Predictions are rarely 100% accurate. But some offer better-educated guesses than others. Here then are my forecasts (and a few resolutions) for the coming year.
2018 is a make-or-break year for the federal government’s credibility on the Phoenix payroll system. (Or is that “fix it or nix it”?) The government still claims it can fix Phoenix. We’re not so sure, as 87% of respondents indicated in a recent PIPSC survey. Public Services and Procurement Canada revealed in November that the system will reach its long-promised “steady state” by December 2018.
That’s still too late, but it at least provides us with a date by when to expect fixes to some major problems. While I’m doubtful, based on their track record, that the government will meet this new deadline, we will continue to do everything we can to assist fixes, while at the same time demanding that a new system that works be built by our members. We’ll also continue to press the government to either hire more staff to assist our members facing Phoenix problems, or expect more grievances.
Sometime in the next few months the government will introduce another budget. Our hope is that it includes significant reinvestments in the federal public service, which is still struggling from the accumulated cuts of the previous government. According to the CCPA’s 2016 Alternative Federal Budget, “the federal government is the smallest it’s been since before the Second World War.” That needs to change if we’re to face the challenges of the future. But it’s unlikely that will happen without pressure from Canadians, including PIPSC members. That’s why we launched last fall a petition calling on the government to reinvest in the public service. It’s not too late to add your name!
Among the areas in which we’re calling for significant reinvestment is government science. By our count, Canada is still short 1,500 scientists due to the Harper government’s cuts. But leaving Canada short-staffed on science isn’t our only concern. Having successfully fought to include in collective agreements the right of scientists to speak, we’re now focussed on negotiating scientific integrity policies with federal science-based departments and agencies. Expect to hear a lot more about scientific integrity in the coming year.
Budgets only work when everyone pays their fair share of taxes. The Paradise Papers once again revealed the extent to which Canada and other countries are victims of offshore tax havens. Setting up specialized teams at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to investigate the 3,300 Canadian names included in the Paradise Papers is an important first step towards ensuring everyone does pay their fair share. The government wants to help the middle class. One way to do so is to invest the resources the CRA needs now to ensure public programs are fairly and adequately financed in the future.
Shortly before the last federal election, the Liberals committed to “reducing the use of external consultants, bringing expenditures closer to 2005/06 levels.” They have a long way to go to meet that promise. Spending on outsourcing has grown over $2 billion in the past two years alone to a projected $12 billion. But the high cost of outsourcing isn’t its only problem; a growing record of risks and failures among projects – from Phoenix to email transformation to website consolidation and cloud-based services – should be prompting the government to press the reset button on outsourcing. In 2018, we’ll be reminding the government at every opportunity to “insource first.”
In 2016, the government promised to introduce new legislation ensuring pay equity in the federal public service. I presented PIPSC’s concerns on this issue in a presentation to the House of Commons Special Committee on Pay Equity. The government promised to deliver “proactive” legislation by the end of 2018. We will work hard over the coming year to ensure they do. Because it’s 2018.
Finance Minister Morneau’s Bill C-27 was introduced in 2016, promising to close the door on defined benefit pensions and open it to more (and less secure) target benefit pensions. We’ve been strong critics of the bill and look forward to its defeat or withdrawal before the end of the year. Endangering retirement security didn’t make sense in 2016 and it certainly doesn’t make sense in 2018.
In April, PIPSC will welcome 1,300 civilian members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as new members. PIPSC staff is working hard to ensure their transition is a smooth one. The recent announcement that further transfers of civilian RCMP employees to the Phoenix pay system are indefinitely on hold is a great relief. As already mentioned, we’ll continue throughout the year to lobby the government to either fix or nix the system.
These aren’t the only issues on which PIPSC will be focussed in the coming year. Negotiations for a new Employee Wellness and Support Program are also well underway. And, as we prepare for the next round of bargaining, issues such as more flexible work arrangements, including telework, will be on the table too.
One thing my experience as President has brought home is that on many, if not all, issues good government relations works. That’s why we’ve dedicated resources to continue our lobbying efforts again in 2018.
To you and all your family, I wish the very best for 2018.