Bargaining Committee

What makes a good bargaining demand?

February 22, 2012

Prior to the start of collective bargaining with the Canada Revenue Agency in the last round, the PSAC received many bargaining demands from members. This left your bargaining committee with tough decisions about which demands to actually table with the employer. The choice was made somewhat easier when demands dealt with the same subject or goals. But the committee still had to choose between many competing ideas.

There is also confusion that arises around what constitutes a demand. In order to be as clear and fair as possible in this process, a demand is defined as one issue within a given article or one issue that is not yet included in the collective agreement. For example, one extra week of vacation at all levels is one demand; greater flexibility over usage of more vacation leave would be two demands.
So the questions arise: What makes a good bargaining demand? How can Locals increase the chances that their bargaining demands will be accepted by the bargaining committee? How can they improve their chances of having a demand submitted to the employer?

Here are four guidelines to help Locals make their choices:

  1. Demands rooted in workplace problems and member’s needs: Every round we get bargaining proposals asking for things that are already provided for in the collective agreement or represent things that people would “like” to have in their collective agreement. The strongest demands come out of demonstrated workplace needs. This would include:
    • situations where we have filed a grievance and lost because of problems with the existing language;
    • situations where normal requests are being unreasonably refused by management; and
    • demands related to significant changes in workplace conditions, for example, the introduction of new shift schedules or change in jobs.

In all cases, it is essential that the bargaining demand be accompanied by rationale, which could include copies of grievances and the employer response, copies of employer directives, correspondence to members, etc. Any evidence that would support the need to make changes to the collective agreement would assist your bargaining team.

  1. Demands with momentum: It takes a lot of work to get managers and CRA to accept that there are problems which must be addressed through collective bargaining. As a result, we have a better chance with demands which have been the subject of ongoing campaigns or in-depth studies, or relate to problems where we have been putting sustained pressure on the employer through union-management committees, letter-writing, and lobbying. If you have copies of such letters, minutes of union-management committee meetings, etc., please attach them to your demand as rationale. The more demonstrated need we have, the better your bargaining team can support your demand at the bargaining table.
     
  2. Demands with established precedents: In the world of collective bargaining, we have a somewhat easier time achieving demands which have already been negotiated into collective agreements between unions and employers. This doesn’t mean we don’t try for breakthroughs; if we didn’t we wouldn’t have been the first union in the country to achieve a full 52 weeks of top-up for maternity and parental leave or the first union to achieve compensatory leave for “captive time” workers. But if you have a demand that you know exists in other collective agreements, it will help if you can mention this in the rationale you will provide in support of your demand.
     
  3. The right demand at the right place: Your demand should be one that actually gets dealt with at the bargaining table for your bargaining unit. There are a number of key areas of your benefits and working conditions which are dealt with outside the normal collective bargaining process. A separate input call is issued for these items, which include:
    • the PSAC Dental Plan (negotiated directly between PSAC and Treasury Board to cover all TB and Separate Agency units),
    • the Public Service Health Care Plan (negotiated in conjunction with other federal bargaining agents through the PSHCP Trust),

    Since there are separate input calls and bargaining processes for these issues, any demands for improvements in these areas cannot be accepted by the teams.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR RESPONDING TO THE INPUT CALL

Individuals wishing to propose bargaining demands must do so through their Local.

All feedback and bargaining input from Locals must be submitted to the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE).

Bargaining proposals must not be sent directly to the PSAC.

A deadline of March 19, 2012 has been set by UTE for the receipt of demands from Locals.

There is a form to be used for bargaining input:

The form is for providing input on ANY bargaining item.

The form must be signed by an officer of the Local, normally the President. Forms submitted electronically must have the name and contact number of the Local officer typed in.

Wherever possible, Locals should submit input electronically. If filling out paper forms, please type or print.

All input MUST include the name, telephone number, email address (when available), Local number and location of the Local executive member in charge of submitting the bargaining input. This information is required for identification purposes and will help UTE and bargaining teams contact you should follow-up be required.

  1. Extract from the Program of Demands and Input Call for PSAC/UTE Members Employed by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)  published by PSAC in 2010