Research Council Employees’ Association is 50 years strong.
2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the RCEA as the certified bargaining agent for the majority of employees of the National Research Council. Founded in 1966 the RCEA became the certified bargaining agent following the implementation of the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA) in 1967.
This legislation extended collective bargaining rights to government workers and provided them with two dispute resolution options (arbitration and conciliation/strike) to resolve collective bargaining disputes. For the first 40 years of its existence, the RCEA did not have to resort to these dispute resolution options as we were able to achieve mutually acceptable collective agreements with NRC. Since 2006, however, the RCEA has had to resort, on several occasions, to arbitration as a means of settling disputes with NRC. Recently, the former Conservative government enacted Bill C-4 which effectively removed arbitration as a dispute resolution option for the RCEA and instead placed all six bargaining units on what is now called the PIC (Public Interest Commission)/Strike route. This represents a marked change for the RCEA and is one that we hope the new government will address shortly.
The public sector is highly unionized in Canada. Approximately 80% of those public sector employees are covered by collective agreements, compared with only 25% in the private sector. The Public Service is divided into various subsidiary administrative units such as departments, agencies, commissions, Crown corporations, and other federal organizations. Over 40% of the Public Service of Canada is located in the National Capital Region, although there are employees working at approximately 1,600 locations across Canada. The Public Service of Canada is the nation’s single largest employer.
The RCEA is proud to be part of the Canadian labour movement. Canada’s labour movement has a long history of improving workers’ everyday lives. Unions fought for and won many of the rights enjoyed by all workers today – minimum wages, overtime pay, workplace safety standards, maternity and parental leave, vacation pay, and protection from discrimination and harassment.
Pay, Benefits and Pension
Because of unions, public service workers in Canada have decent pay, benefits and pensions. But they had to fight to win those gains. Today public service unions continue to fend off attempts by governments to roll back wages, pensions and benefits for federal government workers.
Safety and Health in the Workplace
Unions fought hard to give Canadians three important areas of power: the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to know about hazards in the workplace and the right to participate in health and safety discussions. Unions continue to fight hard to enforce employers fulfill their obligations to keep workers safe.
Maternity leave benefits began in 1971 in Canada, and comprised of a limit of 15 weeks and 66% of salary. Unions negotiated a longer paid maternity leave with a higher level of benefit that topped up the portion of salary paid by unemployment insurance. The model of longer periods of paid maternity leave soon became main-stream across Canada. Unions also began negotiating guarantees that women could return to the jobs they held before their maternity leave. Unions didn’t stop at maternity leave. Adoption leave, paternity leave, family related leave and parental leave – available to either parent – were routinely negotiated with employers.
Unions continue to work hard every day to protect the rights we’ve won, and to win new rights for all workers. The RCEA will continue to work within this movement and to fight to ensure that members retain hard won benefits. We will continue to work hard on your behalf and to fight for better compensation and benefits and to maintain pensions and health care. Please join me in celebrating 50 years of the RCEA.