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Business Manager / Financial Secretary Report

May 26, 2017


Government Bargaining

As everyone already knows, we reached a tentative agreement with the Federal Government at the beginning of March.  And following a series of information meetings across the country, I’m pleased to report the successful ratification of this tentative agreement.

This is an important achievement.  It is the first ratified agreement in more than a decade, my first negotiated agreement with Federal Government as your Business Manager, and the first for many of you as members.  Although it was far too long in coming, all delays can be placed on the Federal Government's doorstep.  For 18 months beginning in May 2014, the Conservative government held fast to a ridiculous bargaining position.  The post-election delay was also entirely in the employer’s hands.  Preparing a bargaining mandate takes time and the Liberal government wasn’t sure what they wanted as an outcome.  However, your patience paid off because you kept your sick leave and received a pay increase above the current pattern of settlements.

Although the majority of members are satisfied with the settlement, many are already looking to the next round of bargaining and wondering what position the employer will take on sick leave.  The truth is we don’t know but regardless of the employer’s stance on the subject, we can make our own plans anticipating some likely scenarios.  Every round of bargaining brings with it the potential for significant change.  That’s the nature of collective bargaining and our job is to prepare ourselves as best we can and to keep you informed.

Phoenix Pay System

The Phoenix pay system, the Canadian government's random number generator, continues to wreak havoc on public service employees.  Most departments are doing what they can to ease the pain and we are assisting members as best we can.  What is clear is that the government is years and millions of dollars away from a permanent solution.

One definition of gross negligence is “a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.”  I’m no lawyer, but I have a pretty good grasp of the English language and it’s hard to see the roll-out of this pay system as anything but grossly negligent.  That this fiasco causes "grave harm to persons" is undeniable.  Even though most of the senior executives responsible for this project have been shuffled off into other roles, it is appalling that they are still employed as executives in the federal public service.

I fully expect a post-mortem to be conducted to figure out what went wrong.  This will almost certainly result in fingers being pointed away from those actually responsible.  What's really needed is a look at the culture and attitude that allowed such a project to go ahead in spite of clear advice to the contrary. Canada’s chief public servant, the Clerk of the Privy Council, is unsettlingly silent on this subject. The best he could do in his report to parliament is acknowledge that "we need to up our game". Shameful.

In the meantime, we continue to ask members to file grievances if there are errors in their pay. This course of action may seem excessive but this is the only legal means of enforcing your rights under the terms of the collective agreement. I know many of you are calling on the union to file a lawsuit on behalf of the members but we are not allowed to do that.

NAV CANADA Bargaining

The IBEW returns to the negotiating table with NAV CANADA later this year.  For the most part, the regional steering committees have completed their work and it is now up to the National Steering Committee to do the final review of the proposals.  They will be meeting the week of June 12th and the President will appoint the negotiating team at this time.

A few things are going on in the background that will affect both the pace and outcome of bargaining.  The first of these is NAV CANADA's recent tentative agreement with the air traffic controllers.  As you know, the air traffic controllers are NAV CANADA's largest bargaining unit and they historically set the pattern of economic increases.  We fully expect the company to offer the same economic increases to the IBEW.  Any deviation from the pattern will create delays in reaching an agreement.

Making matters even more complicated are the sharp — and unexpected — increases in traffic.  This additional traffic has caused NAV CANADA’s revenues to exceed their projections which means excess revenue over expenses.  If this continues into 2017 one can realistically expect a further reduction in customer service charges.  IBEW is trying to capitalize on the excess revenue by discussing a gain-sharing formula with NAV CANADA.  For a variety of reasons progress is slow but it might still be worth pursuing.  Without any kind of gain sharing, customers will reap all the benefits of greater traffic and efficiency.  This needs to be fixed for the long term.

Election 2017

This is an election year in Local 2228.  In a matter of weeks, you’ll be ask to decide who is in the best position to lead your union for the next four years. There is no higher position in an IBEW Local Union than that of the Business Manager. They have significant authority and responsibilities under the IBEW Constitution.  Not only is the Business Manager your chief negotiator, they are responsible for the appointment of all stewards, assistants and representatives as well as the day-to-day management of the Business Office. It is important that all members participate in the election of the Local's "Principal Officer" and vote for the candidate they believe has the best experience and qualifications to lead the Local for the next four years.

Final Remarks

As we approach our 50th anniversary as a union of federal electronics technologists, it's worth reflecting on what we've achieved and what remains to be done.

We’ve come a long way in 12 years.  We are in good financial shape, members have access to full-time representatives in the field and we have a generally good working relationship with our major employers.  All these accomplishments required hard work and involved taking some risks.  You can’t move forward if you’re sitting on your hands wondering what could go wrong.  Thank you very much for the confidence you have shown in me these last twelve years.

Having said this, opportunities remain which would be of benefit to the members.  For example, the Local's real property could be converted into a revenue generated asset.  The Business Office was purchased in around 1981 for $85,000.  Another $85,000 was spent renovating the building prior to occupying it in 1983. Further investments were made nearby in subsequent years. Anyone who is familiar with west-Ottawa knows that property values have increased considerably and there are options to generate revenue for the members.  As it stands now, our assets represent a cost to the members.

Another area of opportunity is to aggressively pursue technology to improve communication with the members and among the members of the staff.  We are a medium-sized Local Union but we have the greatest geographic jurisdiction in the Brotherhood: all of Canada.  Maintaining regular contact with the members, stewards and even the staff is extremely challenging and more difficult than I anticipated. The appropriate use of technology can make a huge difference and needs to be pursued.

We can never do enough for our shop stewards.  Although we are able to support them reasonably well with direct access to the Business Representatives or the Business Manager, often this isn't enough.  I would encourage my successor to think differently about how we train our stewards because I feel we are missing the mark in some areas.

As you can see, there is much to be done and I urge all members to lend a hand in any way they can.  By working together, I'm confident you will achieve great things just as the IBEW founders did 125 years ago.