On October 17, 2022, the public service bargaining unit voted to ratify the 19th Main Public Service Collective Agreement. As you will recall, the 19th Main Public Service Collective Agreement contained several financial improvements. Employees were to be paid the financial improvements retroactively to April 1, 2022 ("Retroactive Pay").
The employer, through its payroll contractor, Telus Employer Solutions, did not pay retroactive pay in a timely manner. Specifically, the employer set a date of March 3, 2023, to make all retroactive payments to employees. The employer informed our union and its members of this deadline, but the employer did not meet this deadline for making all retroactive payments to workers.
On January 26, 2023, our union filed a policy grievance regarding the employer's failure to provide all applicable retroactive pay increases under the collective agreement. You can read more about this policy grievance here and here.
Our union also alleged that your employer did not implement the Employment Standards Amendment Act, SBC 2022, ("ESAA") requirement to provide five paid sick leave days to employees effective March 31, 2022.
On October 5 and 6, 2023, the parties met to mediate a resolution to the policy grievance with the assistance of Arbitrator Corinn Bell. We were successful in achieving a positive resolution through this mediation process.
The rationale for accepting a mediated settlement and not proceeding to hearing – based on the expert advice from our legal team – is that the current settlement offered constitutes a significantly higher settlement than would be achieved through arbitration. In previous arbitration awards where unions were successful, arbitrators have awarded nominal monetary amounts such as $50 per employee or simple interest for late payment.
The employer acknowledges that it made mistakes when implementing the retroactive pay requirements and that it could have done better. As a result of those mistakes, it took too long to get the retro payments into the hands of employees that those delays may have impacted and caused uncertainties to employees. And finally, the employer has acknowledged that these late payments had disproportionate impacts on wildfire employees.
Here are the highlights:
For current employees:
- As a one-time only event, the employer will add 3.5 hours of vacation time to the vacation bank of each employee currently employed on October 6, 2023. This applies to regular and auxiliary employees in the Public Service and in the LDB. The employer has agreed to tell its managers that they are not to unreasonably deny employees taking the time off. Wildfire employees are excluded from this additional vacation entitlement.
- As a one-time only event, the employer will add seven hours of vacation time to the vacation bank of each employee employed in wildfire at any time in 2023. This includes regular and auxiliary employees. This additional vacation time will not be prorated based on FTE status. (See Unbenefited Auxiliary Employees note below for auxiliaries without vacation banks)
- As a one-time only event, the employer will add 3.5 hours of vacation to the vacation bank of each employee currently employed on October 6, 2023 who was paid a retroactive top-up of sick time for the five-day paid sick leave entitlement under the ESAA from March 31, 2022, to February 23, 2023. This applies to regular and auxiliary employees. For clarity, this is in addition to the vacation time outlined in points 1 and 2 noted above.
- The parties agree that all additional vacation time outlined in paragraphs 1-3 will be added to an employee's vacation bank as soon as practicable but no later than January 31, 2024. Further, this additional vacation time will not be prorated based on full-time equivalent (FTE) status, and it will be available until it is used and will not be subject to carryover provisions or archiving. Permission to take the vacation time outlined in paragraphs 1-3 will not unreasonably be withheld. This will be communicated to all managers and employees by the employer. The vacation time will be treated pursuant to the main agreement and component agreements. Should the employer, without a reasonable explanation, fail to add the additional vacation time outlined in paragraph 1-3, the employer will pay $50 to the employee. Lack of resources or multiple payroll transactions to complete will not constitute a reasonable explanation.
For former employees:
The employer will pay all outstanding retroactive pay to all former or inactive employees as soon as practicable and by no later than January 31, 2024. The employer will pay pre-judgement interest pursuant to the Court Order Interest Act on all amounts outstanding as of October 6, 2023. The parties agree that interest on all such amounts is deemed to accrue beginning March 3, 2023, until payroll submits the rapid load to commence the direct deposit payment process. The employer will execute retroactive payments to former employees on the following basis:
Former employees will be paid via the direct deposit authorization the employer received, provided it has not been revoked by the employee.
- If revoked or deposit returned by bank for any reasons, the employer will attempt to contact the former employee at their last known address by sending a letter by priority post/registered mail within two weeks of notice that the direct deposit attempt was not successful. The letter will indicate that in order to receive their retroactive pay, they need to reply to the letter, confirming the appropriate bank account and authorization for making a direct deposit to that account, or a mailing address to which a cheque can be sent.
- If no response is received within 30 days, the employer will advise our union of the employee's last known address and request confirmation of whether they have an updated one. The employer must include the employee number with the inquiry to our union.
- If our union provides an updated address, then the employer will send the letter to that updated address within seven days of receiving that updated information from our union (the "second letter"); and
- If either advised our union there is no updated address or no response to the second letter is received within 30 days of it being sent, then pay the funds to the administrator under the Unclaimed Property Act within a further seven days.
If the employer fails, without a reasonable explanation, to pay former or inactive employees all outstanding amounts and accrued interest by January 31, 2024, it will pay to the employee an additional $50 in addition to any accruing interest. Lack of resources or multiple payroll transactions to complete will not constitute a reasonable explanation.
Unbenefited Auxiliary Employees:
For unbenefited auxiliaries, the 3.5 hours vacation will be paid out.
As part of this settlement agreement, the employer will have meaningful discussions with our union prior to 2026 about the future of government payroll. Government payroll services were contracted out years ago by the former B.C. Liberal government. Though employees who deliver payroll remain BCGEU members, they are no longer members of the public service. The BCGEU has long believed that payroll services should not have been contracted out and should be brought back into the public service. This agreement will allow the BCGEU to make this argument to government.
While we are pleased with the outcome of this mediation, we recognize the impact it has had on members. Your bargaining committee would like to reiterate our ongoing commitment to holding the employer to account.
The BCGEU notes that the fact that the employer has acknowledged:
- that it made mistakes when implementing retroactive pay for employees and that as a result it took far too long to get payments into the hands of employees.
- that the employer has agreed that the BCGEU did a very good job in identifying problems with the payment of retroactive pay and advocating for members throughout.
The employer has agreed to confirm to the BCGEU in writing by January 31st, 2024, that all eligible employees have been provided the remedies outlined here. Arbitrator Bell remains seized with issues arising out of this agreement.
Your Public Service Bargaining Committee
Stephanie Smith, President and Committee Chair
Paul Finch, Treasurer
Judy Phipps, Executive Vice President
Dean Purdy, Vice President - Component 1
Kusam Doal, Vice President - Component 5
Judy Fox-McGuire, Vice President - Component 6
Maria Middlemiss, Vice President - Component 12
DJ Pohl, First Vice President - Component 12
Robert Davis, Vice President - Component 20
Michael Eso, Secretary and Lead Negotiator
Lisa Lane, Support Staff
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