An Open Letter to my MP and the Liberal Party of Canada

PSAC BC was recently CC’d on a letter from a member working at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to Jonathan Wilkinson, her Member of Parliament in North Vancouver. We are sharing it here with her permission.

An Open Letter to J. Wilkinson, MP and the Liberal Party of Canada

February, 2019.

Dear Mr. Wilkinson,

Thank you for your reply to my recent complaint regarding the Phoenix Pay system. You may recall meeting with me along with Jamey Mills, REVP for BC, PSAC to discuss this debacle about two years ago.

I am happy that the PSAC was recently able to work something out which will no longer require people with overpayments to remit the full outstanding amount. That will make it much easier, especially when our pay cheques are precarious as it is. It is so difficult living in our society when you have a mortgage and bills, and food to buy and transit to pay for when you don’t know how much you will be paid week to week. Or if you will be paid at all.

I am also writing to express my sincere disappointment with not only the Liberal government, but Justin Trudeau himself. Prior to his election, the Prime Minister wrote an “Open Letter to the Public Service”.

Have you taken the time to read that document lately? Because I have. And so have my colleagues. And we feel hurt, and lied to, abused and frankly, a little foolish that we ever even fell for it.

I would like to draw your attention to this particular quote: “Respect and trust for our public servants by the federal government has never been so low, and I want to take this opportunity to assure you that I have a fundamentally different view than Stephen Harper of our public service.”

Well, I daresay that the feeling within the Federal Public Service is now at an equal and possibly even lower state than it was in 2015. Whereas when we were dealing with Harper and his Conservatives, we knew what we were up against, we knew what we could expect and what his treatment of us would be. We knew that their agenda would include privatization and deep, deep cuts to our workforce. What we didn’t expect was that Trudeau, and by extension, you and your colleagues, would essentially treat us in the same way.

The climate in our departments has not changed. We are consistently being told to do more with less, and though our ranks have grown since the days of the Conservative’s Workforce Adjustment Directive we are still substantially smaller and less knowledgeable than we were, due to loss of valuable staff. Management still shows great disregard for employee’s health and well-being, routinely attempts to discredit and ignore the collective agreement, and decisions are made at levels thoroughly disconnected from those who actually do the work.

I know that the Phoenix system was originally purchased and set up by the Conservatives, however, prior to full implementation, PSAC representatives warned the Liberal government of serious deficiencies and warned that it was not ready for wide implementation. The Liberals went ahead anyway. We have now suffered under this system for almost three years.

Do you know some of the ramifications? Ruined credit scores. Lost homes due to non-payment of rent or mortgages. Repossessed cars. Delinquency on child support payments. In Trudeau’s letter to the Public Service, an entire section is dedicated to Mental Health. Do you know what chronic financial insecurity does to a person’s mental health? Do you know what it does to the morale of a workforce? Do you know what it feels like to come to work and not get paid? If not, I invite you to come and visit my workplace. Anytime. Bring Justin.

Trudeau’s Open Letter ended by addressing the issue of Anti-Public Service legislation. He ended it with this sentence: “All my life, I have been guided by the value of public service. I believe it is time to restore trust in – and respect for – our public servants. I hope to have the honour of working with you to build an even greater country, together.” That sure sounds good, doesn’t it?

But now the PSAC’s bargaining teams (which represent more than 90,000 public servants) have come together with the Treasury Board to begin the collective bargaining process – the very process the Prime Minister was allegedly defending in his open letter – and what happens? Do we get respect? Do we get fair, open bargaining? No.

We get offered only 0.75% per year for 4 years, well below the rate of inflation, and Treasury Board refused to make the increase retroactive to the start of the term of the collective agreement. In addition, they requested the new agreement only take effect 365 days after it is signed by both parties, amounting to a two-year wage freeze for PSAC members.

After more than three years of unreliable and perilous pay, in a country whose cost of living is rising exponentially, where in the three major cities rental and accommodation rates have gone through the roof, where the price of food has climbed constantly, we aren’t even worth the effort for your designates to come to the table with a legitimate offer? To bargain in good faith?

It is expected that we, who have depleted our savings and destroyed our credit due to the failure of the Federal Government to properly pay us, are expected to accept that we are to live under a two-year wage freeze and an offer that doesn’t even keep up with the rate of inflation?

How does this, in anyone’s purview, equate to respect? To honour? To recognize our value and commitment to our work and to the values of Canadians?

It doesn’t. And Mr. Trudeau, his fellow Liberals, and you, Sir, should be ashamed.