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 that's.

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

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thanks very much, and welcome to all of you.

This is an issue we have been trying to grapple with for some time and, as you have heard, we have not been very successful. We had a bit of frustration on Tuesday, when we had some witnesses who really could not provide us with the information we were looking for. I think we're getting more to the nub of the issue with your being here today. Thank you for the information you're providing to us.

I want to make sure I understand the problem. The problem arose when members of the committee were hearing that there were people who were not getting paid in a timely fashion, or not getting paid, period. What I'm hearing is that the pay problems are a result of problems with the position of the compensation advisor. From what you're saying today, I understand that this job not only requires complex skills but also deals with this myriad of very complex rules, collective agreements, and a variety of factors. You're dealing with all aspects of compensation.

As I understand it, the core problem with the compensation advisor is that the job is not classified properly, and therefore people are being underpaid because they're not ranked at the proper classification level. Because they're underpaid and the job is extremely demanding, there is a retention problem and a recruitment problem. This means greater staff shortages, which are compounded by the difficulty of replacing the baby boomers who are leaving, so it's a problem that keeps getting worse.

I noted in your handout that the compensation advisors also end up working extra hours that they're often not compensated for. Of course, we have all heard this week about the class action suit that's being launched against one of the major banks for this very issue. It is an issue that—It seems like a simple thing to get someone's paycheque solved, but it's actually the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

It sounds like an easy thing to maybe reclassify the positions, but how do we actually grapple with this? If the classification is the root of the problem, then if people were properly classified and paid at the appropriate level, it would be more attractive and easier to recruit and retain people. How do we get that done?

June 7th, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.

David Orfald Director of Planning and Organizational Development, Public Service Alliance of Canada

As you were talking, what came to mind was an analogy to global warming. In answer to Mr. Warkentin's question about the level of the problem, I think the difficulty is that you are starting to see the tip of the iceberg, and the problem facing this community is going to get worse. Unless some actions are initiated now and moved forward, it's going to get worse at a rate that is essentially uncontrollable, I think.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Are you agreeing with the way I have framed the nature of the problem?

4:25 p.m.

Director of Planning and Organizational Development, Public Service Alliance of Canada

David Orfald

Absolutely, and we have done a lot of work as a union with the members who are on the front lines of this work. Together we have put forward a series of proposals to what is now the Canada Public Service Agency about how to move forward on the classification immediately and how to move forward on the classification in the longer term, because that does take a longer term. We have recommended together the development of a certification program for the group; it involves a well-designed training and certification program that recognizes the professional nature of the work for the group.

There has been some level of positive response from the agency, but the feeling of the union and of the members who work on a front-line basis is that none of those is moving fast enough and that the resources that need to go into that initiative aren't moving fast enough.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

I understand from your document that the Treasury Board is proposing moving pension services and centralizing them to Shediac, New Brunswick. Why isn't that a solution?

4:25 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

It's only one solution, because that is only one portion of the work that this community does. Shediac, as you know, is where all pension files that are relied upon for making the decisions on the pensions of individuals who are in the plan are housed. It's not all of the files; the departments still have some files. But that's only one part of a solution.

The other parts—your actual paycheque while you're working, acting pay, your pay increase when you get promoted, and all of these things—are still there, and they're in every department. Those are the things for which people realize every payday they are not getting the money.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

If you were going to put your finger on the nub of the problem of why there isn't the focus and the intention to deal with this when it's hitting people in the paycheque, what would you say it would be?

4:25 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

The whole thing is that people are leaving the system faster than they can bring them in, and they're leaving it because they're not addressing some of the things such as the classification.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

How do we get that addressed? If you're saying that you presented these proposals and they're not being addressed, they're not being acted upon, or they're not being embraced, why is that?

4:25 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

Retention is one thing, but the whole thing is getting the resources, getting to sit down with the appropriate people in the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, or whatever they're called today--the agency.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

That is Canada Public Service Agency.

4:25 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

Yes, they just changed the name, but the legal term is still that.

They have to put the resources into it to make it work, and they have to sit down and come to the table. It was more than a year ago that they signed a letter saying that they would work within six months with us, and then we heard no more about it. Then we went after them, and so on and so forth. There are a lot of players.

We are knocking on the door on a regular basis trying to get them to move on it, and it's just a very difficult thing to do.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Diane Marleau

Do you want to add something, Mr. Brandimore, to that?

4:25 p.m.

Association of Compensation Advisors

Michael Brandimore

Yes, I do.

Basically, I want to say that people in the compensation community are asking the exact same question that you're asking. I'm going to give just a really brief rundown on a handout that we have, if you'd like to have it.

This community has spent the last seven years attempting to have a fair and equitable classification resolution using every avenue available to us. There have been departmental grievances, Treasury Board submissions, a human rights complaint, and finally a submission of AS round-table reports by our union. Still, after seven years, it's amazing--we're all sitting there.

I've been involved in the Human Rights Commission a little bit with the AS round table, and a little bit with lawyers who have been involved in this. It's amazing—we have yet to sit in front of an individual or a group of people who—They say that they see our point, they understand our point, but that it's not in their hands to do it. The departments are saying they can't do it—reclassify—individually as departments; it has to be done nationally. Treasury Board has come back and said that is not the case at all, that the departments have every right to do it, and that they only got involved so that it would be fair and above board, and everyone could see what was going on.

I'm obviously not answering your question, but I'm backing up. We have had the same question for over seven years. They know what the problem is, and it's not addressed.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Too bad we didn't hear your presentation before our witnesses on Tuesday, because on Tuesday we had Mr. Rick Burton, vice-president of the human resource management modernization branch of Canada Public Service Agency, and Phil Charko, assistant secretary, pensions and benefits from Treasury Board. These are questions we could have put to them if we had heard your presentation first, but there are still questions we have.