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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

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Diane Marleau

BlackBerries.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Okay.

The second part I would like to know is if there are any recommendations, other than pay, and then speak a little bit more in terms of the complexity or the paper burden or the red tape that needs to be reduced. Are there any other things that need to be done to ensure that people are attracted to these positions and then stay in these positions? Because obviously there's a huge cost in having people turn over in this department, I can imagine. Is there anything you can leave us as recommendations? Because I think all around this table there's a desire to see this fixed, and fixed for the long term.

4:15 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

We've mentioned a couple of areas, and I'll touch on them again, but one of the other areas is that they've got to hire more people and they've got to provide the necessary, appropriate training for the people they bring in, to bring them up to the level they need to get to. In addition to that, though--

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Can I ask for a bit of clarification? My understanding is that there's a fair bit of testing. Are you saying that testing doesn't necessarily equate to people being equipped for the job?

4:15 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

The testing is one thing, and they have to address what they want to get in. If they want to get people with the qualities and who could be trained to do the job, they could do that if they really wanted to do it, but that does not fix the problem. One of the basic issues is not that they can't get people. They can't get people to stay because they refuse to address appropriately the classification structure within this group and in the entire group.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Okay, but for those at the table, what do you mean by classification structure? Is it just a pay issue? We want to know the specifics as to what things need to be addressed in the classification. What does that mean to people on the ground? Does that mean pay? Does it mean benefits? Does that mean holidays? What are we talking about?

4:15 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

Your classification determines your rate of pay. If you're an AS-2, AS-3, AS-4, AS-5—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

It is just a pay issue.

4:20 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

John Gordon

Your classification is determined by the level of the work you have to do, and the people who are there right now are not appropriately classified and therefore they move on to other departments. Why do they want the headache of doing all of this very, very detailed work and not getting—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

I appreciate that.

Is there anybody else?

I just want to go back to the paper burden and the bureaucracy of the different collective agreements and that type of thing. Is there anything you can identify that would help streamline that particular end of things? I imagine it's going to take a major overhaul.

4:20 p.m.

Association of Compensation Advisors

Susan Louis-Seize

I will just give you an example. I really don't think I could answer that question as yes, we could do something. The government tried with UCS, the universal classification system. I was a member of that committee and I was chairing one table, classifying jobs. We went through this for over two years, and the whole purpose of that exercise was to reduce the number of classifications, to simplify, and to get some basic groups—

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

And those aren't being employed, or even with those being employed—

4:20 p.m.

Association of Compensation Advisors

Susan Louis-Seize

It was thrown out because it was going to be too costly. The universal classification system, which was supposed to take over our present job classification system, was thrown out because they felt it did not meet the needs of the government—Treasury Board.

Can I also say something else? We often talk about how our classification does not meet our needs, but, simply spoken, if we look under the definitions, we fall under this umbrella called AS. If you read the tasks or the duties that are performed under AS, there are maybe 20 tasks, and somehow we got thrown in there, but it's actually a category that represents people managing things, and that does not represent us at all. Therefore, we're not classified. We don't get points for the work we do, the intellectual effort, the level of communication, the responsibility when we're quoting people and advising people and counselling them. None of that is accounted for when it falls under the umbrella of managing things.

That may have worked well in the seventies, but it doesn't work well today with our present job classification. That is the simplest way I can say that.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Diane Marleau

Thank you, Mr. Warkentin.

Madam Nash.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP 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 NDP 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 NDP 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 NDP 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 NDP 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.