our concerns with the lack of real progress in bargaining, some of the issues specific to components, reinforced our concerns with the job evaluation system and we briefly discussed the pension issue.
There appeared to be a commitment to try and set realistic dates for those negotiating teams that were being put off for weeks and, in some cases, even months. The parties committed to trying to deal with and resolve all outstanding non-monetary issues. The Minister is being briefed on the job evaluation system by his officials and agreed that once he has been briefed he will meet with NAPE to hear our position on the JES. He also agreed to meet with the unions to discuss pensions.
As you may be aware, since bargaining commenced Government has insisted that an agreement on a new Job Evaluation System (JES) was a precondition to collective bargaining. All four public sector Unions involved with the JES have rejected this demand. In the meantime, we have been attempting to finalize the JES, to no avail.
The reasons for not reaching an agreement on the JES are numerous and complex. The primary obstacle has been Government’s insistence on using a model which was created by Government representatives. The model Government is putting forward is neither scientific nor mathematical. Government agrees with that assessment but has continues to stand by their flawed approach.
Internationally recognized job evaluation systems are based on a process that is mathematical and easy to understand. For example, job evaluation systems based on points mean that two employees with the same number of points are paid the same. In the Government’s model, two classifications could be rated as having a 500 point value and be paid differently. In NAPE’s judgment, such a system cannot be validated and is grossly unfair. While there are numerous differences over the job evaluation model – the argument by NAPE is that it is paramount that any new system has to achieve internal equity within the public service. We cannot agree to a new JES where jobs with same value are paid differently.
As I have informed you before, Government is also insisting the new JES not be implemented until March 31, 2016. This position has also been rejected by the Unions.
On January 7, 2013, NAPE met with Treasury Board representatives to try and move the process forward. To date, Government has rejected our suggestions and continues to insist on its model. Government is currently reviewing its position.
There is also an issue of concessions which is another impediment to reaching a Collective Agreement. Government is proposing the elimination of severance pay for new employees and also for current employees who do not meet the qualifying threshold (i.e. those who do not have nine years of service. NAPE has rejected this notion that younger workers should be denied benefits their parents and grandparents fought for over decades.
In addition, they are also proposing that employees would not accumulate any more service credits for severance pay entitlement. In other words, if you are entitled to ten weeks severance pay today, you will be frozen at ten weeks. By way of example – if you make $700.00 per week with ten years of service, you would receive $7000.00. By not being able to further accumulate service credits, you would give up $7000.00.
Government is further proposing that employees who are eligible for severance pay would be able to cash in the benefit. This eliminates future liability for Government. As an example, if this proposal had been agreed in the last round of bargaining, your severance pay would be worth over 20% less than it is today.
There has been no discussion or proposal on pensions at the bargaining table. However, government has informed the unions that they are considering changes. On December 21st we met with the then Minister of Finance, Tom Marshall to discuss pensions.
At this meeting, we were told that Government was reviewing the Public Sector Pension Plans but no decisions had been made on what course of action, if any, would be taken. However, with a new minister, we feel it is important to now discuss this matter with him. The unions have requested a meeting for discussion and he has verbally informed us that he will meet. He is aware that we are not prepared to compromise the integrity of the pension plan.
Comments in the media and elsewhere on the issue of pensions have created confusion and concern about the status of your pension plan. We caution that retirement decisions should not be made based on these musings by Government. We plan to continue to meet with Government with a view to ensuring the public services pensions are secure.
At this point, we have not discussed wages or other monetary benefits.
Negotiations are continuing and we will provide further updates when any new information is available.
A newsletter will be sent out to all NAPE members this week. It will contain updates on collective bargaining as well as other important information. If you do not receive a copy it is possible that we do not have your correct contact information and you should call the office to ensure that your information is up to date.