Fact-checking Harper on federal public service workers

Canada terrorist attacksBy the Canadian Association of Professional Employees

Recently, the Conservative Party of Canada released an open letter, from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to public servants, in which the Conservative Party Leader claims to correct some of the “misleading statements” being made by the federal public service unions.

However, since this political party has a habit of putting its ideology ahead of the facts, it only makes sense to take a closer look at those facts the Conservatives claim are wrong.

Sick leave

The government is sticking to the argument it made in the House of Commons when it passed its budget implementation bill (C-59), namely that the existing system is unfair to new employees who don’t have enough banked sick leave to bridge the gap to disability benefits.

But here is what the Leader of the Conservative Party fails to mention:

  1. The Conservative government has passed legislation that will enable it to impose its sick leave and short-term disability regime whenever it chooses to do so, without negotiating at the bargaining table. If its proposals are so attractive, why is the government bypassing the collective bargaining process?
  2. To correct the inequity that exists between employees who do not have enough banked sick leave and those who do, Harper proposes to punish everybody by forcing workers to endure a 7-day unpaid waiting period before they can receive short-term disability benefits.
  3. The Conservative Leader promises not to wipe out accumulated sick days. This is patently untrue, since all banked sick leave would be eliminated two years after the implementation of the new plan. In fact, the Conservative Party is proposing a transition period that somewhat resembles the kind of deal offered to creditors by a bankruptcy trustee: buying back your accumulated sick leave credits for 11.5% of their value. During the two-year transition period, the government would allow public servants to use their banked sick leave to top up its new short-term disability benefits: days of banked sick could be used to top up disability benefits to a maximum of 93% of salary, instead of the maximum benefit of 70% provided under the plan. But each day of such increased benefits would cost you two days of banked sick leave. In any case, this option will disappear after two years, since all banked sick leave will be eliminated.

For a better understanding of the impact of the government’s proposed changes, we urge you to read our special report, Nine Myths about Paid Sick Leave.


The Conservatives swear up and down that they will not touch the Public Service Pension Plan. However, the Conservatives went to the Supreme Court for confirmation that the government was entitled to take $28 billion in surpluses out of public service pension accounts. The Conservative government also took steps to increase employee pension plan contributions, which will rise to 50% in a few years.

In a move that further erodes retirement incomes, the Conservative government also increased pensioners’ contributions to the Public Service Health Care Plan from 31.5% to 50% by 2018.

The Conservative government’s Finance Minister has confirmed that his government is working tomove away from the current defined-benefit approach and introduce retirement plans based on a targeted-benefit model. This new approach would initially be applied to the employees of Canada Post and other Crown corporations, but there is nothing to prevent a subsequent Conservative government from implementing this model in the federal public service, similar to what it is trying to do with the short-term disability plan that is modeled after what was implemented at Canada Post three years ago.

So now you know where the Conservative Party of Canada stands.

This piece was originally published on the Canadian Association of Professional Employees’ website

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