Happy New Year to all Members
My first year as your President seemed to speed by, but many things were accomplished. It has been amazing to see the tremendous amount of work that goes on at your union office. I am expecting the second year to be even busier.
When I began in January 2014, there were many areas of the RCEA office and structure that I assessed that needed to be updated. As you know, we took a long and hard look at the Union’s financial situation. All union expenses were examined and reduced where possible. The union is here solely for the membership, so costs related to grievances, bargaining, legal and labour relations could not be reduced. Over the past few years the RCEA membership has decreased while we have seen a huge increase in member issues and overall costs. This forced us to look at the dues structure. The increase in dues was a very difficult decision for the Executive Committee to make. Many scenarios and much debate took place and with the added recommendation from the Deloitte auditors, it was the correct solution. I am very happy to report that the membership approved this increase with 76% in favour.
Important areas where I am being fiscally responsible are all meetings including the AGM, travel, website and IT services. Due to fiscal restrictions and high costs, annual visits to all locations are not possible. Be assured we will still travel to locations and visit members where we are needed and wanted. The RCEA website has been revamped to be more accessible and informative for members. The site’s new format is easier to navigate, and contains news media articles and information that are relevant to you and your union. This includes online enrolment cards and member information change pages. I also provide monthly information updates. We will continue to update and improve the site. RCEA IT office issues were also tackled. We have upgraded our server, security, email, databases and storage systems. Due to recent IT hackings, we are all very aware of the need to secure all our information, and I assure members we also take this seriously.
The Arbitral Awards for 5 groups were completed in June 2014. As with any arbitral award, we were successful in some areas and unsuccessful in others. Even with the huge delays in new contracts, I believe this past round was a worthwhile exercise. Four groups were awarded an extra year on their contract at 1.5% compared to other core public service unions who are offered 0.5% for that same year. The CS group retained their terminable allowance. Some of the subgroups within the OP category also had their wages reviewed and increases were awarded.
As we know, in 2015 Treasury Board and the Conservative Government are eager to commence bargaining with unions. Their main mandate is to drastically change sick leave provisions for public servants. The RCEA is an active member of the National Joint Council, and I along with the other 17 federal unions are opposed to these changes. We believe that the existing system, with some modifications, is sufficient to manage the sick leave plan at NRC and the public service. The value of outstanding sick leave across the public service is over $5.2 billion, which is clear evidence that the claims of abuse by Treasury Board are simply not true. We also believe that sick leave is an integral part of all collective agreements and any changes must be properly negotiated and not simply announced by Treasury Board. I do not believe a new short term disability plan is necessary or beneficial to members and a new plan that is outside of your collective agreement is worrisome.
I want to emphasize how difficult bargaining will be going forward and how Bill C-4 will affect the RCEA and all federal unions. The Conservative Government’s Bill C-4 is a vast budgetary bill, which was legislated on December 12, 2013. Within this Bill are sweeping changes to the rights and provisions of unions and collective bargaining, elimination of important human rights protections, and provisions that would make federal workplaces less safe. Some of the changes in Bill C-4 and how they will impact RCEA members are that notice to bargain has changed from 4 months to 12 months. More importantly Bill C-4 takes away a union’s choice between two dispute resolution methods: arbitration and conciliation/strike. Arbitration will only be used if 80% of employees are considered essential workers. This drastic change allows an employer, in this case NRC, to unilaterally decide who is an essential worker, with no input from the union. NRC sent us and the essential members their notices in August 2014, and only 3.7% are essential. This means that all RCEA members will be on a strike route if bargaining cannot be resolved. One last point about Bill C-4 is the changes it will make to the Canada Labour Code. These changes will dilute the definition of danger and restrict an employee’s right to refuse dangerous work.
These legislative changes, along with many other Occupational Safety and Health issues here at NRC have been a focal point for me this year. I am co-chair of the NCOSH for NRC, and in January 2014 I met with NRC President J. McDougall and we both agreed that safety and health issues are of the utmost importance to employees and members. I have also met with NRC’s new Director of OSH, David Shane, several times to discuss the importance of local COSH committees and the RCEA’s role on these committees. Once again, I will say that the safety and health of members is one of my top priorities.
The NRC has decided to convert the AD and AS groups and change them over to a HAY classification system. This also means the transformation of the AD and AS groups into one group. A new 9 level structure, proposed by NRC, has been selected by NRC’s Senior Executive Council. Meetings are still ongoing for this committee and will continue for many more months. The next step will be to establish pay scales for this new Administrative Professional (AP) group. The pay scales will need to be negotiated and will take time. For the TO group, new generic job descriptions are ongoing. The RCEA is aware of this exercise, and has had one consultation meeting with NRC. This is a very important issue for the TO group and the RCEA will stay in discussions with NRC and the TO group members.
There are many people who keep your union working for you. Personally I would like to thank the RCEA office staff: Joan, Laurette and Suzanne for your unending dedication and service to the membership. I want to thank the Management Committee, your Executive Committee which is comprised of all your stewards and bargaining team chairs, and all the volunteers who comprise your bargaining committees and teams, finance, consultation and COSH members. The RCEA is always welcoming to any member who would like to participate. Nomination forms for stewards are available. Bargaining committees for all groups are being established. To join, please contact the RCEA office at any time firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would also like to thank the membership. It is my great privilege to represent you whenever and to whomever I can. I have been in the public service for over 30 years and at NRC for 23 years, and I understand the dedication you all have to your work and careers. And I appreciate your loyalty to your union.
I am wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015.