PS unions "cautiously optimistic" with bargaining set to resume
Some talks with Treasury Board resume this week, with PSAC starting Feb. 1
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Public service union leaders say they’re “cautiously optimistic” as collective bargaining talks with the federal government are set to resume in a few weeks.
Talks had been scheduled for December, but Treasury Board officials asked for them to be delayed as the new Liberal government establishes a new mandate.
Some talks are resuming this week. But the major ones begin Feb. 1 with Public Service Alliance of Canada teams representing 98,000 members—including 40,000 in Ottawa-Gatineau—scheduled for four days of negotiations.
“We’re certainly not expecting a deal in the first week,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC’s national executive vice-president. “What we are hoping for is a change of tone.”
Talks with the former Conservative government soured last summer when a section of budget Bill C-59 gave the government power to unilaterally impose changes to public servants’ sick leave plans.
The new government has pledged to respect the collective bargaining process, but its exact plans for sick leave are unclear.
“What they bring in February, right now it’s a wait and see game,” Aylward said.
“We’re not asking for the moon and the stars, but we are expecting a fair collective agreement and a decent wage increase as well. … What we’ve seen so far gives us some reason to be cautiously optimistic.”
Aylward said the government doesn’t need to immediately repeal the section of Bill C-59 that allows it to bypass the collective bargaining process, as long as it promises not to legislate a new plan.
Canadian Association of Professional Employees president Emmanuelle Tremblay said she’s hoping for a firm commitment from the government that it won’t invoke its powers under Bill C-59.
“That’s absolutely definitely going to be a central part of the discussion, is how can we go back to the table in good faith if that Damocles sword is hanging over our heads,” she said.
Tremblay said CAPE’s talks with Treasury Board won’t begin until late February or early March. CAPE represents about 12,500 public servants.