On Friday, February 7, the Conservative government introduced an omnibus bill to implement the provisions of the federal budget. Bill C-10 includes two sections that directly impact NRC employees: one section that provides for legislated wage rates for federal public sector workers and another that proposes a wholesale overhaul of federal pay equity legislation.

The Expenditure Restraint Act provides for wage increases as follows:

2006-2007 fiscal year – 2.5%
2007-2008 fiscal year – 2.3%
2008-2009 fiscal year – 1.5%
2009-2010 fiscal year – 1.5%
2010-2011 fiscal year – 1.5%

The legislation also prohibits any increases to what it terms “additional remuneration” which means that there can be no positive change to any so called “monetary items”. Collective bargaining remains as do the rights to arbitration and strike. In reality, what this seems to suggest is that unions can go to the bargaining table, but they can only talk about issues and provisions that have no cost attached to them. For all intents and purposes, the government has frozen collective bargaining for the next two years.

None of the RCEA bargaining units have agreements that will be affected by the roll backs contained in the legislation. All our bargaining units will be covered by the 2.3%, 1.5%, 1.5% and 1.5% increases.

The legislation must now make its way through the Parliamentary process. We do not know how long that will take. In the meantime, we will be attempting to resume bargaining on the non-monetary issues for the TO group and to commence bargaining for our other groups.

With respect to pay equity, the proposed legislation changes the entire framework in which pay equity complaints can be made. It changes pay equity from a human rights issue to a compensation issue that must be addressed through collective bargaining. If it is not resolved during bargaining, there can be financial and other penalties. There is a complaint process, but only by individual members and without the support of the union. There are also fines of up to $50,000 if the union encourages or assists a member in making a complaint.

This pay equity proposal is unwieldy and impossible for a union the size of the RCEA. It remains to be seen whether there be will changes to the legislation and if not, how it will be implemented.