Federal public service | Unions united against returning to the office three days a week

(Ottawa) The major federal public service unions are promising war against the Trudeau government against returning to the office three days a week. They are furious at not having been consulted and are calling on the New Democratic Party (NDP) to push the government back as part of its agreement with the Liberals.



Updated yesterday at 6:10 p.m.

“The Trudeau Liberal government must prepare for a summer of discontent in whatever form it takes, whether at the borders or at the airport,” said the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). ), Chris Aylward, at a press conference on Wednesday. It also wants to encourage its members to file “tens of thousands of grievances”.

The union which represents 240,000 members is currently holding strike votes for employees of the Canada Border Services Agency. The return to work in person policy does not affect border crossing agents, but concerns other administration employees.

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PHOTO SEAN KILPATRICK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward

The Treasury Board issued a new directive last week for public servants who work in hybrid mode to go to the office at least three days a week instead of two starting September 9. Executives will have to be present four days a week.

The PSAC, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) and the Association of Canadian Financial Officers (ACAF) are opposed, especially since the government announced its intention in the last federal budget to dispose of numerous buildings to create housing.

They accuse the government of having ignored the letters of understanding concluded last year with the Treasury Board on teleworking in order to respond to the request of the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, and the mayor of Ottawa , Mark Sutcliffe, worried about the economy of the city center of the federal capital.

Their position surprises the parliamentary budget director, Yves Giroux. “It’s a bit surprising because civil servants still have good working conditions,” he says in an interview.

Productivity of civil servants

The four major unions denounce inadequate spaces where there are no longer enough desks for all employees and which are infested with vermin. There is no evidence that teleworking harms productivity; on the contrary, they add, since they have fewer distractions and can therefore do more work each day.

Mr. Giroux says he asked the question to the Treasury Board about the productivity of public servants in hybrid mode. “The response we got is that they do not measure the productivity of people working remotely or in person, saying that it is quite difficult to measure it,” he reports.

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PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Yves Giroux

But I’m pretty sure that individual departments are able to determine quite easily how many passports, for example, a typical employee is capable of [de délivrer] per week or per day. The same thing for the Revenue Agency. They have to be able to measure these things.

Yves Giroux, parliamentary budget director

In a letter addressed to the President of the Treasury Board, Anita Anand, 16 unions demand the “immediate cancellation” of the return to three days a week in the office.

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PHOTO PATRICK DOYLE, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Treasury Board President Anita Anand

Minister Anita Anand argued that this issue falls under the employer’s right to manage. “It’s a decision that remains with the public service and the ministries,” she said in a press scrum.

In a letter, they ask NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to “reconsider” his party’s position and “make a decisive gesture” as part of the agreement between the Liberals and the New Democrats.

“Most troubling is that the New Democratic Party of Canada continues to support a government that so blatantly disregards the rights and well-being of workers,” they write.

Mr. Singh is not yet ready to tear up the agreement with the Liberals. “We are going to use our power to support workers,” he said.

Remote working was implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 to prevent the spread of the virus. Three years later, he moved to a hybrid work model of two or three days a week.

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