Statement from PIPSC President Jennifer Carr in response to the President of the Treasury Board’s open letter regarding remote and flexible work:
In her open letter to public service employees, President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier wrote: “On telework, we have proposed to review, jointly with unions, the current telework directive. The directive has not been re-assessed for a post-pandemic world, so a formal review would help ensure that our approach is modern, fair, and supportive of our employees, while ensuring our teams can deliver on our core purpose: serving Canadians.”
We welcome the change of heart from the employer, in recognizing the need to re-assess the current telework directive. It is encouraging to see that the government acknowledges the importance of consulting with unions on this matter.
However, we believe that a promise of a formal review is not enough. We need a binding commitment in a collective agreement because we have seen too many instances where the employer has abandoned its promises or ignored the process after signing a memorandum of understanding with us.
We have a history of signing memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with the employer, only to witness the employer disregarding its commitments or abandoning the process altogether. This lack of follow-through has had significant consequences for public service employees.
For instance, the Employee Wellness Support Program memorandum of understanding, which aimed to address the shortcomings of the sick leave regime, was abruptly abandoned by the employer despite years of hard work invested in its development.
The MOU on gender-neutral language in collective agreements has been plagued by delays and a lack of priority and commitment from the Treasury Board. The anti-harassment MOU also failed to produce meaningful outcomes, necessitating further negotiations for improved language that supports equity deserving members. Additionally, the consultation on office space and the GC workplace was nothing more than a mere formality, with little consideration given to the input provided by employees.
Even outside of MOUs, the consultation on telework and return to office has been abysmal, seemingly disregarding the advice provided by the government's own advisors. The implementation of arbitrary and unreasonable policies has resulted in logistical nightmares and a loss of productivity, inevitably undermining the quality of services that Canadians rely on.
At PIPSC we support the principle of “presence with purpose”: being at the office when justified by operational needs. We continue to advocate for what was promised: a hybrid-by-design approach that considers employees’ unique circumstances and job requirements. We agree that it’s management’s role to determine the location of work — but just like every other aspect of a collective agreement, we believe in contractual guardrails that determine how management exercises this right.
Given Minister Fortier's acknowledgment that their policy requires a re-assessment, we urge them to do it the right way. These commitments should be binding and included in the collective agreement, ensuring accountability for all parties involved. It is only through a collective agreement that we can ensure fair and equitable policies that support our members while enabling us to continue serving Canadians effectively."