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Business Manager’s Report - Fall 2016

Dec 13, 2016

Phoenix Pay - the Saga Continues

The Phoenix pay system continues to plague thousands of public servants some of which are our members.  The government frequently struggles with major projects  but none has hit so close to home as the pay system “upgrade”.

What makes this problem particularly difficult to handle is the fact that departmental pay offices have been completely taken out of the loop.  I recently met with a senior labour relations manager in a large department and they are essentially powerless to solve problems.  There was a time when employees could generally rely on experienced pay clerks in their area to answer questions or solve pay related problems which inevitably arise.  This is no longer the case because individual departments can do little more than "carry the mail" (and complaints) to Miramichi.

Sadly, a member’s only option is to file a grievance if there are pay errors.  Departments may say they are not responsible for the errors but that is irrelevant.  Everyone has a duty to work toward a solution and ensure employees' right are respected and that includes being paid the correct amount.

Government Bargaining Update

Much has already been written and posted on the website about the state of Treasury Board negotiations so I won't repeat it here.  What I can add is that the Local is using our resources in the IBEW First District Office to open more lines of communication between the Business Office and the Treasury Board Minister’s office.  The employer’s representatives may well be “nice people” but if they are unable to effectively communicate our position (or offers) then they are only getting in the way of an agreement.

What is particularly frustrating about this round of bargaining is that the Treasury Board treats this process as though we were trying to negotiate an multinational trade agreement.  There is nothing complicated in what we are trying to achieve or accomplish.  We listen to each others concerns, we try to address them in a practical and if you do your job well you find solutions which benefit both sides.  Sadly, collective bargaining in the federal public service has been bureaucratized and politicized to such a high degree that even the simplest of the members’ proposals do not receive the attention they deserve.  This is bad for the members and the public.

In spite of all this, we are coming near to the end of the process.  Unless there is significant progress at our next meeting in January 2017, we will have no choice but to call it quits and proceed to binding conciliation.  You’ve been more than patient and it’s time for the Treasury Board to get to work and make some decisions.

Public Services International

The Local recently applied for membership with Public Services International or “PSI” (http://www.world-psi.org/en).  PSI is a large international organization representing more than 20 million public service workers.  They  advocate for fair treatment of public service workers as well as equal access to public services.

The Local submitted an application for membership on behalf of its Treasury Board employees.  The application must be approved by regional governing bodies as well as the organization’s executive board.  Current affiliation fees are 0.995 Euro per affiliated member.

I encourage members to visit the PSI website and learn more about this important organization.

Local Union Elections

Members should take note that 2017 is an election year in Local Union 2228.  And in accordance with our Policy Manual, I want to give members advance notice of my intention not to offer my candidacy for a fourth term as your Business Manager.  To be sure, my age, years of service and timing of the elections are the main reasons for this decision.  However, I also think it is time for fresh ideas, a new approach and most importantly someone with the energy required to take on the most difficult and important leadership role in our union.

The IBEW Constitution puts much authority in the office of the Business Manager.  As  “principal officer” (Article XVII Sec 8) they are invested with  substantial authority for nearly all aspects of the running of the union. For better or worse, this is a tremendous responsibility for a single individual and that’s why it is so important for members to rally behind their Business Manager and support them as much as possible.

Nominations will be open  in the spring with an election to follow in June.  Everything members need to know about this important process will be published by the Recording Secretary early next year.

NAV CANADA Joint Occupational Safety and Health Policy Committee

Our Joint Occupational Safety and Health Policy Committee continues to struggle.  In spite of agreeing to an IBEW-only Policy Committee in 2010, NAV CANADA strongly resists all attempts to create IBEW specific policies.  Yet you can’t have one without the other.  This resistance makes advancing the health and safety of IBEW members unnecessarily difficult.  It is contributing to the turnover among the union-side members of the committee.  And this turnover is negatively affecting the committee’s ability to perform its duties as required by the Canada Labour Code.

In spite of everyone’s best efforts, I’m convinced the problems are structural.  NAV CANADA’s occupational safety and health is managed by the company’s legal services department. This department is focused on meeting minimum standards and protecting the interests of the corporation. No wonder it doesn’t find it easy to turn its mind to OSH improvements for employees.  Moreover NAV CANADA’s occupational safety and health advisor is also the management co-chair of the committee.  This is highly problematic because it’s impossible to objectively oversee your own work. The key role of any OSH committee is to provide oversight.

I’ve made my views known to senior levels of management with the steps needed to be taken if something is to change.  If my efforts are not successful, it will be up to the members to address the issue by submitting occupational safety and health proposals through the collective bargaining process.  This is far from ideal but it might be the only way to seek improvements.

IBEW 39th International Convention - St. Louis, MO

This past September, I participated in my fifth and last IBEW International Convention as a delegate. Every Convention leaves me both thrilled and a little sad. I either made new friends or reconnected with old ones. And it’s exhilarating to be part of such an important event and to be around some outstanding union leaders.  But with conventions only every five years, I know I won’t see many of these individuals for a while, if ever.  And as uplifting as a Convention can be, returning home means going back home to do the hard work of union leadership.

I have been especially honoured because I have served on a Committee at every convention since becoming Business Manager.  Most recently, I served on the Law Committee responsible for reviewing proposed Constitutional changes and recommending a course of action to the members.

I wish every member could experience an International Convention.  It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the IBEW.  Conventions showcase how well the the IBEW is both lead and governed.

I encourage members to visit the IBEW’s website and check out the Convention Highlights (http://ibew.org/convention2016) and learn more about this meeting.  You might even see a few familiar faces.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

Daniel Boulet
Business Manager / Financial Secretary