Sisters and Brothers:
On Thursday November 1st NAPE and three other public sector unions met with government. The original purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Job Evaluation System, or JES for short.
Before I move on however, I have further news. At this meeting, out of the blue, we were also advised that government is considering changes to the public sector pension plans. They did not even share with us the options they are considering. They did not give us any further information but you can be sure that the news is not positive. The unions have requested a meeting with the Minister of Finance to discuss this matter.
We want government to outline the changes they are considering to the pension plans. It’s not good enough for government to be unilaterally considering changes to the pension plans without discussing these changes with the stakeholder’s representatives. Ironically, government doesn’t appear to have any problems having these discussions with employer groups.
We also want to make our position quite clear – don’t mess with our pensions.
Now back to the Job Evaluation System. At that meeting we were presented a proposal regarding the new JES. Government is proposing that the new job evaluation system be implemented March 31, 2016. Yes, I did say March 31, 2016. Furthermore, government is proposing the implementation of the new JES is conditional on reaching a four year collective agreement for each bargaining unit.
Government’s proposal regarding the JES is totally unacceptable on a number of fronts. Employees have waited for years for the results of the new JES. A further delay of four years will see employee groups not having their classification issues dealt with in a fair, timely and objective manner.
We are not prepared to agree to four year collective agreements when the employer has concessions on the table and the employer has yet to propose any monetary package such as salaries. We want to know what we are negotiating and signing onto. All we have heard so far about salaries is public comments from government that restraint is necessary. They are trying to get us to agree to four year agreements before we even negotiate the terms of the agreement.
We see government’s bargaining proposals as part of a broader agenda to reduce public services and lower the standard of living for public employees during their working years and after they retire. The goal of unionized workers has always been to strive for a better work environment for ourselves and for those who follow in our footsteps. Government’s agenda would see a workplace where our children and grandchildren become the first generation to inherit a workplace that will have lower benefits and lower wages than those which we had achieved over decades of struggle.
Government seems to be listening to employer groups, who in our opinion want a workplace with low wages, few benefits and no pensions. This sounds very much like the Stephen Harper agenda.
At times of unprecedented wealth government should be improving public services. Now is not the time to cut public services, make the sick wait longer for care, or make young children ride for hours on buses. It is not a time to try and take back the gains of forty years of collective bargaining struggles.
It is our conclusion that government is negotiating to try and force a strike. Let me be clear – government will not make that decision for us. We will decide, in conjunction with you the members, what action will, or will not, be taken.
Over the coming weeks we will continue with collective bargaining until we have what we deem to be government’s final offer. We will continue to update you as developments occur.
I ask you to be patient as we move collective bargaining forward. As I have said in the past, we have to bargain smart if we are to bargain effectively.