I am pleased to start this issue with a bit of good news. In July, the Federal Court rendered its decision to dismiss the federal government’s applications for judicial review of the registration fees clause which provides for the reimbursement of professional fees. As you may recall, the payment of registration fees was negotiated by the Engineering and Architect (NR) and Nuclear Regulatory (NUREG) groups in their last bargaining round. Combined, these two groups represent more than 3000 highly-qualified employees whose professional standards serve the public good. As you might guess, we were elated with the court’s decision. However, the good news was short lived as it was quickly followed by what has come to be common practice by senior bureaucrats hell-bent on wasting tax dollars; the Treasury Board appealed the decision for the NUREG group.
Aside from the message of disrespect that this action sent to its own professional employees, this is not a wise use of tax dollars because the path that the government has chosen to follow will certainly cost more than if they had just agreed with the principle that the Federal Court recognized. Yet, from our perspective, this action is typical of this government who seems inclined to push every decision through the courts to the furthest extent possible, thereby delaying decisions and costing taxpayers more money.
Meanwhile, the Expenditure Restraint Act announced in the last federal budget which basically ended negotiations continues as we begin the next bargaining cycle for some groups. Along those lines, the Research (RE) Group has sent notice-to-bargain to the employer and the Computer Systems (CS) Group will be doing the same in the early fall. Needless to say, we are willing to go to the table seeking a meaningful and productive round especially in light of Canada’s positive economic situation. And, we remain cautiously optimistic that the government will be more inclined to bargaining with its professional employees.
In the meantime, this round of bargaining commences at the same time as the Treasury Board undertakes the 1st of its five-year cyclical review of the Public Service Modernization Act which came into effect almost five years ago. As prescribed in the legislation, the review is being conducted by the employer. And again, in the spirit of collaboration and good will, the Institute has submitted proposed changes and comments at a face-to-face meeting in early July. We will also submit an extensive written paper including recommendations for changes in the late summer. In the fall, in partnership with our sister unions, we will make representations to the politicians and ask for public hearings on this legislation.
On another front, I wish to highlight the second International Science Policy Symposium which PIPSC held in May. This was an extremely important event where the work of our more than 20,000 scientists, engineers and professionals was discussed in the context of their role in the development of policy for Canadians and their way of life. The Symposium, which I have been proud to chair, received sponsorships from science-based departments and agencies and featured such influential speakers as Preston Manning, David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis. These special speakers along with a panel of international public sector union leaders from the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark highlighted the importance of public science in the development of public policy. As a result of the Symposium, the idea has been adopted by colleagues in the United Kingdom in support of public science there. Since the Symposium, the government has been questioned on the importance of science in decision making. Here I refer to issues such as public science’s role in such things as the supply of medical isotopes, the provision of clean water and the question of eliminating the long-form census questionnaire which provides important statistical information for scientists and other researchers.
In closing, I would like to thank you for your efforts in supporting the “Poor No More” documentary which is being acclaimed at PIPSC meetings across Canada. As I reported, sadly, the producers are facing challenges in completing this important documentary and I hope that each constituent body can show this film and encourage our members to see it and reflect on the role of unions. The film demonstrates that everybody wins when union and management work together. Your support will help ensure that the message in this documentary continues to make its way to all Canadians. To find out more on how to help, check our website www.pipsc.ca.
Lastly, after an intensive internal exercise, I have proceeded to restructure the Institute’s internal operations to better serve you. I am very pleased to report that Mr. Eddie Gillis was appointed Chief Operating Officer. In fact in that capacity, he will oversee the internal functions of the organization under my direction. As our union has grown and our issues have become increasingly complex, this new structure will better balance the Institute’s actions on the operational front and on the political front which will enable us to more efficiently address issues that affect you, the members, directly. Again, check the website for more details.
As always, I remain available should you have questions or comments.