Evidence of meeting #56 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was classification.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Bibiane Ouellette  Clerk of the Committee , Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates
  • Susan Louis-Seize  Association of Compensation Advisors
  • John Gordon  National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • Diane Melançon  Association of Compensation Advisors
  • Michael Brandimore  Association of Compensation Advisors
  • David Orfald  Director of Planning and Organizational Development, Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • Margaret Jaekl  Classification Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • Rob Walsh  Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

4 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON

I believe you, because I've lived it with the employees, and I thank you very much. You gave me information that made my presence here worthwhile.

4 p.m.

Association of Compensation Advisors

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Diane Marleau

Thank you, Mr. Bonin.

We'll now hear from Mr. Nadeau, of the Bloc québécois.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Thank you, Ms. Marleau.

Good afternoon, everyone.

The day before yesterday, we heard from people from the Treasury Board Secretariat. I don't want to be mean to them, but they didn't seem to be aware of what was going on. That surprises me very much.

I had the pleasure of meeting Minister Fortier in March. Other people wanted to attend that meeting, but they were afraid of losing their jobs if they met the minister, as a result of the scope that the matter was taking on for them. Although I received the minister's consent—and I'm not saying that the minister is a bad wolf—he had one fear.

Even though I had told the people to consult their union to be sure they had used the right process, one of them was quite happy to go with me. I did it as a favour to her and to move things forward. She wanted to express her distress: as a new employee, she had had to wait three months before receiving her first pay cheque. That's one of the points that was highlighted.

Another point is overtime, that the government is slow in paying. We heard someone say that he had had to wait up to one year before his overtime was paid to him.

Furthermore, people who were with the minister said during the meeting that some executives or senior officials who had changed positions and received a salary increase had had to wait a long time before receiving the difference in pay. Once that was said, a figure was cited, that is 2,000 persons at Public Works who live in Ottawa or Gatineau. I'm also from the region. They came to see me or called me to find out what was going on and what could be done. The minister told us that he would make the necessary effort to solve the problem. It was obviously inappropriate to say anything else.

You've previously talked about this in committee, and your documents discuss it as well. The people who were with me emphasized that there was a problem with regard to compensation. The compensation advisors receive training and go through all the stages and so on. But when they realize that they could have a better salary elsewhere with fewer duties, they leave their positions.

You suggest increasing salaries to market levels. You gave the example of computer engineers. We recently proposed solutions for keeping our computer engineers because they were leaving their positions very quickly to take up other positions elsewhere in or outside the public service.

You are a kind of union, and you represent your members. Do you have any clear solutions that we could present to the minister when he comes before this committee? That will appear in the record of this meeting. We know the problem, at least in part. Mr. Bonin is experiencing this situation in his riding, and other people know government employees elsewhere.

Do you have any potential solutions to propose?

4:05 p.m.

Association of Compensation Advisors

Diane Melançon

Since 2000, we've appeared before all the committees of the federal government, including the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, PSHRMAC, which is now called the Canada Public Service Agency. We also met Ms. Turmel, who was at the union at the time. We constantly tossed the ball back and forth. They said they were ready to reclassify us, if PSHRMAC agreed. The agency said it agreed, provided the union agreed.

When Mr. Gordon became our union president, they examined our situation and agreed to meet with us. They finally admitted that there was really a serious classification problem. As people don't want to work in compensation, there is a serious staff shortage. People aren't being paid on time. People who work in compensation do a lot of overtime and are making themselves sick.

That has a major impact on the income taxes of those employees. When a person is a year behind in paying provincial income tax and has only paid federal tax, that has a significant impact at the end of the year. As regards promotion, that person should have had it in 2005. It's now 2007, and she hasn't yet received her cheque. When she does receive her cheque, that will have a significant impact on the tax that she will have to pay.

Until they review classification, there will still be a problem. People don't want to stay in compensation. The work is too complex. At the moment, they're talking about taking duties away from us and sending certain files, such as pensions, to Moncton. That will resolve nothing. We're the ones who have employees' files. They'll still phone us. We'll have to confirm information, search the files and so on. People don't want to be served by a 1-800 number. When I retire, I'm going to call Moncton, and they're going to fax me documents so that I can complete them.

