We’re No. 1
Canadians have the most effective public service in the world, says a new international study. I’m not surprised. Working with public service professionals, I know just how valuable our members are to Canadians.
That’s why we’ve worked especially hard over the past year to deliver the best representation possible to our members. After years of cuts under the previous federal government, which was no friend to the collective bargaining process, it is particularly gratifying to look back over the past year and report how far we came in negotiations. Few achievements illustrate this better than the signing this spring of new agreements recognizing the right of federal scientists to speak freely about science and their research.
But our science members weren’t alone. PIPSC’s Computer Systems (CS) members also negotiated agreements with stronger language to help protect them from the ongoing impacts of outsourcing. What’s more, the sick leave system, which the last government threatened to do away with, has been saved and genuine negotiations on meaningful improvements can begin in the coming years.
Yukon Hospital Corporation members secured their first negotiated agreement. New Brunswick crown prosecutors are no longer the lowest-paid prosecutors in the country. And members of the University of Ottawa Information Technology Professionals recently reached an agreement-in-principle with their employer, avoiding a strike.
While not every demand in federal bargaining has been met, the distance we have come since the 2014 round started for many of our members has been significant.
We also scored victories outside of the bargaining process. Our longstanding call for more investments in the Canada Revenue Agency was heard again in the federal budget. We've made our voices heard in opposition to Bill C-27 and its threat to defined benefit pensions – one of the vital safeguards of middle-class incomes for retired workers.
And we’re making progress on other issues too.
Certainly no look back over the past year can overlook the tremendous toll taken on federal public servants by the Phoenix payroll system, which continues to cause too many to be paid too much, too little or (too often) not at all. In May, PIPSC filed two policy grievances against the employer – our only real legal means of pressuring the government to repair the system and properly compensate all our members who have been harmed or impacted. While these grievances (and other more recent grievances) are unlikely to expedite a final fix, they do establish rigorous expectations on our members’ part regarding an eventual resolution and compensation. This followed many months of assisting literally hundreds of members in filing individual grievances, many of which have been resolved, as well as writing to and meeting with ministers, arguing new measures be adopted to assist members, keeping the issue alive in the media, offering loans to those particularly hard hit, organizing many of our members to protest, and lobbying – successfully – for more money to be spent on fixing the system.
We’ve argued from the start that Phoenix’s problems had their origin in an over-reliance on outsourcing. Any hope to fix Phoenix rests with federal IT professionals, not IBM. In late June, I met with the new ministerial working group established to fix Phoenix and made a case for closer collaboration between the government and some of our CS Group members in finding solutions. I hope this will lead not only to eventual Phoenix fixes but also to better appreciation of our members’ professional contributions and a change in the government’s outsourcing practices.
Investing in the Best
Representing the best public servants in the world takes hard work, commitment – and investment. That’s why we’ve invested more over the past year in improving our government relations, mobilization and communications functions. We’ve even recently launched a new annual publication – Better Together – to showcase some of the very members who make Canada’s public service the best in the world.
Some members will recognize this title as the slogan of our member engagement initiative begun in 2013. We’ve had a lot of success with the Better Together campaign. It’s helped us raise awareness about the importance of unmuzzling scientists, reducing the outsourcing of government jobs, and investing more in the Canada Revenue Agency to help ensure tax fairness – to name only three issues. In short, it’s helped us make more effective public arguments to government and employers.
We’ve also launched a new website – action.pipsc.ca – for members looking to get more involved in PIPSC. It features notices of special member events, activities, surveys, and other ways you can get involved in your union. You can watch video interviews with the members profiled in Better Together. You can also sign our online petition calling on the government to invest more in Canada’s public service. Member engagement in such actions is important because, however effective we may be individually, our ultimate success as public service professionals is measured by what we’re able to achieve together. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported last year, “The federal government is the smallest it’s been since before the Second World War.” That needs to change if we’re to meet the challenges of the future. I encourage you to visit action.pipsc.ca to learn more.
Better Together isn’t just a slogan. It’s a promise – a measure – of our collective success, whether as union members, government employees, or Canadians. As our accomplishments of the past year and the challenges before us demonstrate, we all have a stake in ensuring things are better together.
In furthering the work of the Institute over the past year, I wish once again to thank my fellow Board members, elected Group and regional officials, stewards, volunteers and PIPSC staff for their dedication and service to our members.
It has been my honour to serve you as President of the Professional Institute for another year, and I look forward to presenting our plans for another challenging year at our upcoming Annual General Meeting.