Global Affairs Canada

National Labour-Management Consultation Committee (NLMCC)

Record of Decisions

Date: April 2, 2019

Time: 10:00am to 12:00pm

Location: Room A8-126, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Chairperson: Diane Jacovella, Deputy Minister, International Development (DME)

Co-Chair: Kevin King, National President, Union of National Employees (UNE)

List of Participants

Management Representatives:

Diane Jacovella (DME)

Francis Trudel (HCM)

Heather Jeffrey (CFM)

Tamara Guttman (ZID)

Michael Grant (NGM)

Claude Houde (HWD)

Bargaining Agent Representatives:

Kevin King (UNE)

Manon Boy (UNE)

Behiye Cinkilic (UNE)

Danielle Viel (ACFO)

Pamela Isfeld (PAFSO)

Suehila Elkateb (PAFSO)

Barry Hébert (PIPSC)

Pierre Parent (PIPSC)

Anita Bangiricenge (CAPE)

Mia Mouelhi (CAPE)

Melissa Cederqvist (AJC)

1) Introduction / Opening Remarks

Ms. Diane Jacovella, Deputy Minister, International Development (DME), acted as Chairperson.

Mr. Kevin King, National President, Union of National Employees (UNE), acted as Co-chair.

Ms. Jacovella and Mr. King provided opening remarks and welcomed the participants to the NLMCC.

The agenda and previous Record of Decisions were approved.

2) Update on Psychological Health and Wellbeing

Ms. Tamara Guttman, Director General, Inspection, Integrity and Values & Ethics Bureau (ZID), presented the update.

Ms. Guttman reiterated the importance of this topic and thanked bargaining agents for their engagement on this front. She explained that there has been an increase in demand for counselling services and specified that approximately half of the requests are related to work, while the other half are related to personal matters. Ms. Guttman indicated that the Department continues to find new ways to increase support for employees.

Ms. Guttman referred to the last quarterly meeting held with bargaining agents (February 7, 2019) and confirmed that trends and statistics on the use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) were provided. She noted that the attendance for the quarterly meetings has not been very strong and reiterated the importance of their feedback and participation.

Ms. Guttman explained that there has been an increase in demand for informal conflict resolution services which could signify the desire to address concerns early on. She added that requests for visits to missions have doubled over the last year. Ms. Guttman also mentioned that training continues to be offered. She noted that the increase in demand for their services means improving their overall capacity. 

Ms. Guttman reminded the Committee that the second week in May is Mental Health Week.

The Association of Canadian Financial Officers (ACFO) asked if management could elaborate on the response time for requests for counselling. Ms. Heather DiPenta, Director, Values, Ethics, and Workplace Well-being (ZIB), responded that employees receive a response within 24 hours and that an appointment is typically made within 5 days although she noted that an assessment is made at first point of contact to determine the urgency.  

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) applauded ZID’s efforts. They indicated that there appears to be a lack of services available for locally-engaged staff (LES). The Union of National Employees (UNE) raised concerns that services are not available afterhours. Ms. DiPenta responded that LES are increasingly using their services and that face-to-face contact is helpful. She responded that in general, staff are not on-call 24/7, however in times of crisis, members of her team will be placed on-call. She reminded the Committee that the Watch Unit is also responsible for providing assistance on a 24/7 basis.

The Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) asked whether training on mental health is mandatory for managers. The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) added that this topic is a top priority for their members. PAFSO added that the increase is demand for services may be a positive signal, however it appears that more resources are required. They also suggested that more attention is required regarding accommodation measures. Ms. Guttman responded that training is offered to outgoing managers but is not mandatory at this time. She added that it would be ideal to offer online courses. In response to PAFSO’s comment regarding resources, Ms. Guttman responded that the Department may increase the number of employees, but look at options to access local, external resources. Mr. Claude Houde, Director General, Workplace Relations and Corporate Health Bureau (HWD), explained that there is a unit dedicated to workplace accommodations and that their new portal was recently launched, to which bargaining agents were consulted on. Mr. Houde suggested that the Disability Management Program (HWL) present its services at the upcoming Human Resources Labour-Management Consultation Committee (HRLMCC) meeting.

