Robyn Benson, PSAC

And it's off to court we go


…to defend the rights of our members yet again.

The people who keep our borders secure—the FB group—have been seeking a collective agreement since 2011. Last Fall, having achieved very little progress at the bargaining table, the dispute was referred to a Public Interest Commission, which is established to try to bring the two sides together.

The PIC took nearly half a year to report, during which time Treasury Board authorized the Canadian Border Services Agency to email our members with a “final offer,” which it did on April 29. Shortly after that, we were informed that Treasury Board and the Canadian Border Services Agency would be asking Minister James Moore to order a mandatory membership vote.

This was literally unprecedented, and wildly premature. The PIC report hadn’t been released at that point, no one knew what was in it, and this power—to force a vote—has never been used. But nothing more was said until earlier this month, when Treasury Board President Tony Clement decided to celebrate Public Service Week by announcing that the forced vote would indeed take place.

The PIC report had just been released (June 5). But instead of sitting down with us to discuss the contents of the report—the normal process once it is in the hands of the two parties—Treasury Board flatly refused to meet.

One has to wonder what the point of a Public Interest Commission is, if its findings can simply be ignored altogether by one of the parties. That’s hardly serious bargaining, and effectively six months or so of the members’ time has been wasted.

We shall be asking for a judicial review of the decision. The claim by the government is that there is a risk of strike action by our members. But the truth is that there is no risk at all at this time. Any strike would be months away. There isn’t even an essential services agreement in place, which needs to happen before a strike can proceed. And the whole point of such an agreement is to ensure that the public is not endangered.

It gets worse. The Public Service Labour Relations Board could hold the vote in mid-July, when many of the affected workers are off on vacation.

We believe that Minister Moore’s decision to force a vote is fundamentally flawed in law, have asked the Federal Court to quash the order, and have requested an expedited hearing on the matter. In the event that a vote does take place, the FB negotiating team is strongly recommending that members of the FB group reject it, as is the entire PSAC leadership.

In the meantime, all members should ponder the grave consequences of this arbitrary action by the government. We have a collective bargaining process in place for a reason—to allow the two parties to negotiate an agreement in good faith. If either side can just arbitrarily step out of the process when it feels like it, we no longer have bargaining at all. Up and leaving when it chooses, Treasury Board is tearing up a process that has served both sides for nearly fifty years.

Stay tuned for updates. We’ll keep you fully informed of developments.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on June 19, 2013 8:29 AM.

Shenanigans on the Hill: an update was the previous entry in this blog.

Recess time is the next entry in this blog.

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