June 22, 2020 marked the start of the Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearings. The commission was composed of Allen Pollak as Chairperson; Lynn Harnden, appointed by the employer; and Michael Wright, appointed by PIPSC. The hearings were held by videoconference given the current rules on social distancing.
The PIPSC team included Denise Doherty-Delorme, Group Negotiator; Michael Urminsky, Team Lead, Research; and Ryan Campbell, Economist. Please allow me first to highlight the exceptional work of the team, both in the arduous preparation of briefs and in the quality of the presentations before the commissioners.
The first day of the hearing was mainly dedicated to presentations by our team. Denise Doherty-Delorme began with a general introduction and clearly communicated to the members of the commission our dissatisfaction with the employer’s position, which hindered attempts to reach an agreement.
Against all expectations, the employer significantly reduced its salary offer, which would have provided a 0.6% increase for 2020, the year in which the members of the CS Group have kept the Government of Canada online and able to serve citizens. They also presented a proposal concerning Article 30 Contracting Out that would significantly water down the current language.
Denise Doherty-Delorme made it clear that at no time was this article a topic of discussion at the bargaining table. She told the commission that PIPSC reserves the right to file a complaint of bargaining in bad faith if we should need to use this legal means as a result of those two issues.
Ryan Campbell followed with a presentation on the state of the Canadian economy. The main points are that Canada’s economy was very strong before the pandemic and all indicators point to a fairly quick recovery. The government’s managed response included implementation of a great number of economic measures that have maintained stability and ensured the care of those who are temporarily unemployed.
Michael Urminsky first presented the CS Group's pay analysis and salary demands to close the morning’s proceedings. He presented his calculation that roughly 3,000 to 6,000 new indeterminate or term positions could have been opened with the money currently being spent on IT contracts. He also highlighted the tight IT labour market. Statistics Canada reported Canada’s unemployment rate stands at 13% while for IT workers it has been as low as 1.7%. He then presented salary comparisons with IT workers within the federal government and the private sector that clearly demonstrates that the CS members are unfairly underpaid.
Our salary demand is three parts:
- 7% attained at the central table and approved by the CS Group
- 1.5% to achieve parity with CS professionals at the Canada Revenue Agency
- 3% market adjustment over 4 years in order to compensate for the recruitment and retention problems that currently prevail in Canada
The employer presented their non-monetary items later that afternoon.
The negotiator for the Treasury Board opened with the employer’s presentations on Tuesday, June 23. Their economic presentation and a pay study followed. Finally, Marc Brouillard, Chief Information Officer, came to give an overview of government projects relating to information technology, which CS Group members contribute to on a daily basis. It should be noted that during the question period, Mr. Brouillard was unable to support his answers with concrete data, which was quickly denounced by PIPSC.
Ryan Campbell and Denise Doherty-Delorme responded strongly to the employer’s weak and unsubstantiated position in their rebuttal. Both Prime Minister Trudeau and the Bank of Canada made it clear that the Canadian economy is healthy despite the increased debt situation. The departments continue to have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified professionals, and exacerbating the pay disparity between CSs at the Canada Revenue Agency and the CS Group will only serve to entrench the problem.
The dedication and hard work of our CS members has been critical in providing services and benefits to Canadians and to the overall stability and future growth of our economy.
It quickly became apparent that the employer was not ready to resume negotiations at this time. It should be noted that the employer has focused its attention on concurrent negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The Chairperson of the commission proposed a break for a few weeks and to resume at a time when the employer is available to negotiate. The date will be communicated as soon as it is confirmed.
The CS Group will continue to host virtual information sessions in order to answer members' questions. The CS Group Bargaining Team and Executive would like to warmly thank the members for your continued participation in the regional and national virtual activities led by your National Organizing Committee. We encourage you to send us your pictures showing your CS colours and your solidarity.
CS Group Bargaining Officer