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SECTION II – Analysis of Program Activity by Strategic Outcome

Analysis by Program Activity

Strategic Outcome: Fair and impartial resolution of disputes related to internal appointments and lay-offs in the Government of Canada   

Program Activity: Adjudication and mediation of complaints filed under the Public Service Employment Act   

Financial Resources ($ thousands)
Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending
4,960 5,119 4,304

Human Resources
Planned Actual Difference
35 FTEs 29 FTEs 6 FTEs

Performance Management Framework

Although the Tribunal’s 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities contained performance indicators and targets, these were not very well defined because, at the time of writing, the PSST had been operating for less than two years and was focused on fine-tuning the complaint process and staffing key positions in the process, such as registry officers and mediators. Nevertheless, a performance management framework was developed and implemented in 2007 as part of the MRRS exercise. For this reason, the performance indicators and targets described in this report differ slightly from those contained in the 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities. A detailed explanation of the changes follows.

PSST Program Priorities

One of the key objectives of the PSST is to render sound decisions for complaints filed under the PSEA that provide effective recourse, withstand judicial review and are of high quality. An important measure of quality is the number of legal challenges to the Federal Court against Tribunal decisions and, of those, the number dismissed.

In the 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities, the PSST had identified two results with two indicators each for the Tribunal’s adjudication functions:

Results Indicators
PSST decisions are sound and well reasoned • High quality of decisions
• Fair and transparent process
Complaints are processed in a timely manner • Stakeholder satisfaction
• Elapsed time for processing complaints

In collecting the relevant information to measure the effectiveness of the adjudication functions, it soon became evident that these original indicators were highly subjective in nature. For example, stakeholder satisfaction and the fairness and transparency of the process could vary greatly depending on the party consulted. In other words, the parties to a complaint – the complainant and the deputy head – could view the process quite differently as a result of the decision rendered in their case.

With respect to measuring the time it takes to issue a decision, it was decided that the starting point should be the date of the hearing, rather than the date of the filing of a complaint. Measuring the time between the initial filing of a complaint and the publication of a decision is not an appropriate indicator because of the many factors beyond the Tribunal’s control – for example, the number of legitimate requests to extend deadlines and changes to the hearing schedule.

For these reasons, the PSST revised its performance indicators and targets for its adjudication function as follows:

Tribunal decisions are timely, sound and well reasoned
Indicator Target
Percentage of decisions where reasons are issued within two months of hearing 80%
Percentage of Tribunal decisions upheld on judicial review 95%

Changes were also made to the performance indicators and targets related to the PSST mediation program. In the 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities, the result and indicators were:

Results Indicators
Timely Results of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) interventions • Fair and transparent process
• A high participation rate (50 percent)
• High success rate of parties in mediation
• Stakeholder satisfaction

In implementing these indicators, it was found that the rate of participation in mediation was not an appropriate indicator because the parties are not obliged to participate in mediation. It was therefore determined that a more appropriate indicator to assess the effectiveness of the PSST mediation services would be the percentage of complaints withdrawn as a result of mediation.

The revised indicators and targets for the PSST mediation program are:

Optimal utilization of Tribunal’s dispute resolution service by parties
Indicator Target
Percentage of mediations resulting in a withdrawal of complaint 70%

In the context of the MRRS exercise, the PSST also developed the following three outputs with accompanying indicators and targets:

Complaints processed
Indicator Target
Percentage of case files closed with 270 days 80%
Number of complaints processed per year As required

Mediation sessions conducted
Indicator Target
Number of mediations held per year 140

Mediation training courses delivered
Indicator Target
Number of mediation training courses for stakeholders given per year 6

2007-2008 Results

The table below summarizes the results achieved by the PSST during 2007-2008.

Expected Results Performance Indicators and Targets Results Achieved
Tribunal decisions are timely, sound and well reasoned Percentage of decisions where reasons are issued within two months of hearing

Target: 80%


Although the 80% target was not achieved, all decisions were issued within at least six months of the hearing.

Percentage of Tribunal decisions upheld on judicial review

Target: 95%

No ruling by the Federal Court has yet been made with respect to an application for the judicial review of a Tribunal decision.
Optimal utilization of Tribunal’s dispute resolutions services by parties Percentage of mediations resulting in withdrawal of complaint

Target: 70%


Of the 119 mediation sessions conducted, 96 resulted in a withdrawal of the complaint.

A detailed description of the results achieved in 2007-2008 by the PSST follows.

Tribunal decisions are timely, sound and well reasoned
Indicator Target
Percentage of decisions where reasons are issued within two months of hearing 80%

The PSST encourages the parties to a complaint to resolve the complaint through mediation or other informal process rather than proceeding to a formal hearing of the issues by the Tribunal. As a result, most complaints are resolved before they ever reach the hearing stage of the complaint process. Nonetheless, in 2007-2008, 19 decisions were rendered following an oral or paper hearing on the merits of the case – that is, on the grounds of abuse of authority. Of these, 13, or 68 percent, were rendered within two months of the hearing and 16, or 84 percent, within three months. The remaining three decisions were issued within six months.

