President’s Evaluation Report 2018
When I look back at our accomplishments over the past year, I’m pleased to see how many were the result of deliberate, long-term planning – not only prior to 2018 but also prior to the last federal election.
Modelling Scientific Integrity
The adoption this summer by the federal government of our model Scientific Integrity policy, which obligates members and, more importantly, their departments to uphold rigorous scientific standards and practices, was the culmination of efforts begun before the last election, when Harper government funding cuts and muzzling of scientists cast serious doubt over scientific integrity. It is a tremendous victory for both members and Canadians. The model policy – which, among other things, helps protect federal scientists from political interference – will form the basis of departmental scientific integrity policies to be adopted by December 31.
The release in February of Defrosting Science, our survey report on the actual progress made unmuzzling federal scientists, received widespread media attention and helped shed light on work the government still needs to do. Yes, far fewer federal scientists feel “muzzled” now than in 2013, but when over half (53%) surveyed in 2017 still say they feel unable to speak freely, we know more effort is needed to educate both members and managers about their respective rights and obligations.
Our members’ concerns were also validated in February when the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) finally released its own report, concluding that the Harper government broke its own rules, and commented: “The fear observed by the OIC on the part of public servant investigation participants is consistent with the ‘chill’ documented in the survey of over 4,OOO federal government scientists conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and reviewed by the OIC as part of this investigation.”
Surveys then matter, and our recent report on Women in Science confirms some longstanding barriers that continue to beset many, especially younger, female scientists, who are twice as likely as older scientists to perceive gender bias in the hiring process. Those barriers too demand change.
Defending Tax Fairness
The role our members play in defending the public interest is too often understated or overlooked. This was true of our science members until attempts by the last government to silence science gave rise to a powerful counter response. It was true also of our IT members until a growing over-reliance on outsourcing (and the failure of the Phoenix pay system) exposed the consequences of not listening to in-house experts (our members).
This year, it was the turn of our 12,000 tax professionals who work at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to get the spotlight. While the Trudeau government has re-invested significant amounts of money in the CRA, there remains a $500-million gap in funding compared to 2012, when the Harper government heavily cut both funding and staff. That’s made defending tax fairness difficult for our members in the face of off-shore tax havens and other tax avoidance schemes – a point made in our recent survey report Shell Game: How Offshore Havens, Loopholes and Federal Cost-cutting Undermine Tax Fairness. The report received extensive media coverage and is the basis of our call for more funding in next year’s budget, specifically aimed at improving training and technology for our members to combat ever-more sophisticated tax avoiders.
Nearly a year ago, I held a press conference in which I called on the government to forget the Phoenix pay system and concentrate on building a new system that works. An informal poll of our members at the time showed 87% had given up hope the error-prone system would ever be fixed. So it made sense to urge the government to replace it as soon as possible. I don’t think I overstate our influence when I say that the government’s decision this spring to spend $16 million on finding a replacement would never have happened had it not been for our public call then and our lobbying efforts in person and online since.
No less effective or important have been our efforts to secure a seat at the table in deciding what that replacement should be. Our agreement in June to work with the government to find a replacement demonstrates not simply good will but the urgency of finding a solution.
And the need is urgent, not only for members but for Canadians too. As a recent poll commissioned by PIPSC showed, nearly half (46%) of Canadians feel six months is long enough to wait for a replacement to be implemented. An overwhelming majority (76%) feel a year is long enough. Our members have waited far longer than that for a solution to the Phoenix fiasco. So we will continue to press the government to test and implement viable alternatives as quickly as possible – starting with the corporate administrative system (CAS) already used by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which we are urging the government to adapt.
Whatever replaces Phoenix, we look forward to a system that works and one in which more of our CS members are employed ensuring that it does.
One area in which I’m proud to say progress has also been made is in setting new ground rules for the upcoming round of federal bargaining. These new protocols should help expedite and focus negotiations on our demands and ensure better bargaining on both sides.
Fighting for Fair Pensions
Real progress takes time and usually doesn’t come without opposition. The fight for fair pensions, for example – a fight our members who work for the New Brunswick government as well as the Chalk River, Ontario and Whiteshell, Manitoba nuclear labs are all too familiar with – is far from over. Our rally with other unions outside the offices of the Treasury Board in June made that clear. Defined Benefit (DB) pensions remain the standard by which all others should be judged. It’s the reason we continue to oppose Bill C-27, which would make it easier for some federal employers to replace DB plans with less secure, so-called Target Benefit plans. As a union, we remain committed to fighting for both the preservation and the restoration of Defined Benefit pensions for our members.
As our achievements over the past year demonstrate, long-term planning matters. So does the courage to stick with those plans despite occasional obstacles and setbacks.
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.