Robyn Benson, PSAC

Sick leave abuse

Clement club.jpg

…and by “abuse,” I mean using the issue as a club to beat public service workers with. Tony Clement, the President of Treasury Board, has been fond of making the claim that public workers take much more sick time than their private-sector equivalents. He has vowed to root out this “abuse”—which, as it turns out, doesn’t exist.

We’ve known this all along, of course, and Statistics Canada backed us up last Fall, noting that the public and private sector rates are in fact comparable. The Ottawa Citizen article that contained this information is no longer available on-line, but not to worry: a new study has landed on the government’s doorstep with a thud, and it says the exact-same thing. (Here’s the full text.)

The source? None other than the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Recall the previous Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, a thorn in the side of the Harper government for some time as he battled to hold it to account. He was replaced a few months ago by Jean-Denis Frechette, who many thought would be a tamer sort of fellow. Wrong: he turned out to be every bit as tough as his predecessor. On alleged runaway public service wage increases, for example, he quickly set the record straight. And now his office has turned its attention to frankly wild claims of absenteeism and sick-leave abuse by public workers, the message is equally firm:

The average sick leave of 18.26 days reported by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) includes time missed due to workplace injuries and unpaid sick leave. The average number of paid sick days taken by public servants in the core public administration (CPA) was reported at 11.52 days per year in 2011-2012.

So much for Clement’s figure of 18 days. That never made any sense from the start, as I pointed out yesterday in the Toronto Star: “We have time and time again said that Mr. Clement is incorrect. Our members do not abuse sick leave….Mr. Clement has said we use upwards of 18 days a year when we only actually earn 15.”

Sick leave is to be a key issue in collective bargaining this year, and it means a lot to our members. It’s cheering to see the government’s case for “reform” evaporate before we even sit down.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on February 7, 2014 9:12 AM.

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