The slight delay in issuing decisions after a hearing may be explained in part by the unexpected increase in the number of complaints submitted to the Tribunal. In only its second full year of operations in 2007-2008, the number of complaints rose from 438 to 742, an increase of 69 percent. It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of decisions rendered on the merits in 2007-2008 rose from two to 19.

The time required to write the reasons of decision varies, depending on the complexity of the case and whether the Tribunal will be setting a precedent in a particular decision. The vast majority of the issues dealt with by the Tribunal thus far have had no precedents. The Tribunal therefore has to carefully examine the issues raised in a complaint before rendering its reasons for decision in order to ensure that its decisions reflect the intent of the new legislation and create appropriate precedents for future decisions.

Another factor that affected the length of time it took to issue a decision following a hearing is the relatively small number of Tribunal members available to hold pre-conference hearings, to preside over hearings and to render decisions on preliminary matters or on the merits of the case. In 2007-2008, there were five5 PSST members to deal with the total caseload of 997 complaint files.

Experience thus far would seem to indicate that the target for this indicator is an ambitious one. Nevertheless, the PSST considers that it is important to release its decisions in a timely manner because of the possible impact a Tribunal decision may have upon the parties and the workplace involved.

Accordingly, a number of measures were put in place during the year to ensure that the PSST meets its target of 80 percent of its decisions being issued within two months of the hearing, even when the volume of complaints is much higher than expected. These measures include: the issuance of letter decisions for procedural matters such as questions of jurisdiction and timeliness; the consolidation of a greater number of files early on in the process and the issuing of reasons for decisions based on written submissions, whenever appropriate.

Tribunal decisions are timely, sound and well reasoned
Indicator Target
Percentage of Tribunal decisions upheld on judicial review 95%

In 2007-2008, five of the Tribunal’s decisions were referred to the Federal Court for judicial review. At the time of writing, these cases were still pending.

5 The PSST consists of between five and seven permanent members appointed by the Governor in Council. [subs. 88. (1) of the PSEA]

Optimal utilization of Tribunal’s dispute resolution service by parties
Indicator Target
Percentage of mediations resulting in a withdrawal of complaint    70%

In 2007-2008, 119 mediation sessions were conducted, and, of these, 96, or 80 percent, resulted in a withdrawal of the complaint. Thus, the Tribunal exceeded its target of 70 percent of mediations resulting in a withdrawal of complaint by 10 percent. The Tribunal attributes its success in mediation to its training program which was developed to familiarize PSST stakeholders with the process in order that they participate fully in mediation and obtain the best possible results. The role of the mediator is also important inasmuch as the mediator helps the parties discuss their interests openly and frankly and identify possible options for resolving the complaint.


Indicator Target
Percentage of case files closed with 270 days 80%

The PSST was created in part to ensure that staffing complaints proceed as informally and expeditiously as possible. Accordingly, the PSST complaint process includes, in addition to the hearing itself, opportunities throughout the process to resolve complaints through constructive dialogue. In establishing its target for length of time it takes to process a complaint, the PSST considered the time limits established by the PSST Regulations for the steps in the process – the exchange of information (25 days), the submission of the complainant’s allegations (10 days), the deputy head’s reply (15 days) and the other parties’ reply (10 days) – as well as a reasonable amount of time within which to conduct mediation, schedule a hearing and render a decision.

Taking into account that complaints may well proceed through every step in the process from receipt of a file to its closing, the PSST determined that 270 days is a reasonable period for processing a complaint. A target of 80% of all files closed within that period was established. However, in the past fiscal year, the Tribunal did not meet this target; of the 742 complaints received in 2007-2008, 536 or, 72%, were closed within 270 days.

This relatively small shortfall can be attributed to the same factors involved in the issuance of a decision after a hearing – that is, an unexpected increase in the number of complaints received, the number of mediators and members available to conduct mediation and hold hearings and the establishment of an ambitious target. In addition, the PSST was faced with numerous requests, or motions, from the parties to a complaint due, in part, to their unfamiliarity with the newly-established tribunal and the complaint process itself. These requests involved questions of jurisdiction or extension of deadlines and, in all cases, required a decision by a Tribunal member. In order to establish precedents for future questions of this nature, the PSST took the necessary time to study the issues and render fair and transparent decisions. In so doing, the PSST did not attain its target of 80 percent of files closed within 270 days in 2007-2008, but did lay the groundwork for handling complaints more efficiently in the future.

Indicator Target
Number of complaints processed: 742  As required

One of the challenges faced by the PSST is the difficulty in predicting the volume of complaints that will be submitted to the Tribunal. Since the PSST has no control over the number of complaints that it receives, it is impossible to establish a concrete target. It is important, nevertheless, to provide an indication of the Tribunal’s caseload; for this reason, the target reflects the actual number of complaints received during the year: 742. However, it should be noted that, in addition to the 742 complaints received in 2007-2008, 255 files were carried over from the previous year.   

