Legal battle begins to protect use of 699 leave during the pandemic

October 16, 2020

PSAC’s legal challenge against Treasury Board’s regressive and discriminatory changes to 699 leave for federal public service workers is set to begin October 19.  

In June, PSAC filed a policy grievance after the government tightened its guidelines around when public service workers can use “Other Leave with Pay” (699 leave) to fulfill child care needs during the pandemic.  

The new policy fails to recognize that some parents may have to keep their children at home for legitimate reasons despite the availability of schools or child care. For example, some parents may choose to keep their children at home to protect members of their household who suffer from underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 symptoms.  

PSAC will meet with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board in order to determine the scope of the policy grievance and set dates for the hearing.  

PSAC made it clear that the new policy adversely impacts women who continue to bear a disproportionate burden of domestic responsibilities including child care, eldercare and household operations. It could also result in discriminatory outcomes for people with disabilities and people with family obligations, violating both members’ collective agreements and the Canadian Human Rights Act based on family status, sex and disability. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has also notified the Board that it intends on making submissions on this issue. 

The proposed policy amendments would result in a patchwork of unfair outcomes for public service workers and give managers too much discretion in applying the policy.  

PSAC pushes back against the use of sick leave for COVID-19 

PSAC will also be contesting language in the policy that says employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who self-isolate would be required to use available sick leave instead of 699 leave if they are unable to work.  

This egregious change to the policy is discriminatory to public service workers and flies in the face of sound public health advice. Without the availability of a vaccine, and with many parts of Canada entering a second wave of the pandemic, Treasury Board’s proposed changes are premature and inconsistent with the current public health crisis.  

There is also no evidence that employees have abused 699 leave during the pandemic. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that 699 leave in the federal public service has been used modestly and cost very little. And as departments adapted to working from home, the number of employees forced to use 699 leave dropped by 84 per cent from April to June.  

PSAC is committed to ensuring that our members, and in particular, women, caregivers and those with disabilities, continue to have the necessary support and leave with pay they need during the pandemic. 


PSAC pushes back against misleading reporting of federal pension plan

PSAC is advocating to roll back changes that the government made to its reporting of federal pension costs because they make the cost of the plan volatile.

Pension accounting decisions can profoundly impact the path that governments take when determining the affordability and viability of workers’ pensions. The accounting changes in question, made in 2018, valued pre-2000 pension liabilities in a way that falsely assumed all these liabilities would have to be paid off that year. In a recent submission to the federal government, PSAC suggests a fair accounting method to better reflect the pension plan’s real cost.

PSAC members are the primary beneficiaries of both the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) and of the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP). Combined, these two plans represent the largest proportion of employee pension and other future benefit costs reported by the federal government. As a result they are frequently targeted by fiscal conservatives who constantly clamour for public service spending cuts.

The union’s submission to the Department of Finance argues that pensions are in fact deferred wages that members earn throughout their careers. The pension and benefits that government workers receive when they retire are not a tax-payers’ gift, but rather an earned employment right.  Pensions must be treated as a long-term obligation by the employer, however, the government’s chosen accounting methods  make the pension plan appear more costly than it truly is based on short-term market fluctuations. PSAC is calling on the government to choose valuation and reporting methods that are both transparent and fair.

Your union will always push to ensure that your pension is safe, secure and well-funded.

Read our submission to the federal government here.

EB group ratification kit, including the full text of the agreement, now available

On July 23, PSAC’s EB bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with Treasury Board. The bargaining team unanimously recommends ratification of the new agreement.

The ratification kit which includes the full text of the tentative agreement is now available for download.

Members will soon be invited to participate in an online ratification process. Details will be shared as soon as they are available.

PA group ratification kit (full text of agreement) now available

July 23, 2020

On July 9, PSAC’s PA bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with Treasury Board. The bargaining team unanimously recommends ratification of the new agreement.

The ratification kit which includes the full text of the tentative agreement is now available for download.

Members will soon be invited to participate in an online ratification process. Details will be shared as soon as they are available.



Clarification on the Phoenix Damages

UNE has been given clarification from PSAC with respect to the PSAC Communications re: Phoenix-related damages.

