Bulletin 21/03

September 17, 2003
To: Executive Council
Alternate Regional Vice-Presidents
Local Presidents
Labour Relations Officers

Re: Incremental Pay Rates – Friend or Foe? (Discussion item led by Kent MacDonald at Presidents’ Conference)

The Incremental Pay System is a pay system that requires an individual to start at a minimum pay level and as they accumulate service and perform at a satisfactory level move to the next pay level, eventually reaching the maximum or top level. Information on the administration of Pay Increments within the CCRA can be found in the Treasury Board – Terms and Conditions of Employment Policy and in the Pay Notes of our Collective Agreement. Within the policy the employer can withhold an increment if they do not believe an employee has performed at a satisfactory level during their Incremental Period. An Incremental Period is defined as twelve months between steps unless otherwise stated in the Collective Agreement. In our Collective Agreement we have a number of different Incremental Pay Rates that ranges from a low of three steps to a high of eight. 

So what is the intent of an Incremental Pay System? The intent is to pay an employee on an ascending pay scale over a period of time as they learn all the duties of a position. Example, someone who just starts at a position cannot perform all the duties of a position the day they start work but as they learn the job and receive some training they become fully capable of performing all of the duties satisfactorily. So over time their salary will increase at regular increments until they reach the maximum level for that position. But in reality, it’s an employer driven pay system that starts someone at the lowest salary level and over time; every twelve months, not performance, work their way through the steps until they reach the maximum level which in fact is what the position is actually worth. This is where theory and reality don’t meet. In reality it only takes a year or two to be at a “satisfactory” performance level in all of the duties. So why does it take four, five or six years to reach the maximum level? Simple, it allows the employer to get away with underpaying for the work that our members are performing.

So another question to think about is how long does it take in your current job to be fully capable of completing all of the duties “satisfactorily”? Six months, one or two years? How about six or seven years? If you said one year then you should only have two steps, two years would mean three steps. That being said why do we have some pay rates with seven and eight steps? Why has this been allowed to continue to happen? We seem to have allowed it to happen to ourselves every time the employer has offered an increment and we have accepted it without getting the number of steps reduced. 

As we move into our third round of Collective Bargaining with the Agency some members are asking why are we not asking for an Increment like PIPSC? Lets first look at what happens when an Increment is added. When a new step is added without dropping the first step we are saying that it now takes another year of working for less pay to be paid at what you are really worth and only members at the top level will receive any immediate benefit. But what happens when an increment is added at the top and one is dropped at the bottom. We still have the same number of levels thus it still takes the same number of years to reach the maximum level, but only members at the top and bottom will benefit immediately with those member in the middle now having to work another year before reaching the maximum level. Again in both cases the employers gets away with paying our members less than what the work they are doing is actually worth. 

Your Union is of the opinion that bargaining for Increments is counter productive and not in the best interest of all the members and the maximum number of levels for any position should be three and most should only have two. 

Since forever, Treasury Board and the CCRA have been able to under pay our determinate (term) members; always paying them at the minimum level upon recall after a break in service. In our last round of bargaining we fixed this issue as term members now can accumulate service for the purpose of earning increments. But with a five-step process it may take as long as eight or nine years to reach the maximum level. That’s just not right, that’s just not fair. 

The economic increase of a full increment from one level to the next is approximately 3.8%. So an employee starts with the CCRA at level one and if all things go well with performance this individual will receive an incremental increase each year over the next four to seven years depending on the position. During this period along comes the Bargaining Process and their Union asking for an 8% raise and a cost of living allowance (COLA) clause. The employer counters with a 2.5-3% wage increase. Members at the maximum level say the employers offer is not good enough and to keep fighting. But the others are looking at it and saying 2.5% plus my Increment that about a 6% increase in salary and that’s pretty close to what the Union was asking for anyway so where do we sign. Then they employer sometimes offers an increment at the top and the members at the top say great. Thus perpetuates the 2.5% - 3 % raises that we are offered and accepted and the five and six step Incremental Pay Systems. 

So where do we go from here? At the negotiating table we need the employer to justify its Pay System as to why do they believe it takes four years for a PM1 or a CR4 to achieve the maximum level as we know it doesn’t. With a two or three step process members are at the maximum level sooner, thus when the bargaining process comes around more of us will be at the top level and a 2.5% offer won’t cut it.

What would we rather have the current situation or a three-step process for all, a COLA clause and your Union bargaining for a decent wage increase every two to three years? Remember, the longer it takes a member to reach the maximum level the longer the employer gets away with paying less than they should. 

In Solidarity, 

Betty Bannon
National President