On June 21, 2021, pursuant to Clause 28.3 (e) of the Main Public Service Collective Agreement, the Union formally responded to the Public Service Agency's (PSA) rationale dated January 19, 2021. This lengthy response rationale was supported by over 200 documents and reference materials.
A core group of EAWs worked hard to provide feedback, information, and work examples in response to the PSA's rationale. They guided the Union's rationale, provided commentary as the work progressed, and are to be credited with much of the work undertaken and viewpoints expressed as well as for providing most of the reference materials. It was a challenging process to work through and EAWs can be confident that their work was recognized and fully represented in the response. We also appreciated receiving work examples from some other individual EAWs.
EAWs should understand that the Union has a significant and difficult onus to prove that our proposed ratings are correct. This is our onus for all appeals but EAWs have two additional hurdles. First, the job is based on the Financial Assistance Worker (FAW) benchmark (BM), one of the original jobs the parties negotiated as part of the Public Service Job Evaluation Plan (the Plan), and thus the ratings are presumed to be correct as originally agreed unless we can prove the job has changed in a material way that would affect the factor. Second, the Costa decision from 2007, based on a 2003 EAW appeal, is considered a precedent for factors 5, 6, 10 and 11. The PSA has already advised us that they object to our positions presented for the factors decided in Costa as they consider we are bound by those results. The Union's position is based on EAWs having had significant or material changes in the work that will support the factor ratings we propose, including those decided in Costa.
The appeal has now formally been submitted to arbitration as of June 23, 2021. As a result, the Union's full rationale of disputed factors is being transferred to our Advocacy Department who will make any decisions about sharing it as part of ongoing preparation work. In the meantime, here is a summary of the Union's position:
• Overall, we seek to have the EAW position reclassified to either grid 18 or 21. For classification reasons, it is impossible for EAWs to be rated higher than this because the position cannot be rated higher than the Assistant Supervisor or Supervisor position, currently at grids 21 and 24. Although we have advanced ratings in support of grid 21, that will only be possible if both supervisory position ratings are first updated to grids 24 and 27, something that would need PSA support as it would be outside the appeal context; an arbitrator has no jurisdiction to force an organizational change.
• The working group believes it is important to have EAW work represented in its entirety, and therefore we have disputed all but factor 10 which the PSA already agreed to move to the highest possible rating.
• All of the Union's proposed factor ratings are based upon significant changes in the work since the job was last reviewed, including since the previous Costa decision in 2007.
• In some factors we have proposed more than one possible reason for classification and more than one rating. This again is intended to demonstrate the totality of EAW work. The summary below is just that, a summary of the main positions put forward.
• Factor 1 – Job Knowledge – degree G (currently degree F as per the FAW BM): the Union's position is based upon EAWs having to understand the principles of administrative fairness as well as social work, social services administration and community issues, including vocational assistance and counselling, to plan and conduct assessments on behalf of clients for legislated income support programs and services, along with analysis of complex issues including poverty, addictions, mental health, disability, homelessness, and violence for the most vulnerable in the province. We discuss specific accountabilities, multiple programs and services and the impact of technology and resources/tools. As an alternative, we also propose degree H to plan, research and review complex legislative authorities, policies, and ministry goals to assess clients' needs etc.
• Factor 2 – Mental Demands – degree G (currently degree E as per the FAW BM): the Union says EAWs need judgement to modify methods, techniques or approaches in providing social assistance benefits and services when working with changing circumstances of socially vulnerable and multi-challenged clients to assess individual needs, develop and modify social assistance benefits and services for each individual, including identifying available training resources and employment opportunities, approving the training programs that clients are involved in or want to be involved in, referring clients to agencies such as WorkBC, and acting as an advocate for clients in accessing community and other resources. Alternatively, degree F to apply technically exacting analysis and methodical investigation to review and verify the accuracy of ICM data to draft language for legal documents such as employment plans.
• Factor 3 – Interpersonal Communication Skills – degree E (currently degree D as per the FAW BM): Counselling: The Union says the EAW uses influence and formal counselling skills to provide therapy to clients who may be hostile or abusive to address their employment or social situation or needs, and to initiate behavioural change by responding to their individual motivation, strengths, and abilities with the ultimate goal of increasing their employability and/or reducing their reliance on social assistance. Also, Crisis Intervention: The EAW uses influence and formal counselling skills to intervene in crisis situations such as suicide attempts and provides therapy to initiate behavioural changes in clients applying for employment assistance or other benefits.
• Factor 4 – Physical Coordination and Dexterity – degree D (currently degree C for using keyboards with some requirement for speed to meet deadlines): Production Keyboarding: The Union says the EAW requires significant coordination and dexterity as a condition of employment to production keyboard when entering case data information into the ICM system, including when transcribing initial information through the interview process, as well as when writing follow up factual notes and comments for the case history that is relied upon by others, both internal and external. Also use a hand operated computer mouse with precise manipulation when entering case data information into the ICM system.