1. The ratification process for Treasury Board (TBS) units had two conditions. One, that we arrive at a tentative agreement at PA and two, that the agreement would be ratified by the PSAC which occurred when the NBOD ratified the damages agreement on July 3, 2020.

2. Parallel agreements will need to be concluded for the following units under TBS control. There has been a commitment by TBS to fund these agreements:

Separate Agencies

  • Parks Canada Agency
  • Statistical Survey Operations (SSO) (Regional Offices/Field Survey Interviewers)
  • Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG)
  • Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) (Administrative and Foreign Service/Administrative Support)

3. The following groups will need to be settled/bargained for separately. These groups are outside of TBS control:

Parliamentary Precinct or Crown Corporations

  • Library of Parliament
  • House of Commons
  • Senate
  • Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
  • National Battlefields Commission (NBC)

The details of the memorandum agreement with respect to all aspects of Phoenix damages will be relayed by PSAC Communications.


Important information for SSO Members

July 2, 2020

UNE recently became aware that the Employer started reducing field interviewers’ 3rd quarter Average Work Weeks (AWWs) starting July 1, 2020. This situation could apply to many field interviewers and regional office employees throughout all 3 regions.

To minimize the financial impact, employees are encouraged to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) if they earn $1000 a month or less.

Please ensure that you apply for the CERB through either Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), not both. Before applying for the CERB, please check if you are eligible to receive it.

UNE and PSAC remain in close contact with the Employer to provide you with the latest updates on this evolving situation.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact a member of your Local Executive:

UNE Locals with SSO members – Field Interviewers
UNE Locals with SSO members – Regional Offices

For the Public Good: The growing threat of privatization and workers’ proposals to protect our future

PSAC has been one of several unions participating in the Canadian Labour Congress’ Task Force on New Forms of Privatization. On June 25, the Task Force has released its report For the Public Good: The growing threat of privatization and workers’ proposals to protect our future.

The report is the culmination of a thorough analysis of new forms of privatization, in particular social impact bonds (SIBs), pension fund and investor participation in privatized infrastructure, and new federal agencies that motivate and support privatization of services and infrastructure. Which by any measure, should be fully within the public sector in order to serve the public interest. These agencies – The Canada Infrastructure Bank, FinDev Canada, and the Social Finance Fund, along with more traditional forms of privatization, all contribute to the growing instability in public services, at a time when we, more than ever, need a robust public service to ensure competent and effective services for Canadians.

While largely written prior to the COVID19 pandemic, the report does raise the critical role that public services have had in Canada’s response to the crisis. Public sector workers – PSAC members – have been doing this critical work across the country – at the control hub of the response at the Public Health Agency of Canada, in food plants ensuring our food is safe, at our borders and our airports, delivering emergency benefits to workers and to businesses, developing and testing vaccines and treatments.

In some sectors, privatization has resulted in devastating loss of life. We only need to look at the privatized Long-Term Care homes to see the very real, and very tragic results when profit comes before people.

The report outlines a hopeful path forward, bringing public services back in house, and furthering best practices for publicly funded, built and maintained infrastructure that will be critical to not only the recovery from the economic crisis stemming from the COVID19 pandemic, but will also be instrumental in better weathering future crises, whether pandemics, climate change or other.

June is National Indigenous History Month

By Michael Freeman

June, In Canada, is celebrated as National Indigenous History Month. Indigenous Peoples have lived and thrived in the territory that is now known as North America for millennia. Oh, people may argue with the exact timeline but oral history and traditional knowledge are all that We, the Original Peoples, need as substantiation.

National Indigenous History Month is a time for remembering, a time for learning, a time for celebrating, a time for healing, a time for growth, a time of unification, a time of reconciliation, a time of hope and a time for like-minded peoples to come together to be stronger in unity.

Indigenous Peoples within Canada (defined as Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit) have had a diverse history and a unique experience coast to coast to coast, interrupted, complicated and forever altered by the arrival of explorers and immigration to this land. The struggle to coexist has been the foundation of a fluid relationship fluctuating from confrontational, at the worst of times, to one of pride and celebration, at the best of times.