Action item(s): HWL to present Disability Management services at the upcoming HRLMCC.

3) Harassment

Ms. Guttman presented on the topic.

Ms. Guttman indicated that there has been an increase in requests to discuss potential cases of harassment, however the number of formal complaints has not increased. She explained that often employees are willing to discuss but are hesitant to proceed formally. Ms. Guttman reminded the Committee that the processes in place, whether informal or formal, are meant to make employees feel safe. Ms. Guttman added that the employees’ main concerns are respect and communications in the workplace. Ms. Guttman explained that Bill C-65 has received royal assent which amends the Canada Labour Code. This change will strengthen the existing framework for the prevention of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, in the workplace. Ms. Guttman indicated that the intention is to implement changes by the end of the year and that updates will be offered when additional information becomes available. 

The bargaining agents strongly encouraged the Department to offer training on harassment to all levels of management and employees. They also emphasized the importance of re-establishing relationships following a complaint, whether founded or unfounded, and that this should form part of the training. Ms. Guttman clarified that training is available and mentioned that her team is currently developing tools as well as a training module for senior management.

PIPSC emphasized the importance of reiterating what constitutes harassment in order to avoid undue complaints. Ms. Guttman explained that where a complaint does not constitute harassment, the issue should still be addressed and noted that employees may avail themselves to other mechanisms such as informal conflict resolution services.

Ms. Jacovella and Ms. Guttman thanked the bargaining agents for their feedback.

Action item(s): N/A

4) Mobility

Mr. Francis Trudel, Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources (HCM), presented on the topic.

Mr. Trudel noted that the topic specifically relates to the EC, PM, and CO community, which represents approximately 1000 mobile employees. He referred to the recent ad hoc meeting he held with bargaining agents and reiterated that management has been questioning the current model and whether it serves the organization’s needs. He noted the numerous requests from management to modify their mobile positions to non-mobile.

Mr. Trudel explained that senior management is looking at options to address the issues with the current model. He assured bargaining agents that any action plan would respect the terms and conditions of employment and would not result in loss of employment or workforce adjustment. He indicated that once a decision is made, bargaining agents will be notified. Mr. Trudel added that the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs will likely publish a broadcast message informing employees of the decision. Meanwhile, as it has always been the case in the past, HCM and the Chief Financial Officer are entertaining individual demands of transfer of positions from mobile to non-mobile when presented by managers.

CAPE asked if management could provide insight on the number of ECs that would be impacted and whether the Foreign Service International Assistance (FSIA) is a consideration. CAPE also welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on management’s action plan.

Mr. Trudel indicated that the FSIA is a factor to consider, and that management will be in a better position to provide more detailed information shortly. He noted that the primary driver is to ensure that our organizational needs are met and that his team would be pleased to consult with bargaining agents further. 

Action item(s): N/A

5) Cuba

Ms. Heather Jeffrey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Security and Emergency Management / Chief Security Officer (CFM), presented on the topic.

Ms. Jeffrey indicated that in 2017, the Department became aware of health incidents involving staff posted in Cuba. To date, 15 medical cases have been confirmed which includes employees, spouses/dependants, all of which are receiving support and assistance. Ms. Jeffrey indicated that a joint investigation between the RCMP and Cuban police has taken place however no cause has been identified to date.

Ms. Jeffrey assured bargaining agents that steps have been taken to implement additional safety measures and stated that this is an unprecedented security situation. She also explained that staff were provided with the option to be tested at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Ms. Jeffrey added that although services to Canadians continue to be delivered, the Department has taken steps to reduce its footprint by only having essential staff on-site. Ms. Jeffrey indicated that ongoing communication between management and employees is key, noting that the employees’ health is also closely monitored. Ms. Jeffrey also mentioned that town hall meetings have also been held. Mr. Michael Grant, Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas (NGM), assured the Committee that the health and security of staff is the Department’s number one priority. He informed the Committee that those who wish to terminate their posting in Cuba may do so without repercussion and that this has been reiterated to staff as an option. Ms. Jeffrey added that management continues to assess the situation on a daily basis to ensure current measures are appropriate.