Indicator Target
Number of mediations held per year: 119  140

Mediation is an optional step in the PSST complaint process – that is, the parties may decline the Tribunal’s offer of mediation and proceed to the next steps in the process. This explains, in part, the lower than expected number of mediation sessions conducted in 2007-2008. Other factors include: the length of time it took to staff the full complement of mediator positions; the amount of time spent by the mediators holding separate conference calls with the parties prior to mediation in order to help the parties prepare for mediation, to assess the feasibility of resolving the complaint through mediation and thus to avoid unnecessary travel; the large number of mediation sessions conducted outside of the National Capital Region, the resulting need for the Tribunal’s mediators to spend time traveling to the site of the mediation and the demand for mediation training by stakeholders.

Indicator Target
Number of mediation training courses for stakeholders given per year: 12  6

The number of courses given reflected the high demand for mediation training in the context of complaints filed under the new PSEA. The target was established at six courses per year to reflect the PSST’s decision to concentrate its efforts more on mediation itself than on training now that the new PSEA has been in place for nearly three years. It is believed that the demand for training has leveled off and that six courses per year is a sufficient number to respond to the demand.

PSST Management Priorities

In its 2007-2008 Report of Plans and Priorities, the PSST established the following internal management priorities:

  • Effective regulations and procedures   
    The effectiveness of the PSST Regulations, procedures and guidelines in support of the processing of complaints and ADR interventions will be monitored through periodic consultations with stakeholders.
  • Quality of access to services and information
    The PSST plans to use technology to the extent possible. In two to three years’ time, this will mean: using the Internet as a tool to link with the case management system and to provide information to clients; automating scheduling and other administrative matters with the parties; allowing complainants to e-file; and linking the case management system to the performance management system.
  • Healthy workplace   
    This will be monitored through the number of complaints and grievances submitted by PSST staff and other means, such as workplace surveys.
  • Adaptable workforce   
    The PSST will emphasize career development, continuous learning and the creation of meaningful jobs. Jobs will be designed to enable the PSST to attract and retain qualified staff. This will be measured by the number of applicants to advertised positions, the rate of turnover, and other means, such as workplace surveys.

2007-2008 Results

Effective regulations and procedures

An internal committee was established in April 2007 to review the PSST Regulations and make recommendations for amendments as deemed necessary. The committee’s revised version was submitted to the Tribunal’s main stakeholders for comment in September 2007. Further changes were made to Regulations as a result of their comments. A final version was submitted to the Department of Justice on December 11, 2007; the review is ongoing.

Quality of access to services and information

In order to provide up-to-date information on and ready access to the Tribunal’s complaint process and services, the following initiatives were taken during the year:

  • Electronic Guidebook
    The Guidebook was developed jointly by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) and the PSST to provide a visual representation of the complaint process to public servants and bargaining agents on the Internet. It was launched in December 2007 and contains step-by-step information about the PSST’s role and responsibilities, how to file a complaint, the complaint process itself and the conduct of an oral hearing.
  • Fillable on-line forms   
    To facilitate the completion of PSST complaint forms, a project to permit complainants to fill out all PSST complaint forms on-line and send them to the Tribunal by e-mail was undertaken and completed in March 2008.
  • E-mail alerts   
    The capacity to send an e-mail to subscribers alerting them to the posting of a new decision on the PSST website was developed and will be implemented in April 2008.
  • Slide presentations   
    Slide presentations were developed and tailored to particular audiences. The presentations were intended to provide statistical information regarding complaints received by the Tribunal as well as the jurisprudence established by the decisions rendered and were delivered to stakeholder groups across the country.
  • Intranet site   
    In order to ensure that PSST employees have the information they need to perform their duties, an Intranet site was developed and launched in November 2007.
  • Stakeholder consultation group   
    The Tribunal conducted a review of its stakeholder consultation group in order to make recommendations as to how to improve the effectiveness of the group’s meetings. The report was issued in March 26, 2007. The Tribunal will consider the report’s recommendations and make adjustments to the consultation process as it deems necessary.
  • Information Management System
    A plan to develop and implement a modern information management system using the latest developments in information technology was prepared in February 2008. The technical requirements were identified in March 2008. The system is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2008.

Healthy workplace

The PSST holds regular staff meetings during which a learning activity is usually included. Several human resources policies designed to promote effective labour-management relations were finalized and posted on the PSST’s Intranet site for easy access by employees. An Informal Conflict Management System (ICMS) was developed and implemented in consultation with the bargaining agent’s representative.

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all PSST employees and its use is encouraged by the management team. EAP consultants were invited to staff meetings during the past year to facilitate discussions on work-related topics such as stress management, conflict resolution and effective communication.

The PSST strives to assist its employees in achieving a satisfactory work-life balance and to build a strong team environment by planning group activities and improving internal communications.

Adaptable workforce

By the end of 2007-2008, the PSST had filled nearly all of the positions within the organization. The next step in the development of an adaptable workforce is the implementation of the PSST’s learning policy, including learning plans for all employees.

Work began during the year on the development of competency profiles for certain target groups and levels in order to assist employees and managers in identifying their learning and developmental needs.