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Business Manager's Report - Fall 2012

Oct 17, 2012

Comings and Goings

After 17 years of loyal service to the Local, Micheline Desforges has decided to retire as the Local’s Assistant Financial Secretary. Micheline was instrumental in modernizing our accounting system to ensure accurate and timely financial reporting to the members and the Executive Board. On behalf of all the members, we wish her the very best in her retirement. Replacing Micheline is Lyn Toll. Lyn brings a variety of experience in the public and private sector and is a welcome addition to the Business Office.

I’m also pleased to announce that Doug Pittman was recently hired as the Local’s Western Business Representative. Doug replaces Glen Kautz who resigned to take up a role in management.

Federal Government Bargaining

The last round of Federal Government Bargaining came to an end on July 25, 2012 with the release of the Binding Arbitration Award.  The most significant part of the award was language to eliminate severance pay from the collective agreement. Other changes include modest increases in some premiums and the pattern increase in wages.

Many members commented on the length of time required to obtain a collective agreement with so few changes. I too am very frustrated by this. It should not be this way. That’s why I announced a external review of this last round of bargaining with the goal of answering a key question: what could have been done differently (if anything)?  Although not ready for this meeting, the report will be presented at the Spring 2013 E-Board meeting.

Protecting our jurisdiction

The Local continues defend its jurisdiction in the Federal Government. The most recent case to be heard at the PSLRB involves an EG titled “Data Acquisition Technologist” who was performing weather radar maintenance.

These cases are costly and time consuming. They require a long time to prepare, they are legally complex and therefore require the use of professional legal services. Moreover, not only is the Union arguing it’s case against the employer, it must also argue a case against the other affected union.

The Employer typically supports their case by advancing arguments that diminish (if not denigrate) the skill level required to perform your work. In the most recent case, you would have heard the employer claim that weather radar maintenance is as simple as replacing modules (they are “plug and play”). They also said most of the maintenance is mechanical in nature.  It was even suggested that someone with knowledge gained in a high school “shops” class could perform some of these maintenance tasks. Pretty pitiful stuff indeed.

We continue to prosecute these cases in spite of the obstacles because we believe protecting our jurisdiction is the best way to protect your profession. It’s clear the employer has no interest in doing so.

Online Bargaining Proposal Manager

I’m very pleased to report that our Bargaining Proposal Manager is now on-line. This tool represents a huge step forward in how we collect, organize and generally manage collective bargaining proposals from the members. This tool is essential given that we now represent members with several employers.

The tool will necessarily change (for the better) how Unit and Regional Steering Committees are managed. Your Executive Board members will play a much greater role in the Steering Committee process. This will ensure that priority setting is more consistent between regions. And having Executive Board members directly involved in the steering committee process will put them in a better position to make recommendations for the National Steering Committee.

A considerable amount of time went into the development of this tool and I want to thank the Executive Board and the Business Office staff for their contribution.

NAV CANADA Staffing Progress Report

Staffing and mobility remain a concern for members in NAV CANADA. Although we've since improvements in communication between the company and the union, some problems remain. For example, in competitions the weighting of the score devoted to “personal suitability” remain as high as 40% (or even higher in some cases) and this can be assessed with as little as two questions. What is really required is a whole new look at the internal competition process and the tools used to evaluate employees for higher level positions.

Furthermore, the company has significantly increased the use of temporary employees. These provision exist to give the employer some flexibility during periods of peak workload but they are being used in situations where the demand continues for years. The effect is to extend the probationary well beyond the current 12 months. Most of the NAV CANADA members are “permanent” employees and not directly affected. But left unchecked any argument could be used to justify temporary employment. Rest assured we are looking at a number of ways to solve this problem.

On a positive front, the Local and NAV CANADA are working together to identify the barriers to mobility. NAV CANADA members want more control over your career and this study should help at least answer some questions. It's impossible to say when that project and study will be completed but it's important work which should confirm the scope and seriousness of the problem.

Staffing reduction in  NAV CANADA’s  ATM  Group

NAV CANADA’s Technical Operations ATM group has undergone another round of cuts. The 2006 ATM model is being revised to reduce the size of the ATM group from 19 to 17 with the difference coming from the supervisory ranks.  Even though no one was “shown the door”, it is a permanent reduction in staff that will affect the Local over the long term.

Some NAV CANADA managers dared suggest that this will be a good thing for the group because it allows the implementation of a shift schedule which will permit more weekends off. Personally, I think it's reckless to suggest that you need to cut staff in order to implement a worker friendly work schedule. It was even suggested that this change was suggested by the employees themselves. Neither of these things are true. The reality is that NAV CANADA is continuously looking for ways to cut costs. Given that wages are the company’s single biggest expense these cuts are the result of the CEO's obsession with cost control at the expense of the employees.

NAV CANADA Pension Plan

The NAV CANADA pension plan continued to be a topic of discussion between the company and the NAV CANADA


Bargaining Agents Association. Both sides agree that the current funding regulations are unnecessary for NAV CANADA and create unintended consequences such as the requirement to fund on a solvency basis. This is normally required in cases where the plan sponsor could go into bankruptcy. Since NAV CANADA operates as an unregulated monopoly and it must set rates at an amount required to pay its bills, it cannot go bankrupt. Yet it must still fund the pension plan as though this were a possibility therefore unnecessarily trapping capital.

The regulations are not about to change any day soon, NAV CANADA refuses to increase services charges to the customers and no agreement was reached between the company and the NCBAA. All this means that the problem will most certainly come to the negotiating table. It also means we need to consider this as we develop our bargaining strategy.

Respectfully submitted,