Treasury Board bargaining: Telephone town hall wrap up

On March 9th, just over 1,300 PSAC members in our Treasury Board units in BC participated in a live telephone town hall meeting with Robyn Benson, PSAC National President, Bob Jackson, PSAC BC's Regional Executive Vice-President, and Seth Sazant, Lead Negotiator at the TC Table. Robyn, Bob and Seth provided an update on bargaining with our Treasury Board units, talked about solidarity events, political action and the upcoming election, and took questions from PSAC members.

Listen in to the audio below ...

Here are brief summaries of some of the questions that were asked, we encourage you to listen to the whole call for much more information about bargaining, solidarity, and political action.

What is PSAC's position on sick leave? Seth: Our position is that the current system is working well. Everything we've heard from the employer - their rationale for why it needs to be changed - is a pretty big moving target. They said members were abusing the system: that was debunked. They said it cost too much: that was debunked. Our position is that the system works and we'd like to keep it in place.

What are we doing to keep sick leave, what is our strategy? Robyn & Bob: It's important that we all stand up and take action to show the employer and the government that we support our bargaining teams. Actions like the ones that have been taking place over the last few months and that are happening on March 19th - with all the other unions - will show the employer that our members support the teams. Another thing we can do is get the facts and talk to co-workers, friends, family and Members of Parliament about the issue.

What is happening on March 19th, and why is it important? Robyn & Bob: PSAC members across the country are joining with other federal government unions and colleagues to support our common campaign for healthy workplaces. Together, members of all federal public service unions will show that we want healthier workplaces and better public service for all Canadians and we’ll send a clear message to the employer and to all Canadians that we support efforts to negotiate collective agreements that will take on toxic workplaces and not implement a “go to work sick” policy. We're doing this because healthy workplaces are more productive workplaces and as federal public service employees we want to provide quality public services to all Canadians. To find out how you can get involved here in BC, visit this page or contact your regional office.

When are we going to get to the monetary proposals at the bargaining table? Seth: We've begun - as we always do - with the non-monetary proposals. This is the way negotiations almost always work: once money gets on the table it is usually harder to concentrate on other things. We have quite a number of non-monetary proposals - mental health, workforce adjustment, and so on - that we still need to work through and it might take some time to get through them. There's no firm timeline on when we will begin to talk about monetary proposals, but we are hopeful we'll get to them in the relatively near future.

How are we engaging other federal unions? Robyn & Bob: PSAC is working very closely with our fellow federal unions. There are 17 unions representing workers at Treasury Board in the National Joint Council and we've all been working collectively. We meet regularly, talk to each other often, and organize joint events. We've signed a Solidarity Pact with them that says we won't concession bargain and we won't give up sick leave. Regionally we've formed a really good relationship with representatives from the other unions and many of their members will be joining us on March 19th at Together For Healthy Workplaces events.

Would it be better to sign an agreement after the upcoming federal election? Robyn: PSAC is going to the table with Treasury Board to negotiate a meaningful collective agreement that preserves our benefits and advances our members vision for healthy workplaces. We're not going to the table with the intention of stalling - when we go to the table we ensure that we explain our demands and we ensure that the employer understands that we are not bargaining concessions when it comes to sick leave.

What is PSAC doing around the federal election? Robyn: Let me be clear - PSAC is not going to tell our members who to vote for. What we will do is make sure PSAC members understand what the issues are around the election. Certainly our negotiations is one - retirement security, childcare, healthcare, public services, veteran's issues - these are all important. We'll be giving information to PSAC members and we'll be asking them to talk to the candidates. Ask them the hard questions, see what their answers are, and look at the party platforms. We want to make sure that all our members vote and that they look at candidates that care about working people and public services. Bob: We're asking members to get the facts - find out about the government's record on public services and other important issues, to find out about the candidates - ask them about their party platform and what they will do to protect and promote public services, to spread the word - talk to friends, family and co-workers about the election, to keep up to date on the issues, and to vote on election day.

When are we going to take a strike vote? Robyn: At this point we're not thinking about that. We're at the table having discussions with the employer. We have an obligation to members to present the demands that were submitted, and we have an obligation to ensure that we negotiate a good collective agreement. Our employer needs to come to the table and negotiate properly with us - in good faith. From my perspective members shouldn't be worrying about whether we'll be taking a strike vote in the near future. We should be concentrating on supporting our bargaining teams by taking visible actions in the workplace. If we're active, if we show the employer we're supporting the team, we may never have to take a strike vote - it's about showing the employer we're serious now.