• Factor 5 – Work Assignments – degree E (currently degree D, as per the FAW BM and Costa): The Union's main position is that the EAW is guided by general ministry policies, plans, guidelines and operating standards, and requires applying accepted administrative, client management, community and social services work methods in different ways to assess client eligibility and suitability for multiple programs and services in the face of clients' complex and highly variable social circumstances and needs. Alternatively, degree F: The EAW is guided by general ministry social services policies as well as community services and assistance standards in order to provide social assistance services to socially and employment challenged clients and is conducting client needs assessments, identifying the impact of client social circumstances on their ability to achieve employment, planning and developing individual employment goals and case management approaches, in order to assist clients in achieving sustainable employment.
• Factor 6 – Financial Responsibility – degree F (currently degree E as per the FAW BM and Costa): The Union says the EAW has considerable financial responsibility in multiple areas, including to negotiate to reach a settlement on the plan for payment of money owed, to administer and control expenditures from social assistance and other funds, to plan and conduct audits for revenue collection, and to exercise expense authority for a wide range of expenditure types where any one expenditure exceeds $4,000.
• Factor 7 – Responsibility for Physical Assets or Information – degree D (currently degree C to ensure data integrity on a multiple user system): The Union says EAWs meet degree D for two reasons:
controlling the accuracy and completeness of data/evidence and ensuring it meets legal requirements, and for providing user assistance to computer systems, including assisting clients dealing with MySS and other EAWs experiencing ICM issues.
• Factor 8 – Responsibility for Human Resources – degree C (currently degree A as per the FAW BM): The Union says EAWs have responsibility to assign, monitor and review work of employees, including on a project basis (1-5 FTEs). Alternatively, Degree B, with responsibility to provide formal instruction to junior EAWs on procedures, policy, and legislation.
• Factor 9 – Responsibility for Well-Being and Safety of Others – degree F (currently degree E as per the FAW BM): The Union says the EAW requires a high level of care and attention to provide crisis intervention or emergency response in high-risk situations such as life or death scenarios dealing with crisis food, crisis shelter, crisis supports, poverty and addictions interventions and support services among others.
• Factor 10 – Sensory Effort/Multiple Demands – degree D – previously at degree C as per the FAW BM and Costs, the PSA has agreed to this degree D rating, the highest possible level for this factor.
• Factor 11 – Physical Effort – degree D (currently degree C as per the FAW BM and Costa): The Union says two definitions apply to the EAW situation: focusing visual attention to computer screens or printed materials almost always, and almost always production keyboarding with speed and accuracy.
• Factor 12 – Surroundings – degree D (currently degree C as per the FAW BM): The Unions says EAWs have exposure to working with unpleasant dealings with clients who may have multiple health, social and/or mental health challenges and are upset, hostile, angry, vulnerable, demanding, abusive and/or unpredictable almost always. This also includes representatives of clients who may also be demanding and/or hostile on the client's behalf.
• Factor 13 – Hazards – degree E (currently degree D as per the FAW BM): The Union says EAWs have a high level of exposure to hazards from almost always working around upset, angry, demanding, or unpredictable clients who may react violently and thus may contribute to emotional or physical illness or disability. In addition, EAWs have a high level of exposure to hazards from almost always working around body fluids or infectious diseases when at a local office.
In assisting with the response rationale, the Working Group had to make multiple complex decisions along the way as to what information to include and what to focus on. One of their tasks was also to decide on the hearing approach. The options were to proceed on the basis of written materials and arguments which would allow the Working Group to have more control over the content of what will be presented at arbitration. The other option, used in Costa, would take considerably longer, and would involve preparing witnesses to be examined and cross examined on multiple aspects of the work with greater unpredictability as to the case presentation. The Group opted to proceed by way of written submissions which is one reason our response rationale was lengthy and supported by voluminous materials.
We do think this will result in the most expeditious process in the end, however the PSA did advise us that due to the extensive information provided in our response rationale, along with new information and work examples, they are unable to proceed with the originally proposed September hearing date. They are in the process of reviewing our rationale and supporting information with the Ministry, as provided in the collective agreement's appeal process, although it will be the PSA making decisions. They may provide us with further information to refute our materials, which we will then deal with in our argument at hearing.
Both sides are in the process of referring all information to their respective legal counsel who will have to become familiar with the materials and prepare formal written arguments. They will have to set a new hearing date in accordance with their respective schedules and with the arbitrator. The Union is well aware that EAWs are anxious for this to be resolved as soon as possible, however it is also important for the parties to be properly prepared, as well as for the arbitrator to have time to review everything in advance of the hearing. Dates will be arranged for the earliest possible opportunity that all parties are available.
We will keep you posted regarding developments.
Note - contact information for those retiring or leaving the EAW job:
Please keep the union up to date with your current contact information, particularly your personal email address which we will use to contact you should you leave the EAW position.
Frequently asked questions
As provided in earlier bulletins, here is a Public Service Classification Appeals Information FAQs - Appeal Evaluation Issues for those interested in details of the job evaluation process and timelines, and to answer some of the questions and issues raised during our worksite visits.
Judy Fox-McGuire - Component 6 Vice-President
Jennifer Jordan - Staff Representative, Negotiations
Download PDF of notice here
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