An attack on the Canadian taxpayer: federal public sector workers strike back
Turning over sickness benefits to a private insurance company puts all Canadians at risk
Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU) members serve Canadians across the country and around the world. A component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), our members are federal public sector employees from Service Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Our members ensure that employment insurance (EI) and Canada pension plan (CPP) payments are received, help asylum seekers, and reunite Canadians with their families.
This last month has been disheartening for our members, first with the passing of Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which became law against all reason and virtually every expert witness’s advice to the government. While we applaud the honourable Peter Julian, Jasbir Sandhu, and Jinny Sims, for their steadfast opposition to the bill, we noted with disappointment that Conservative MPs Kerry Lynn Findlay, Randy Kamp, and Mark Wawara supported this shameful piece of legislation. In addition, the government’s unprecedented attack on collective bargaining with the budget implementation bill, C-59, is extremely troubling. Bill C-59 seeks to circumvent collective agreement negotiations and legislate changes to the collective agreements of federal public sector workers—a disturbing pattern we’ve become all too familiar with in British Columbia.
Our members continue to rally in support of the ability to provide quality services to Canadians. We will not stand idly by while our employer chips away at the rights and freedoms of ordinary Canadians. Our scientists have been muzzled, our food inspectors have been fired, and our coast guards shut down. Yet our members continue to rally together for public services and healthy workplaces—guaranteed through collective bargaining—which don’t just benefit our members; they ensure quality public services for all Canadians.
However, if these violations of workers’ rights aren’t enough to upset members of the public, financial implications of imposing a short term disability plan on federal government employees might. Turning over sickness benefits to a private insurance company puts all Canadians at risk in potentially the biggest tax grab in Canadian history.
The current sick leave program between the federal government and the unions allows for a maximum of 15 days per year (1-1/4 days per month times 12 months) for sickness which creates a ceiling on how much can be paid towards illness benefits in a year. This is an insurance policy that cannot be cashed out upon retirement, or traded in for vacation time. Additionally, employees are rarely replaced when they are off on sick leave. The liability being suggested by the Conservative government, therefore, simply does not exist. This insurance policy is only to be used in the case of a serious illness, and our members have given up provisions for decades to protect this insurance policy for our health and security.
However, if the program were handed over to a private insurance carrier we now have to deal with a “for profit” company handling the benefits. Short term disability programs are designed with the employer and employee paying a monthly premium to the insurance carrier, and in turn, the insurance carrier decides if they will pay out any claims submitted to them. The government would thereby be asking the Canadian taxpayer to cover 100 percent of these premiums.
Since the insurance carriers are a “for profit” industry, any time they feel their profits are not high enough for their shareholders, all they have to do is raise the premium that all Canadian taxpayers would have to pay into to create larger profits.
Tony Clement has stood up in the House of Commons and stated that removing the current sick leave program and replacing it with a short term disability program is necessary because modernization is required. However, modernizing is not synonymous with better or fair.
We know it won’t be fair for the employee because they will have to fight with the insurance carrier each time they file a claim, and it is definitely not fair to the Canadian taxpayer who is now on the hook for paying 100 percent of the premium, no matter how much it increases.
If the federal government turns sickness benefits over to a private insurance company in the form of a short term disability program, they will lose all control over how much it will cost Canadians and there will be no ceiling to that cost. Again, current sick leave provisions are an insurance that cannot be cashed out upon retirement—they cannot be traded in for extra vacation. Canadians need to ask themselves who is creating the real liability here—hard working federal public sector employees, or a deluded federal government.
May 21, 2015 at 5:15pm
Shame on Tony Clement! Add this to the long list of reasons that Canada needs to vote for change in this upcoming election! Stop Harper!
May 21, 2015 at 6:12pm
We need a change. People wake up. Get out and vote
May 21, 2015 at 8:21pm
you guys suck
May 21, 2015 at 8:27pm
Well written and thought provoking. I hope this causes more people to question the so-called modernization agenda. And - even the Parliamentary Budget Office said there are no savings to be had under the new plan.
People - please support your public service workers.
May 22, 2015 at 4:36am
well at least they get sick days, many canadians who are hourly don't receive sick days of any kind. Be sick, be broke
Marc in NCR
May 22, 2015 at 6:16am
Nice to clear the public's perception that banked sick leave is NOT paid to us at retirement. Some folks still think we'll get all that money whenever we leave our jobs ..... this message has to be spread out there even more. I work at Portage in Gatineau and we have a rodent problem here, and just last week Legionnaires bacteria was discovered in the water cooling system ... and we only found out through the media!! Clement makes us work in a bacteria filled environment, and wants to take away our sick leave .... how does that make any sense?
Wait a minute
May 22, 2015 at 11:47am
You get 15 sick days a year? What alternative universe are you living in?
May 22, 2015 at 2:15pm
WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD IF THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WOULD HAVE NOT ABUSED THIS BENEFIT IT WOULDNT BE AN ISSUE , I GUARANTEE MOST SICK DAY WERE TAKEN FOR A DAY OFF INSTEAD OF A REAL SICK DAY , NOW YOU WILL HAVE TO PROVE THAT YOU WERE SICK TO RECEIVE MONEY , I DONT SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT OR IS IT CAUSE U CANT JUST SAY YOUR SICK AND GO GOLFING IS THAT THE PROBLEM I SEE NOTHING WRONG WITH WHAT THERE DOING , ONLY THE ONES THAT ABUSED THE SYSTEM WILL OBJECT TO THE CHANGE , SORRY BUT YOU BROUGHT THIS ON TO YOURSELVES
May 22, 2015 at 3:47pm
The RCMP retirement benefits were out sourced around 2002/03 just in time for me to be dealing with a private company. What I found over the next few years - everything had to be done to the letter of the contract. For example, there was no scope for the company to receive comments on how to revise forms that did not make sense to my children at university, they continued to mail statements monthly when most other departments went to one or two mailouts for statements, and in many respects the whole operation was very rigid and impersonal. Not what you want to deal with when you're traumatized with the sudden loss of your spouse! I'm glad to say this program has now been repatriated to the federal government.
And at that time (2003), the Employee Assistance Plan had also been outsourced to Toronto so again was too remote to be useable in any meaningful way.. I really feel for the public servant trying to deal with making short term disability claims at a time of a health crisis in their lives.
May 22, 2015 at 4:16pm
People don't understand that most public servants don't use all of their sick leave, and that unused sick days are banked in case short term disability is required. As well, the rhetoric that is spewed by the Cons about losing 900 million dollars has been proven wrong. Public Servants don't get back filled when they're sick. The work is just there when they get back. Last point: people who complain about public servants getting paid sick days shouldn't side with the 1% and wish for them to suffer. They should want some paid sick days too, and they should organize and negotiate a fair plan for their workplace. We should be raising the work standards for Canadians, not lowering them towards what the corporate elite want.