Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Public Sector Alliance of Canada Members Across the Country Reject Government's Sick Leave Proposals and Cuts to Public Services

Federal Public Service Workers Defend Their Rights

Nov 12, 2014

Workers in the federal public service, represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) organized rallies, pickets and information sessions across the country on October 30 to express their determination to defeat Treasury Board demands to gut their sick leave provisions. The current round of negotiations began in July and affect some 100,000 workers. Through their actions the workers gave a resounding NO to concessions and upheld their right to sick leave and the rights of Canadians to high quality public services. They spoke out against the Harper government's cuts to public services, raised the demand of sick leave for all workers, and gave the rallying cry to Stop Harper! In Quebec, PSAC members joined the coalition of public sector unions in a big rally in front the Quebec National Assembly on October 30. PSAC Atlantic Region also organized a Day of Action on October 17, with participation in all four provinces.

The Harper government is attempting to roll back the clock to the days when public sector workers had no unions, to eliminate negotiated the sick leave provisions which have been in place for up to 50 years. The Treasury Board which negotiates collective agreements with unions representing federal government workers tabled a proposal to gut sick leave benefits on September 10. Annual sick leave would be reduced from 15 days a year to five days as part of establishing a new Short Term Disability Plan (STDP) which would exist outside the "collective agreement." All sick leave credits which workers have accumulated over many years would be abolished. Workers would no longer be able to carry over unused sick leave from year to year. The new STDP would impose an unpaid seven calendar day period before workers could receive benefits. It would pay 100 per cent of salary for the first four weeks and 70 per cent after that for a maximum of 26 weeks.

The Treasury Board is also demanding that the union agree to provisions in the collective agreement which would sanction arbitrary action by the employer. Sick leave would only be paid if the worker satisfies the employer "in such manner and at such time as may be determined by the Employer" that she/he could not perform their job because of illness. The new STDP would be privately administered, further imposing arbitrary measures to deny sick leave while lining the pockets of the insurance monopolies.

PSAC rightly characterizes the government's proposals as a "go-to-work-sick" plan. This violates all the public health norms of a modern society. It negatively impacts not only the workers forced to choose between going to work sick or losing pay, but their co-workers and the public they serve.

The Harper government has been making wild claims about the "cost" of sick leave in order to justify its attack on the rights of public sector workers and the services they provide. PSAC points out that information from both the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Statistics Canada show that the government is providing misleading data to make its claim that the workers are "abusing sick leave." The government is grossly inflating the amount of paid sick leave actually taken by federal public service workers which it calls a "burden on taxpayers." By claiming that sick leave is a "cost," the government is denying that sick leave is a right which belongs to all workers. The wages, benefits and pensions of public service workers are not a cost to society. Society could simply not function without the services these workers provide, and far from being a cost they provide enormous benefit to society. To decry paid sick leave as a cost is an attack on the rights and working conditions of all as well as the public services these workers provide.

In addition to PSAC, negotiations are taking place with 16 other unions in the federal public service. All the unions have signed a solidarity pact to present a common front on the issue of sick leave benefits.

TML congratulates the federal public service workers for their determined stand and calls on all Canadians to give full support to their just fight.