May 3, 2023  By John Hyde

Government keeps remote work rules out of public service collective agreement

OTTAWA – Striking federal public service employees left the picket lines with a commitment from the government to review remote work policies, but it will not be enshrined in their new collective agreements.

The union and the government reached an agreement with compounded wage increases of 12.6 per cent over four years late Sunday night, settling a dispute with 120,000 federal workers.

The ability to work remotely, a key sticking point throughout negotiations, was not included in the collective agreement, but the two sides agreed through a letter of understanding to address the union’s concerns on the issue.

Currently, the federal government has a hybrid work policy which allows employees to work from home for up to three days a week.

According to a statement from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), remote work requests must now be addressed on an individual basis. Union-employer departmental panels will also provide workers with additional protections when it comes to remote work decisions.

As long as performance measures are adequately set and enforced, there is nothing wrong with a hybrid work model. The key point though is the previous sentence ...

John Hyde, a specialist in labour law, said the agreement on remote work was an ideal middle ground.

“It’s going to be a lot more work for management, but I think it’s reasonably fair under the circumstances,” Hyde said.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the government will also be reviewing its directive on telework, which hasn’t been reviewed since 1993.

Despite the increased involvement of the union in decision making, Fortier said decisions on remote work will not be grievable by employees and managers will have the final say.

Patrick Groom, a lawyer with McMillian and a specialist in labour law, said this was a great deal for both sides.

While the decision to assess each case individually could be an administrative burden, it will give the union more involvement while protecting both sides from expensive litigation costs, he said.

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