Message from the President - Bargaining Update
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Members who attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in April received an update during my report on the status of the joint pay studies as well as on collective bargaining. However, in appreciation of the high level of interest in this matter, I am writing to provide an update to the entire membership. In this regard, please note that while our existing collective agreement expired about a year ago, its terms continue to remain in force until a new collective agreement is negotiated and put in place.
Strategic Decision to Delay Collective Bargaining
The AJC Collective Agreement expired on May 9, 2022, but we made a strategic decision to delay the delivery of our notice to bargain to the employer. The resolution of the market adjustment issue provides the greatest opportunity for potential gains. Further, we believe that the AJC would be better served by resolving the crucial market adjustment issue before entering into a formal collective bargaining discussions. This ensures that the issue of market adjustment remains at the forefront of our discussions. It’s noteworthy the employer has agreed that the market adjustment issue needs to be resolved before we enter full-fledged collective bargaining.
Joint Pay Studies Process
As you know, when we settled our last collective agreement in July 2019, the AJC was able to negotiate two joint pay studies with the Employer, one on internal relativity and the other on external comparability, to be jointly administered, with the AJC and Treasury Board having equal decision-making authority in the process. Since October 2019, a joint AJC-Treasury Board Working Group has been working toward the completion of these joint studies. However, the process has been long, frustrating and difficult.
One of the key methodological issues was the use of contextual information for the internal relativity study. You might recall that Treasury Board conducted its own internal relativity study of the LP Group back in 2017. The results of that study were deeply flawed since it was based on incomplete information about what LPs do. Treasury Board used the results of the internal relativity study in the binding conciliation before Chair Serge Brault in 2018. The result was not favourable to the AJC (https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/cala/doc/2018/2018canlii119222/2018canlii119222.html?resultIndex=1).
One of the reasons that the progress on jointly administered pay studies negotiated in 2019 has been slow is because we have been determined to do it right, avoiding a repetition of the flawed 2017 TBS internal relativity study of the LP Group. To give an example of how we have been diligent, the AJC has been fighting hard for the full use of contextual information in the joint internal relativity study. When it became clear that we would not be able to reach a consensus with Treasury Board on this issue, the AJC availed itself of the dispute resolution mechanism in our agreement with Treasury Board, and we sought a decision on the use of contextual information from an independent expert.
On October 24, 2022, the independent expert ruled completely in the AJC’s favour and mandated that contextual information about the LP Group would given full consideration in the internal relativity study. As you can imagine, Treasury Board has not been happy about this decision. There are other such areas where we have fought long and hard to ensure your interests are protected as best as possible.
Market Adjustment Discussions
In January 2023, Treasury Board signaled its interest to engage in discussions with a view to resolving the market adjustment issue in lieu of completing the joint pay studies. The AJC agreed to embark on confidential, without prejudice discussions.
We met with Treasury Board on three occasions in March and had substantive discussions on the market adjustment issue. However, the momentum of these discussions was interrupted in April by Treasury Board’s preoccupation with PSAC collective bargaining and the eventual PSAC strike. In May we resumed talks with Treasury Board and have met on two occasions.
Given the confidential and without prejudice nature of our discussions with Treasury Board, we are constrained with what we can currently share. However, we can say a couple of things. First, unlike some previous discussions with Treasury Board, we sensed a genuine interest in and commitment to resolving the market adjustment issue. Second, the discussions have been positive and progress has been made.
All that being said, we remain hopeful, yet cautious. It remains to be seen if a deal can be made. For the moment, let’s keep our hopes high but manage our expectations.
We would like to acknowledge that our membership has been extremely patient. We know you are frustrated. This process has taken a long time. However, we’re asking you to be patient for a little longer. As soon as we are able to do so, we’ll share further information with you.
Collective Bargaining Preparation
While the AJC has not officially begun collective bargaining with the employer, we have certainly not been idle. In March 2022 the Governing Council appointed a seven-member Negotiations Committee, consisting of the President as chair and six other Governing Council members (three new members and three veterans of prior collective bargaining). We also have two alternate members of the Negotiations Committee.
Under the mandate approved by the Governing Council, the Negotiations Committee is responsible for identifying bargaining priorities, determining a bargaining strategy, collecting relevant bargaining information from the membership and elsewhere, and negotiating with Treasury Board.
Here’s what the Negotiations Committee has been doing:
- We completed a survey of the bargaining priorities of the membership in 2022 which is crucial to our strategy;
- We completed two days of interest-based negotiation training in 2022 to prepare the team for the task of bargaining with Treasury Board;
- We’ve continued to collect relevant bargaining information from numerous sources, including our members and Governing Council, with a view to improving our collective agreement;
- We’ve been focused on the resolution of the market adjustment issue and have met on a number of occasions in that regard.
When we officially begin collective bargaining, all bargainable issues remain open for negotiation with the employer.
We will continue to update you as matters progress. Also, we have refreshed the collective bargaining section of the AJC website with an overview of the collective bargaining process and the AJC’s bargaining history. Bargaining updates will regularly be posted there too.