There are a number of us compensation advisors, and we meet with people in the associations and committees. When they know that we are compensation advisors, they tell us they work at Public Works and have no one to turn to. One person previously asked me to help her; she's changed her retirement date three times. Another person told me that documents had been sent to her by mail and that she did not know how to complete them. She told me that she would pay me if I helped her do it.

That's terrible; it's unheard of. They have to review our classification. If they refuse to do so, nothing will change, even if they hire people from the outside.

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

We are in the federal government. The provincial governments, including those of Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, also have a pay service. Do they have ways of making things simpler? I'm simply trying to see whether there are potential solutions elsewhere.

4:10 p.m.

Association of Compensation Advisors

Susan Louis-Seize

I'd like to answer this question, if I may.

Actually, I'd like to give a little bit of history. Going back, I think, to 1997, there were cuts in the public service. In particular, Treasury Board cut Public Works and Government Services Canada. As a result, a lot of the duties were transferred to compensation. Since 1997 we have had a lot more policy changes, a lot more collective agreement changes. There's been pay equity. It's been continuous, a growing number of policies.

If we compare our public service to a provincial one—I looked at the website, for example, for the collective agreement for the City of Ottawa employees, a very basic collective agreement, about five pages long. We have over 72 collective agreements. We have over 70,000 rules and regulations that have occurred over the time of government. And because of all of the departments, because of all the agencies, we have to know crown corporations, pension laws. The former Auditor General, Denis Desautels, wrote about this in 2000, and he wrote that it is one of the worst jobs in the government due to the broad body of dissimilar rules and regulations. So if we compare it to a provincial level, it doesn't work.

If we look back at the pay records of 1970, it was a walk in the park. They came, they arrived, there were no rules and regulations. But as government changed and policies came into play, it got more and more complex over time with all the collective agreements. And this is why we cannot compare it.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Diane Marleau

Thank you very much.

Mr. Warkentin.

June 7th, 2007 / 4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I'll say for the record, I don't find Mr. Bonin very scary, so any civil servant who has difficulty going to him, he's not scary.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Diane Marleau

They're not afraid of Mr. Bonin or me. They're afraid of their employer. I was told by someone that because they had come to me, they would not be recalled as a term employee. They were convinced of it. Now, maybe they were, but that's the fear they have.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

This may be something we need to look into, but I know I have no problem meeting any of the folks who come and visit me in my office, and they are many. They haven't been on this issue. I don't represent a riding with a huge public service population, but we do have different offices, and this issue hasn't come up. I'm wondering if somebody at this table could provide us the specific numbers of people who haven't currently been paid. I think that's what we're looking for at this point, not innuendo or anecdote.

I don't know if anybody has that number or if somebody could provide us with that number with some accuracy. Does anybody have a number like that here? And if not, I think even a ballpark would be appropriate.

4:15 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

I certainly don't have the number, but as president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, I can poll my executive, who deal directly with the various locals, and we can try to get you a snapshot of the number of issues that come directly to them. That would only reflect a small portion, but it would be substantial.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Thank you, Mr. Gordon. It would be helpful if you could give us actual numbers. They would have to be, for our purposes, people who haven't been paid, and the length of time on average these people haven't been paid. Second, it would be very important and helpful for us if we could find out the number who should currently be being paid, because I understand there are people who have been promoted and are receiving a paycheque, but they're not receiving their full amount.

I've heard that through anecdotes from other people, but I think it would be important for us to be provided with that information. And if it could be hammered down as to what departments these people are from, that would be helpful as well. It's important for us at this point not to hear any more anecdotes, because I think most of us have heard them to some degree, but the hard and fast numbers and where we need to go in terms of which departments we need to be seeking information from.

So that's one thing. The second part I would like to speak briefly about, and maybe get your input on, is we just heard of the growing rules, in terms of the bureaucracy, and obviously that may be one recommendation you would leave with us in terms of moving forward, so we can make this a less complicated process and maybe attract more people to these positions. Obviously you've brought forward the idea that pay needs to be addressed in this department, the pay of the people who are issuing the cheques. Are there any other recommendations you'd bring forward to us that we would then pass on to officials?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Diane Marleau

Just a second, I think they're having trouble with the translation.

Is that better now?

Maybe you're speaking too quickly.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Is it BlackBerries, or am I speaking too fast?