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Business Manager's Report - Spring 2013

May 14, 2013

Local Union Financial Status

I’m pleased to report that the Local’s finances are on a sound footing.  Our current reserves are at their highest level since 2001 and we have achieved our target of six-months operating expenses.  This positive financial outlook means we are able to restart shop steward training on a regular basis as well as undertake other initiatives to build union solidarity.

Collective Bargaining Review

Following the most recent round of bargaining with the Federal Government and the disappointing outcome at arbitration, I launched an independent review of our bargaining practices, approach and methods.  I hired Mr Larry Roine, an Ottawa based lawyer with a wide range of experience both in and outside the public service, was granted full access to all the documents, information, correspondence, emails and individuals involved in this round of bargaining.  In the end Mr Roine reported that there is nothing the Local could have done that would have guaranteed a different or better outcome.   However, he did have a number of suggestions.

One of the suggestions is to use mediation whenever possible.  Even if it doesn’t result in anything substantial is does have the effect of “embarrassing” the other side.

Mr Roine also suggested that the Local file “bad faith bargaining” complaints whenever the situation calls for it.  One of the reasons we seldom go this route is the lack of remedy available to the union.  We may win the complaint but no redress is available other than a declaration that the employer misbehaved.

Finally, Mr Roine suggested we consider the conciliation/strike option as opposed to settling our disputes through binding arbitration.  Only the members can change the dispute resolution process but this suggestion merits careful consideration.  Binding arbitration works only as far as the chair of the panel is prepared to listen to facts and consider logical arguments.  Since the employer can block any nominee put forward by the union we are left with arbitration panel chairs only too happy implement government policy.

I’ve come to the realization that negotiating with the Federal Government is remarkably similar to bargaining with someone in a coma.  Technically speaking they are alive and present.  But they are unresponsive and you’re never sure they can hear or understand what you’re saying. And once you “pull the plug” (declare an impasse) you can’t go back.  So until the Treasury Board gives their negotiators real mandates within which they can exercise some creativity, very little is likely to change.

Mr Roine’s full report is available to any member in good standing upon request.

NAV CANADA Bargaining

Preparations are well underway for our next round of bargaining with NAV CANADA. Our steering committee recently met in Ottawa and reviewed more than a hundred proposals.  Our online bargaining proposal manager greatly simplified this task and we are able to work through the volume of proposals more effectively.

All members should expect the NAV CANADA pension plan to be a target for the company.  You only need to read Mr Picher’s decision in respect of CATCA to get a flavor of the future. As is our past practice, our bargaining proposals will be made public following the exchange of the proposals with the employer.

Government classification

Small gains continue to be made in classification grievances.  This is very much like arguing pay increases one member at a time.  These cases are time consuming and somewhat expensive to prosecute.  One of the reasons these grievances are exceptionally difficult is because there is no recourse or right to an independent third party. Each case requires us to hire a classification consultant to prepare and make the arguments.  What is most surprising is not so much that we are achieving success but that some departments are getting it so wrong. Many of the cases we prosecute should be resolved internally but aren’t.

Temporary employees at NAV CANADA

The Local filed a number of grievances related to the use of temporary employees.  The use of temporary employees at NAV CANADA is not new.  However, we believe that NAV CANADA has crossed the threshold from “use” to “abuse” and it is time to challenge NAV CANADA’s interpretation of the collective agreement.  Our attempts to resolve the issue both outside the grievance procedure and collective bargaining have failed.  So NAV CANADA left us two option: accept the current situation or grieve it - we chose the latter.

NAV CANADA’s current definition of "special project" or "temporary need" leaves far too many positions open to declaration that the work is temporary and obviously we can't agree with this interpretation.

What has made this case particularly difficult to prosecute is that the temporary employees themselves are very fearful for their jobs (understandably so) and very few will talk to the union directly.  After all, if your livelihood depended on the whim of a middle level manager how vocal would you be?  Even though they now have protection in the form of notice to the union, they still fear being fired for no reason other than “their services no longer being required”.   Worse still, there is even anecdotal evidence that management tried to discourage these employees from claiming rights under the collective agreement – and this is unacceptable.

Local union elections

As previously reported, 2013 is an election year for the Local.  A number of officers have been acclaimed including the President and Business Manager/Financial Secretary.  I sincerely appreciate this continued vote of confidence as your Business Manager.

This will be my last term as Business Manager.  Although I enjoy my work tremendously (and there is still much to be done) a change will be in order.  It’s my firm belief that many leaders overstay their welcome.  Consequently, they deprive their organization of new ideas, approaches and fresh perspectives. More than ever, Local 2228 will need a Business Manager than can manage the diverse interests of our multiple bargaining units.

One of my goals in my final term is to ensure that the transition is a smooth one and that any potential successors are well prepared for the task that lies before them.  Ultimately, my top priority is to ensure the Local benefits from strong leadership for years to come.

All of which is respectfully submitted,