Through your own search and study, explore the rich history of Indigenous Peoples. Be sure to research a good mix of historical documents, treaty documents, policy and documents of reconciliation. There are many current Indigenous authors and a wealth of their works to keep you connected, reading and learning for many weeks and months to come. Do not fall into the trap of reading only the history tomes written by non-Indigenous authors and filtered through their non-Indigenous lenses.

Due to the current pandemic affecting every aspect of society, many of the gatherings, celebrations and ceremonies planned in honour and recognition of the rich and storied history of Indigenous Peoples have been postponed or cancelled. Look to the virtual experience as you explore the many web portals available.

It is time to loose the bondage of the undercurrent of racism, in this country, against Indigenous Peoples. Become part of the solution, if you are not already, by committing to understanding the true relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples and actively working to improve it. Dig deeper than the spectacular layers of pageantry and the ignorant layers of the stereotypical.

Be curious. Be teachable. Be willing to learn. Be open to new ideas. But above all, enjoy the experience.

Michael Freeman is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Persons with Disabilities, member of the EB Bargaining Team, President of UNE Local 00128, and a teacher and policy writer for ISC on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario.



Message from the UNE National President on National Public Service Week

Members of the UNE Family,

This week is National Public Service Week (NPSW). Its goal is to “recognize the value of the services rendered by federal public service employees” and to “acknowledge the contribution of federal public service employees to the federal administration.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak started, our members have been exemplary and stepped up to the plate and made sure federal public services were delivered. Whether our members are performing critical work or working remotely from their homes, they adapted quickly to an unprecedented situation.

Many of our members under federal jurisdiction are still attempting to negotiate a fair and just collective agreement including separate employers members, Treasury Board members at the Program and Administrative Services (PA), Operational Services (SV), Technical Services (TC), and Education and Library Science (EB) bargaining tables, Parks Canada members, and Statistical Survey Operations (SSO) members.

UNE members have been here for Canada during the pandemic, so we expect the Government of Canada to be there for them, if they truly value their workforce, and return to the bargaining table.

Respectfully and in Solidarity,

Kevin King
UNE National President

Message from the UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

In a turn of recent events, images captured and circulated worldwide have shown a continued pattern of racism and human rights atrocities that has continually plagued Blacks. A series of tragic events, culminating with the killing of George Floyd. And while we know that the Union of National Employees rejects racism in any form, we understand that these events also come at a time when the world is experiencing a heightened sense of isolation, uncertainty, and fear.

The National Representative for the Racially Visible members recognizes the importance of reaching out and sending a message to express ongoing support to visible minorities who may be experiencing outrage, fear and frustration – not only as it relates to recent events, but also at the lack of mechanisms to address the systemic barriers and biases that feed into the racist practices and ideologies which lends itself to the overarching issue of racism and its ongoing impact that we, people of colour, are faced with on a daily basis.

Let’s take this moment to call upon the leadership, specifically union leaders, to speak up and reach out to your Components, your locals, regions and its representatives as well as those in your membership who self-identify as visible minorities.

Time is upon us and the air is heavy with unrest. We need to seize the opportunity to self-reflect and explore, and address the attitudes, beliefs, and systemic barriers that continue to harm Black and minority communities.

It is a time for us to become better informed about all forms of racism by developing and participating in anti-racism and unconscious bias learning activities. It is a time to ask ourselves what we can do as union leaders and activists to be part of the solution. The time is now, we must stand up and become an ally, be compassionate and respectful of those in our membership ranks who may be traumatized by the experience and realities of racism.

Conversations need to include discussions around the creation of safe spaces, racism, and discrimination; as well as unconscious bias as it relates to inclusion practices in the union’s rank and file, while advocating for change throughout all departments.

As part of these efforts, our union leaders need to highlight that as a collective we are all responsible for fostering an inclusive, accessible, respectful, equitable and safe workplace for people of all races.

We no longer have the option of adopting a false sense of security.

We no longer have the recourse of our rose covered spectacles.

We no longer can shield ourselves under the premise that We, this land, our union is immune to the happenings and the events that go beyond our borders.

Let’s stand together, raise our collective voices and work towards being agents of change in addressing anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and all forms of racism.

Hayley Millington
UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People