Public service

Public service unions look to federal budget for post-pandemic solutions

One of the main items on the list is a set of clear and consistent work-from-home policies.

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As the post-pandemic world inches closer to becoming a reality, public service unions have wish lists of what they would like to see in Thursday’s federal budget.

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One of the main items on the list is a set of clear and consistent work-from-home policies.

Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which has more than 60,000 members, said polls have shown around a quarter of workers want to work from home permanently. About a quarter wanted to work in offices. Half would prefer hybrid workplaces.

But many departments have developed their own policies. Some departments are now adding requirements for those who want to work from home permanently, such as requiring a full office with a locked door, Carr said.

Those who prefer hybrid working want to ensure there is flexibility. There are also questions about the cost of technology and tools for working from home.

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“There is concern that some employers are rigid,” Carr said. “Officials are working effectively from home. They have shown that it works. »

Meanwhile, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which has 700,000 members, will scrutinize the budget to ensure the federal government is committed to honoring the deal between the Liberals and the NDP, which would keep the current government in power until 2025 while acting on NDP priorities, including national pharmacare and dental care.

A 2016 file photo of CUPE National President Mark Hancock.  His union is calling for the 2022 federal budget to include at least $3.5 billion to launch a pharmacare program, along with $8.5 billion for long-term care and a 5.2% increase financing of health care.
A 2016 file photo of CUPE National President Mark Hancock. His union is calling for the 2022 federal budget to include at least $3.5 billion to launch a pharmacare program, along with $8.5 billion for long-term care and a 5.2% increase financing of health care. Photo by Jack Boland /Postmedia

CUPE National President Mark Hancock sees the deal as a sign of positive change and wants the budget to show the government is keeping its promise.

CUPE is asking for at least $3.5 billion to launch pharmacare, along with $8.5 billion for long-term care and a 5.2% increase in health care funding.

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“We see it on the ground. Our limbs are stretched,” Hancock said. “The government needs to make sure the money gets to the provinces.

CUPE is calling for low-interest loans to help cities and towns develop their infrastructure and asking that a temporary $2.2 billion supplement to the Community Development Fund of Canada be made permanent.

CUPE also wants to see more funding for child care. “This is a great opportunity for the government to show support for women in the workplace,” Hancock said.

PIPSC and CUPE hope the new budget will address tax fairness. Hancock and Carr will seek measures that will close tax loopholes for big business and the very wealthy.

Last September, the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer found that if $250 million in spending were provided to the Canada Revenue Agency to increase tax collection, audit, investigation and enforcement, it would gain more than $1.4 billion in revenue, Carr said.

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Meanwhile, PIPSC, which represents scientists and professionals, is also hoping for $800 million more for public science. That would bring spending back to 2010-11 levels, Carr said.

The Phoenix payroll system remains a major irritant for public servants, who have struggled with payroll errors since the system was introduced in 2016.

PIPSC is also concerned about the increase in outsourcing expenses, which has led to issues like Phoenix. Phoenix’s outsourcing bill is now over $650 million and the system has never worked, Carr said.

In July 2020, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) announced that it had negotiated a deal that would provide 140,000 of its 180,000 members with lump sum payments of $2,500 for their pain and suffering.

PIPSC wants a system that resolves issues in a timely manner for its members — and hopes that’s also in the budget.

“It would be a dream come true,” Carr said. “Problems don’t go away.”

Now is not the time for austerity, Hancock said. Costs will rise across all institutions and there will be pressure at the bargaining table as workers face inflation in the costs of food, housing and other necessities, he said.

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