Last week, the Treasury Boards Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) issued updated guidance to departments on the use of paid leave under the 699 leave code that contained ambiguous language about employees needing to exhaust other relevant forms of paid leave first. This is to take effect on Nov 9th, 2020. OCHRO further released clarifying documents that make it clear that the employer has chosen to violate the terms of our members’ collective agreements and human rights in the name of political expedience.
As of now, departments are being instructed to not consider requests for leave under clause 55.01 of the PO Collective Agreement (similar clauses exist in all other Public Service collectives), which provides for “leave with pay when circumstances not directly attributable to the employee prevent the employee’s reporting for duty,” until all other forms of paid leave have been exhausted, including annual leave.
The RCMP has not shared their interpretation of these changes so it is not clear how this will affect the CM Category.
Why does this matter?
This guidance has the effect of unilaterally adding conditions and restrictions that are not part of the PO collective agreement, which is an unambiguous breach of the agreement and our freedom of association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Moreover, the employer’s own gender-based-plus analysis of these changes shows the impact will disproportionately affect women and members of traditionally marginalized groups. These actions are discriminatory and a gross violation of your rights, not to mention an affront to the working relationship we’ve tried hard to maintain during this unprecedented time.
Furthermore, these changes create instability and uncertainty at a time when the second wave of the pandemic is hitting across the country. This compromises the mental health of the entire group and sets up unnecessary obstacles to those who want to respect public health directives for the good of all Canadians.
What comes next?
We have made it clear to the employer that this is not the time to gut a system that is working well to assist members in managing the pandemic. Instead they have decided to make changes that constitute a violation of your collective agreement, human rights and Charter rights. It is not the employer’s responsibility – nor that of the managers they’re delegating these decisions to – to choose which rights to uphold and which to reject in the name of politics.
Our union president has joined several other federal public service union presidents (total of 17) and sent a joint letter to the Treasury Board Minister yesterday expressing our concerns (ie: health, labour relations and human rights) asking him to direct his staff to backtrack on this new direction.
If you are refused access to leave code 699, contact your steward or regional chairperson and we will assist you and, if appropriate, immediately begin the process of filing a grievance on your behalf. In the meantime, we will also be filing a policy grievance on behalf of the group. Analysis has already begun on further formal action including complaint(s) to the Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, under human rights legislation and regarding the violation of your Charter rights.
All members are encouraged to schedule all personal and annual leave credited this year, if at all possible, to avoid the employer scheduling your annual leave or denying access to 699 leave on the basis that you have unscheduled annual leave.