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Business Manager's Report - Spring 2011

May 14, 2011

NAV CANADA Collective Bargaining

The Local is winding up for another round of bargaining with NAV CANADA.  These things are always difficult to predict but I expect this round will go more quickly than the last given the fact that the job classification issue has been resolved.  That doesn’t mean that it will be smooth sailing.  Much depends on the company’s position with respect to wages and whether or not they are prepared to address the disparity between key levels in our group.

In addition to wages, a fair and transparent staffing process remains a key bargaining goal.  There isn’t a lot of room for mobility within our group and it’s important to give members every reasonable opportunity to fulfill their career goals (whether upwards or sideways).  Great strides were made in the last round to improve transparency and we hope to build on this for the next round of bargaining.  You can also expect that working conditions and premiums will be discussed at length during bargaining.  Members’ value their time off now more than ever and when operational needs interfere with the employee’s time off they expect adequate compensation.

Federal Government Bargaining

Collective bargaining in the Federal Government continues to progress at a frustrating slow pace.  Although cost containment is making the negotiations difficult, our bigger challenge is the employer’s unwillingness to demonstrate any creativity with the smaller bargaining units such as ours.  The PSAC agreement on wages and severance may be the pattern going forward, but some accommodation must be made for the smaller bargaining units.  The negotiating team is considering its options.

This is not the way we hoped it would go but this is clearly outside our control.

Case Management Report

In the six month period ending March 31 2011, the Local opened 51 new cases and closed 48. The number of open cases increased from 66 to 69. Here are the highlights of the last six months:

  • The union had a total of 69 cases open among its three employers, NAV CANADA, Government and Brookfield Power. For this period, the greatest number of open cases was in the Federal Government with 45, followed by NAV CANADA with 20 then Brookfield power with the remainder;
  • The average time taken to resolve complaints and grievances has increased from 199 to 263 days. Two NAV CANADA cases brought up NAV CANADA average to 326 days whereas the average time it takes to resolve a Federal Government case is 223 days. A series of grievances related to hours of work during the Vancouver Olympics is bringing up the Government average. In NAV CANADA, the average time to resolve cases remains high due to a couple of “duty to accommodate” cases.

Slightly more than a third of the cases open involve the interpretation or application of the collective agreement (26). Job classification and discipline or discharge cases make up slightly less than one third (21) with remainder of the cases are more or less evenly distributed between other categories such as “Assignment of Duties”, “Discipline and discharge”, “harassment”, “job classification” etc.

Of particular importance to us is the “Sea Trials” grievances filed in Esquimalt, BC. The Department of National Defence is doing everything in its power to avoid dealing with these cases and paying the members what they are owed. The Department has sought delays for the most frivolous of reasons. Although it isn't my practice to publicly target a specific department (positively or negatively), I have to say that that department seems to have the least responsive labour relations section in the government. Members have a right to be frustrated with the pace at which these cases proceed.

Other government departments such as Fisheries and Oceans are little better. Again, they will often request extensions to time limits not for the purpose of seeking a resolution but only to take more time to tell the member what could be said in a week: "denied".

This aggressive approach has caused us to re-evaluate our philosophy with respect to the granting of extensions. In the past, we would have been very accommodating and would have granted extensions for a variety of reasons. Labour relations is a complex business, work load has increased for departments and sometimes management simply needs extra time to “do the right thing”. However, a recent event in National Defence led us to rethink our practice with respect to the extension of time limits. In this particular case, the union failed to file a reference to adjudication within the time limits prescribed in the regulations. We sought relief from National Defence given that the Local has been quite understanding of delays on their part in the past. The department flatly refused our request. This left us no option but to seek an extension from the PSLRB.

To the extent that departments are willing to engage in "fair play", we will do the same however this particular department has made it clear they are out to win and not resolve problems. So be it - we will adjust our approach accordingly.

Membership Statistics

Membership levels have remained relatively constant from October 2010 to March 2011 hovering between 1811 and 1825 members. The growth seen in National Defence has levelled off and NC numbers are following their usual predictable cycle (hiring in the late summer / early fall with retirements bringing the numbers back down).

Financial Overview

The Local continues to be in good financial health although there is a slight downward trend in our net assets. 

This trend is due primarily to two facts:

  • Increased representation of members with additional staff and increased activity on certain cases.
  • The Local also experienced some one-time relocation expenses for outgoing employees as well as a significant increase in legal expenses.

I have asked all Officers and Staff to put a renewed focus on financial management and cost control.

In closing…

Another six months has gone by exceptionally quickly and I thank all the Officers for their support and attention during this especially busy period.

Respectfully Submitted,