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Proposals for public service employees working from home 'a slap in the face' says PIPSC

In a bargaining update on negotiations for members in the Canada Revenue Agency's financial, audit and scientific unit, PIPSC released opening non-monetary proposals by both the union and the government.

The headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency in Ottawa.
The headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency in Ottawa. Photo by Chris Roussakis /Postmedia

The federal government has served a “number of demands to reduce pay” for employees working from home, says the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

In a bargaining update on negotiations for members in the Canada Revenue Agency’s financial, audit and scientific unit, PIPSC released opening non-monetary proposals by both the union and the government. 

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The proposals include differentiating between overtime pay and standby pay for employees who are working from home and those who are required to physically show up at work “to recognize the difference in the level of inconvenience” between the two situations.

An employee who was authorized to work at home should not be eligible for reporting pay, according to the government proposal.

Meanwhile, employees authorized to work from home will not be entitled to expenses for lodging or meals if they work three or more hours of overtime immediately before or after their regularly scheduled hours of work, according to the government proposal.

Those at a place of work will still qualify for a $12 meal reimbursement.

“Now is the time to introduce provisions to protect our members’ right to telework and flexible work hours,” said Doug Mason, president of the financial, audit and scientific unit in the update.

“Unfortunately, the employer served a number of demands to reduce pay for employees working from home. This is slap in the face to our members who stepped up during the pandemic to deliver emergency benefits to Canadians under unprecedented working conditions.”

The unit’s collective agreement expires Dec. 31. Negotiations are scheduled to continue Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Proposals from both the union and the government agree that an employee’s normal work day can be 7.5 non-consecutive hours, not including an unpaid meal break, at the request of an employee and with the approval of the employer — as long as the terms of the agreement don’t cost the government any more money.

The union’s proposals include that the employer grant an employee’s written request to work in an alternative location, subject to operational requirements. The details of the agreements are to be in writing and consistent with the collective agreement.

Plans for federal public servants to return to the workforce are being developed department by department. PIPSC says it is involved in bi-weekly meetings with the Treasury Board and other public sector unions.

Earlier this month, Treasury Board president Mona Fortier said the federal government is moving from “remote-by-necessity to hybrid-by-design,” but acknowledged that after more than two years of working off-site, some public servants were reluctant to return to the office.

“This gives us the opportunity to harness the best of in-person and off-site work. In-person work better supports collaboration, team spirit, innovation and a culture of belonging,” said Fortier.  “Being together in the workplace helps teams build trust and learn from each other. At the same time, off-site work can have benefits, such as cost savings.”

PIPSC, which has 70,000 members with 27 different employers in seven different jurisdictions, said all plans to return to work should be safe, flexible and fair. While employers have the legal right to require employee presence in the workplace, PIPSC said it is advocating for return to workplace policies that meet those principles.

“Most PIPSC members don’t want to return to the workplace full-time. We have proven that we can be equally productive working remotely. The flexibility to work remotely is critical to many who have care responsibilities, different working styles, and other reasons.”

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