PIPSC asked if management could comment on the mental health of the staff posted in Cuba. Ms. Jeffrey explained that gauging mental health is somewhat difficult unless employees expressly come forward, however she reassured the Committee that employees are aware of the support that is available. She reiterated that their presence in Cuba is voluntary and without repercussion.

The UNE asked if results are available from Dalhousie University’s study. Ms. Jeffrey indicated that this is an independent study and therefore the university will decide when results are released, noting that it will need to be peer-reviewed.

Action item(s): N/A

6) Duty of Care

Ms. Heather Jeffrey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Consular, Security and Emergency Management / Chief Security Officer (CFM), presented on the topic.

Ms. Jeffrey explained that the government funded 1.8 billion dollars to this initiative. She explained that the investment will allow the Department to deliver on various fronts such as emergency preparedness, security training, infrastructure, equipment, information technology, among others. She provided an overview of the training component and course offerings. She indicated that GAC has made very interesting progress to date noting that investments have been in areas that required attention.

PAFSO indicated that they were pleased with the progress on this file. They raised concerns related to the cancellation of the green box program and asked how this is related to the duty of care.

Mr. Trudel clarified that the program was discontinued by Health Canada. He explained that the Department is looking into alternate solutions with relevant stakeholders and building internal capacity in order to deliver on this front.  

Mr. Houde welcomed feedback from the bargaining agents in order to better understand the specific concerns.

Action item(s): N/A

7) Update on the Scientific Integrity Policy

Ms. Sue Szabo, Director General, Food Security and Environment (MSD), explained that following the last round of collective bargaining with PIPSC, the Department was required to develop a policy on scientific integrity in accordance with Memoranda of Agreement between the Treasury Board and PIPSC in Respect of Scientific Integrity. Ms. Szabo explained that the objective of such policy is to foster a culture that supports and promotes scientific integrity in the design, conduct, management, review and communication of research, science, and related activities. She explained that MFM led the development of the policy in consultation with each branch that employs RE or SP group positions and PIPSC. Ms. Szabo indicated that the policy resembles the model policy provided by the Office of the Chief Science Advisor.

In terms of next steps, Ms. Szabo explained that a determination must be made as to who will ensure the compliance and monitoring of the policy. She mentioned that GAC is expecting to receive additional tools and guidelines from the Office of the Chief Science Advisor in order to assist with the overall implementation.

Action item(s): N/A

8) Phoenix

Mr. Houde presented on the topic.

Mr.  Houde tabled a document which offered recent statistics on the number of pay action requests, pay cases, top inquiries and queue issues, etc. Mr. Houde indicated that departments who have on-boarded to the Pay Pod model have seen a reduction in cases. He explained that as the Pay Pod addresses new transactions immediately, they do not accumulate. He added that this approach is one action to attempt to stabilize the pay system. Mr. Houde also explained that the Department has consulted other departments to share best practices.

Ms. Jacovella informed the Committee that discussions at the senior management level have taken place to ensure that transactions are approved in a timely manner.

Mr. King raised concerns with transfer-in/transfer-out files, specifically noting that pay files must be up to date before an employee leaves their department. Mr. Houde explained that this is a challenge across the public service. He added that steps have been taken to centralize certain components and added that the Pod model will help.

CAPE suggested that management update employees on the efforts made to address pay issues in order to re-establish confidence. Mr. Houde agreed and proposed to issue a broadcast message in the near future.  

Action item(s): HWD to issue broadcast message.

9) Closing Remarks and Round Table

Ms. Jacovella and Mr. King offered closing remarks and suggested that the Committee proceed with a final round table.

Action item(s): N/A