Excerpt from President’s Report
Annual General Meeting Thursday October 13, 2022.
Even though many restrictions have been lifted regarding COVID-19 requirements and masks, the NRC and all federal protocols for health and safety in their workplaces remains unchanged. These protocols are set by the Public Service Occupational Health Program, part of Health Canada and guided by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Your NRC workplaces do not follow the provincial or municipal COVID-19 guidelines. The RCEA and other bargaining agents ask Treasury Board and the Service Wide Occupational Safety and Health committee regularly about these protocols and guidelines, yet no changes have been made to the guidelines for working in federal buildings.
NRC changed its work posture on September 12, 2022 and for some members it is a return to the workplace or a hybrid work environment. From numbers reported to us from NRC in late September about half of its workforce is either working off site full time or in a hybrid. We were not given numbers if these were RCEA or PIPSC members. We asked if they knew how many requests has been denied, but they did not have those numbers. We did ask for a breakdown for each of the CBIs (Centre, Branch, IRAP). We are awaiting those numbers.
Both RCEA and PIPSC were consulted on the preparation and wording of the Telework policy. The bargaining agents agreed it was a better document than the current Alternate Work Arrangement policy because it was more employee driven. But the RCEA has not been happy with the process in which this Telework Policy has been implemented in some CBIs. We are hearing from members that they were “forced” to accept the terms of what their respective Research Center and DGs, or supervisors and managers wanted or else they are being told if they do not agree, they may have to return full-time to the workplace. I want to remind all members that the Telework Policy is, and should be, an evolving agreement with members and management and there should be a balance struck that works for all. You can request a Telework agreement to be done, revisited, or revised at any time.
For those members who have asked and been denied a telework agreement either full time or hybrid and are dissatisfied with the process or outcome, please make sure that the guidelines have been followed. These were set out in numerous email and correspondence from Dale MacMillan, Vice-President, Corporate Services & Chief Financial Officer, National Research Council Canada, who stated that this process should be employee driven and be flexible where work arrangement options can include a hybrid format. Therefore, after consultation with your supervisor/manager, and/or DG/ED, and members are unsatisfied with the process or outcome, please contact the RCEA and we will try to work through this with you and the employer. Telework currently does not form part of our collective agreements, but we may still have some recourse to help, and we could file a grievance on your behalf. I assure the members that the issue of telework will be forefront in the upcoming contract negotiations.
After several years of negotiations, a new Public Service Health Care Plan agreement has been reached and will be implemented on July 1, 2023, and with a new insurer/provider, Canada Life. Significant and long-overdue improvements to the healthcare plan have been made, and key gains have been made on mental health benefits, vision care, paramedical practitioners’ coverage, gender affirmation and premium rates while on parental and caregiving leave. The plan also introduces industry standard cost-containment measures to keep up with PSHCP cost increases in the future, including a prior authorization program, mandatory generic substitution and pharmacist dispensing fee caps. A detailed list of benefits and improvements is available on our website.
Great news for retired and former RCEA members who were employed between 2016 and 2020. You are now able to apply for the Phoenix general damages for late implementation of collective agreements during those years. Former members, legal representatives of a former member or estate of a deceased member are eligible. The maximum would be $2,500; the breakdown being $1,000 for 2016-2017, $500 for 2017-2018, $500 for 2018-2019 and $500 for 2019-2020. Please be reminded that all of these amounts are subject to all tax and related deductions. To be eligible a member must have been employed for at least one day in the applicable fiscal year, had your pay through the Phoenix pay system and been an RCEA member.
The memorandum of understanding for December Shutdown has been concluded and signed between the RCEA and NRC. Except for those members who must work as a result of operational requirements, days for the shutdown are scheduled for the afternoon of 23 December and for full working days on 28, 29, and 30 December 2022, equivalent to 26.25 working hours. If you can do the additional hours and are being told you cannot, please contact us at the RCEA office. Every employee should be given the opportunity to work the required hours needed. If you prefer not to do the additional hours, you are able to use annual leave, comp leave or LWOP during the shutdown.
I would like to thank your RCEA staff, Deb, Laurette, and Sumeeta. The RCEA with only 4 staff do an extraordinary amount of work daily for the membership. But I must admit that this amount of work and personal touch we like to have with the membership is not sustainable with only 4 staff. We must think about expanding the office, so we can better facilitate all that is needed for the membership going forward. There is more and more, and more, that needs to be done for members and the membership as a whole; whether in negotiations, consultations, workplace improvements, management issues, grievances, conflict resolutions, legal advice, and many other labour relations issues, we must keep your Association moving forward. This will not be done overnight and will take some planning which will be forefront on my mandate for the next few years. I will be consulting with your RCEA staff, management team and National Executive on these issues.
I thank your Management Committee Marvin, Michelle and Bernard, and the entire National Executive Committee who are your local stewards. The stewards are our eyes and ears for the membership and are the main point of contact between members and their union, and act as a support person for members with questions and concerns. If you are interested in joining your union as a steward or joining your bargaining committees, please find information on the website.
I am very pleased that I have been acclaimed for another term as your RCEA President. I have many plans for the RCEA, and just like the entire world, so many of these were put on the back burner for the past 2.5 years. I would like to take this term to put into play the many ideas and policies we had to put on hold. Now is the time to keep moving the membership and Association forward. One of these will be to obtain a new and improved collective agreement for all 6 groups. During the past 2.5 years, I have remained on and joined numerous federal bargaining agent, NRC and Treasury Board committees and consultation groups. I am fully updated on current issues and we know that collective agreements need changing, updating and need to include new articles, like telework mentioned earlier. All this current consultation and information is very important as we move towards different needs and benefits that are required and wanted by the membership. The Covid pandemic has changed the way many employers are managing their employees and workplaces. We need to ensure the employer utilizes these new concepts and have them move forward with us in this new era of telework, alternate work arrangements, changing office styles, changing laboratory and meeting structures; all while keeping members heathy and safe while in their workplaces.
I would like to thank the membership for your continued support for your union, and for myself. It is my honour and privilege to represent you and the Association.