‘Far beyond’ reasonable: Federal union wants 47% compensation increase over three years
The commission, which acts as a mediator, noted that after ‘many days’ of bargaining, it was evident there have not been any ‘true negotiations’ between the parties
OTTAWA – The union representing over 10,400 federal public servants who operate government buildings and services is asking for a 47-per-cent increase in total compensation over three years, a demand that is “far beyond” reasonable according to an independent commission.
In a new report published late last week, a public interest commission found both the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS), who acts as the federal government “employer,” brought forward “unattainable” proposals during new contract negotiations that began in 2021 but have since stalled.
But the commission made particular mention of the total cost of various “wage and non-wage” proposals by PSAC for its “operational services group”: an approximately $371 million increase, or 47 per cent more, over three years, according to a “generally uncontested” calculation by TBS.
The report does not break down the costs, but an example of a non-wage proposal would be an increase in the overtime rate from 1.5 times a worker’s hourly compensation to two times.
The union’s proposals “do not appear realistic for what should be a fairly advanced stage of negotiations. The numerous proposals are not focused and they would result in an increase to compensation far beyond what is reasonable,” reads the unanimous report signed by three commissioners.
The commission, which acts as a mediator that publishes non-binding recommendations to parties when federal government negotiations have stalled, noted that after “many days” of bargaining and mediation, it was evident that there have not been any “true negotiations” between both parties.
It also noted that it had little faith a deal could be found when both the union and TBS have roughly 100 different proposals on the table for the operational services group. While PSAC’s compensation demands were deemed unrealistic, the commissioners also noted a “lack of cogent rationale” for many of TBS’s demands.
“It should have been reasonably obvious, in our opinion, that what the negotiators were instructed to try to achieve would be ultimately unattainable and would lead to no other result than failure. Both parties have too many outstanding issues and proposals remaining at table,” the commissioners wrote in the report.
The operational services group represents roughly 10,400 public servants whose jobs are to keep the lights on and services running in federal government department, such as lightkeepers, ship crews, firefighters, trades-workers and cooks.
They work in various federal departments, such as National Defence and Fisheries and Oceans, as well as Public Services and Procurement Canada, making negotiations more complex, the report notes.
PSAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report comes as the relationship between TBS and PSAC is at loggerheads, with both accusing the other of bad-faith negotiations. PSAC recently turned up the pressure by announcing a strike vote for its 120,000 total members, including operational services employees.
Another 35,000 members of the Union of Taxation Employees, which represents Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) workers, are also voting on a strike mandate. Taxation employees are demanding a 30-per-cent wage increase for its members over three years.
In a statement last week, PSAC argued that the government has “refused to compromise” on the government’s wage-increase proposal of 2.06 per cent per year that PSAC says is “completely out of touch with record-high inflation”.
“Federal public service workers have been here when Canadians needed them most – seeing us through one crisis after another. Now, the government needs to be here for workers, because while they stall on making things right, we all pay the price,” PSAC National President Chris Aylward said in a statement.
But TBS says the logjam is PSAC’s fault since the union declared that bargaining was formally at an impasse in May. It says the union’s demands for its 120,000 employees would cost nearly $10 billion over the next three years.
So, the secretariat filed a complaint on Jan. 13 to the federal public service labour board alleging the union is breaching its duty to bargain in good faith.
“From the start of negotiations in June 2021, the PSAC has flooded the bargaining tables with costly proposals—over 500 across its five bargaining units. At the same time, they have refused to prioritize their requests, refused to move on their initial proposals, and did not respond to the employer’s comprehensive offers,” reads a government statement.
“PSAC argues they are asking for 4.5% annually, but this fails to account for the cost of the hundreds of demands they have put forward beyond base wages,” according to the department.
Top military lawyer tries blocking publication of probe into alleged wrongdoing
Strike votes to be held in February for 120,000 public servants
World News || Latest News || U.S. News