The preamble of the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA), which came into effect on April 1, 2005 states that the public service labour-management regime must operate in a context where protection of the public interest is paramount. The PSLRA further stipulates that effective labour-management relations represent a cornerstone of good human resource management and that collaborative efforts between parties, through communication and sustained dialogue, improve the ability of the public service to serve and protect the public interest. The PSLRA recognizes that the commitment from the employer and bargaining agents to mutual respect and harmonious relations is essential to a productive and effective public service.
Sections 119 to 134 of the PSLRA describe the process and legislative timelines associated with the negotiations of essential service agreements (ESA's) when the bargaining agent has selected conciliation as the dispute mechanism of choice in the collective bargaining process. These agreements, between the employer and the bargaining agent, will include all positions identified as essential to the safety or security of the public. Employees who are notified that they occupy an essential position are prevented, by law, from participating in legal strike activities.
This framework is developed to foster a common understanding and agreement between (Department) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) on the process to be used to negotiate ESAs based on the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA). This framework does not replace the Treasury Board (TB) Guidelines for Essential Services Agreements but rather complements the guidelines by providing the details that are specific to each department.
It is understood that it is in our best interest to have some mutually agreed guidelines regarding the process to be used for ESAs and to ensure that all stakeholders receive the appropriate information.
The parties to this framework are committed to union-management relationships in all its forms (information, consultation, mediation), as they recognize the benefits of working collaboratively and strongly believe that it is essential to good union-management relations.
All recognize the essence of "public interest" and believe in a constructive exercise that enables parties to engage in two-way communication, understand each other's interests and address essential services in a climate of collaboration, openness, trust and mutual respect. This framework also encourages the parties to share information in good faith and in a transparent manner; seek opinions and advice; examine positions; recognize public interest; and better understand each other's standpoint and sometimes, decisions that have been made.
The following will provide the necessary definitions, principles, timelines, roles and responsibilities for the various stakeholders, activities and dispute resolution process in the negotiation of ESAs.
This document serves as a template that may be used and adapted by Departments to meet their particular needs. The information contained in the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders are provided as a guide only. Points may be added or removed as required.
"essential services" – means a service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public. (PSLRA, Section 4(1))
"essential services agreement"– means an agreement between the employer and the bargaining agent for a bargaining unit that identifies the types of positions in the bargaining unit that are necessary for the employer to provide essential services; the number of those positions that are necessary for that purpose; and the specific positions that are necessary for that purpose. (PSLRA, Section 4(1))
The manner in which ESAs are negotiated will have a direct impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. Consultations must be meaningful and carried out in a climate of collaboration. All parties should keep in mind that they share the common goal of ensuring the delivery of essential services to the public in the event of a strike. (Departments may choose to link back to their respective organizational values or establish ground rules based on the TB Guidelines for Labour-Management Consultation Committees).
In addition, the following principles are derived from the Public Service Staff Relations Board (PSSRB) case law concerning the designation provisions in the former Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA). The essential services provisions differ from those under the former PSSRA, but the requirement that a service be necessary for the safety or security of the public remains the same. Although this case law does not bind the Public Service Labour Relations Board (the Board), the parties may want to keep these principles in mind when establishing essential services agreements.
(These principles were reproduced, in part, from Annex A of the TB Guidelines for Essential Services Agreements.)
The parties agree to begin the process surrounding essential services as early as possible. All legislative timelines can be found in Appendix B of the TB Guidelines for Essential Services Agreements. (We encourage Departments to use this space to outline their respective timelines for the various activities to be undertaken with respect to ESAs)
Early in the process, the department and the bargaining agent representative will be required to jointly determine how the negotiations will take place in the establishment of ESAs. For example, the negotiations between managers, supported by departmental human resources officials and bargaining agent representatives could start at the local or regional level in some departments, and move up to the national level for approval of an ESA. Should the parties agree, the Labour/Management Consultation Committee could be tasked with this responsibility. Section 5.1.4.of the TB Guidelines for Essential Services Agreements offers the variations that can be considered. The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat remain the final level of approval on all essential services agreements.
(This area should describe what has been agreed to for your specific department with respect to bilateral negotiations. You may adjust the departmental and bargaining agent representatives' roles and responsibilities listed below, as required.)
Despite best efforts, the parties may not be able to agree on all matters to be included in an essential services agreement. In such cases, the PSLRB becomes the neutral arbiter. Either the Treasury Board Secretariat, as the Employer on behalf of the Department, or the bargaining agent can apply to the PSLRB if they are unable to agree on the terms of an essential services agreement. The application may be made no later than 15 days after either of the parties has requested conciliation or the Chairperson has referred them to conciliation on his/her own initiative.
Every effort will be made by the parties to resolve disputes at the level that is closest to the location of the position. The parties can use various dispute resolution mechanisms. When resolution is not achieved, it will be referred to the next level of authority identified above. If an agreement is not reached at the departmental level, the dispute will be referred to TBS and the PSAC simultaneously and they will attempt to reach an agreement, failing which, the case will be referred to the PSLRB.
ESAs remain in effect until changed in accordance with the PSLRA. The parties agree to abide by Section 5.2 of the TB Guidelines for Essential Services Agreements as it relates to reasons and timelines associated with such amendments.
The parties hereby agree to abide by this framework in the process of negotiating ESAs.
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