The fight of public servants to defend their rights

By LOUIS LANG

Workers’ Forum (Sept. 8) – The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) which represents the 27 bargaining units with over 100,000 members has recently filed an unfair labour practice complaint in response to the unilateral actions of the Treasury Board of Canada to “claw back sick leave benefits from employees.” PSAC contends that Treasury Board has been sending misleading communications to public service workers while the two sides are in negotiations announcing its intention to impose a Short Term Disability scheme to replace the present provisions of the contract which provide a system of paid sick leave.

The PSAC complaint alleges that the Treasury Board is violating its duty to bargain in good faith and that their actions “constitute interference with PSAC’s representation employees contrary to the Public Service Labour Relations Act.”

PSAC is demanding that Treasury Board discuss all issues regarding the contract at the bargaining table which they have failed to do since negotiations began on July 7.

There have been several bargaining sessions since then and negotiations have now been adjourned and are set to resume in September.

In a recent report to members on negotiations PSAC pointed out that Treasury Board did table “an insulting wage proposal of 0.5 per cent per year for four years.” This amounts to a wage cut when inflation is factored in.

Attacks by Canada Post on its workers’ right to sick leave, in 2008 against workers organized in PSAC and in 2011 against workers organized in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

The Harper government has been preparing this attack against the over 100,000 public service workers since 2011 and 2012 when it used brutal back-to-work legislation to intimidate postal workers into accepting a “collective agreement” with many roll-backs including the replacement of sick leave benefits with a short term disability plan (STD).

It is clear that there is a financial advantage for Treasury Board to eliminate the right of sick leave benefits because the overall value of the wages and benefits that the workers have won through negotiations is reduced. But this attack of the Harper conservatives is much more insidious. Through the STD, Harper has introduced the privatization of the management of the disability plan, contracting it out to huge multi-national insurance companies. This eliminates theraison d’etre for sick leave benefits which was to protect workers from loss of earnings when they were incapacitated due to illness because it eliminates the responsibility of the employer to uphold their responsibility to the workers. Under the STD workers are forced to justify their illness to some outside entity. All avenues for redress in case of unjust treatment, like the grievance procedure are eliminated and approval of disability benefits is completely at the discretion of the “Disability Management Provider.”

In the case of the postal workers for instance, Manulife Financial is the “Disability Management Provider.” Article 20.15 of the CUPW contract states as follows:

“Any decisions made by the Disability Management Provider and the independent medical physician are not subject to the grievance procedure in the collective agreement.”

Clearly the intent of the STD imposed by the Harper Conservatives is not only aimed at imposing further financial hardship on workers who are unable to work due to illness, but it is also intended to humiliate and subject workers to an insulting “appeals procedure,” in which the private insurance monopoly is the sole arbiter and the workers are forced to provide private and confidential medical information, and whatever is demanded of them to justify their illness. The STD and the way it has functioned for postal workers and others fails to fully protect the wages of workers when they are ill and it is a direct attack on the dignity of the workers.

PSAC and all its bargaining units have declared that they will not give up their sick leave benefits. PSAC recently stated, “The Conservative government wants to strip away sick leave rights and is planning to contract out the management of the sick leave system. We say that unless this government wants to talk about improving what we already have, we aren’t interested!”

Federal public service workers deserve the support of all Canadian workers in this important battle to defend their rights against the attacks of the Harper government.

Also in Workers’ Forum

The Fight of Quebec Municipal Workers for Their Right to a Secure Pension
• Blame the Government and Not the Workers for Criminal Behaviour! – Forum ouvrier 
 Couillard Government’s Bill 3 — Legislated Extortion to Wreck Pensions – Claude Moreau 

Thunder Bay Bombardier Workers Holding On Against Extortion
• Our Strike Is About the Future of the Union – Interview, Dominic Pasqualino, President, Unifor Local 1075 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Working Class

One response to “The fight of public servants to defend their rights

  1. Pingback: Harper’s attack on the rights of public sector workers | Tony Seed's Weblog

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