With 15 days left until Election Day, all parties are recognizing the importance of obtaining the votes of the federal public servants. On October 1st, 2015, Stephen Harper released his “open letter” to public servants; this comes almost a week after Justin Trudeau’s “open letter”.
In Harper’s letter he makes comments such as “Canadians are well-served by our world-class public service…” According to Harper, “misleading statements are being made about certain issues that matter to you and your families, including sick leave and pension entitlements.” The letter continues to explain defend the party’s rationale for cutting back as on the above benefits as follows:
According to the letter:
“The current, antiquated sick leave system is failing everyone”. The letter continues to state that:
- Over 60 percent of public servants do not have enough banked sick leave to cover a full period of short-term disability (13 weeks).
- 25 percent of employees have fewer than 10 days of banked sick leave.
- Many employees, especially new and younger employees, have no banked sick days at all.
- In contrast, a select few long-tenured individuals, including many executives, have far more banked sick days than they will ever reasonably need.
They claim “the current sick leave system leaves gaps. The Government wants to fill those gaps so that, if you get sick, you have seamless support”.
According to the letter “some public sector union executives have alleged that the Government wants to take away your pension, in whole or in part. This is false.” The letter continues to state that in 2012, the Conservatives “moved to modernize and secure the public service pension plan by ensuring employees and taxpayers both pay a fair share towards pension contributions for public servants. Since 2012, the Government has not proposed any other changes to the public service pension plan nor are any contemplated.”
Interestingly enough, there was no mention of further job cuts, reductions, or increasing hiring budgets in the short to medium term.
Insider’s Guide Commentary: In a last minute move to secure the votes of public servants, Harper decided to publish this letter. There are a lot information that is not written in this letter that is important to know.
At present 13 of the 17 unions that represent federal public servants are seeking an injunction to stop the government from unilaterally imposing a new sick-leave agreement.
The proposed new sick leave will replace the present one with a new proposed short-term disability plan. It will also reduce the 15 annual sick days to six with no increase in family or personal days, leaving many with no option as to go to work sick or take vacation days.
The proposed Short Term Disability Plan (STDP) would provide benefits up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Employees would have to wait for seven consecutive calendar days (in which they will not be paid). Once approved the first four weeks (excluding the seven day unpaid waiting period) employees will receive 100 percent of their salary, then it will decrease to 70 percent until the end of the STDP. The Conservatives claim that the new plan would abolish much of the 15 million days of banked unused sick leave.
From experience working in the Government of Canada, I personally know of many federal public servants who have retired with several months of accumulated sick leave ( as sick leave is not paid) the banked sick days are not a liability, unless all public servants decided to use their sick days at the same time which has not been the case.
The conservatives did not “modernize” the pension system. Rather, they changed the system so that employees contributed 50 percent (up from 40 percent), and they also increased the pensionable retirement age for new public servants (hired on or after January 1, 2013) from the 60 to 65.
The conservatives also changed the Member of Parliament (MP)s’ Pension scheme in 2012, here are a few of the highlights:
- Any MP elected after January 2016, will have to wait until 65 years old to collect their full pension (this is a 10 year increase from the present age of 55).
- As of 2017, MPs will be responsible for paying 50 percent of their pension contribution (for a backbench MP, this represents an increase from $11,000 a year to $39,000 over a period of five years).
- Also, the annual return on the MP pension fund will be reduced to 4.7 percent from the current 10.4 percent.
The above changes were made to justify the changes to the public service pension plan and explains the exodus of MPs that retired before the October 19, 2015 elections.
However, one element of the MP pension plan that wasn’t touched is that MPs are still only required to work for six years before being eligible for a pension. Another big difference is their annual pension payments are calculated by taking the average of their best five years of basic salary, multiplied by the product of the number of total years served, and then multiplied by three percent until it reaches a maximum of 75 percent of an MP’s salary. An increase in these calculations exist for those who served in additional roles.