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(Updated 9:30 p.m., Oct. 2)
Conservatives clarify position on federal sick leave, pension fund

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has written an open letter to federal public service employees clarifying his party's position on accumulated federal sick leave and ensuring them that their pension fund is safe.

Harper wrote the letter to counter what he says is "misleading" information being spread by the federal unions and the opposition parties.

“Unfortunately, in the current election context, misleading statements are being made about certain issues that matter to you and your families, including sick leave and pension entitlements,” Harper writes. "I want to give you the facts to correct this misinformation."

He goes on to explain his government's position on sick leave and the pension fund. Regarding the latter, he assures federal employees that the Conservatives have no intention of making any changes to the public service pension plan.

"Recently, some public sector union executives have alleged that the Government wants to take away your pension, in whole or in part. This is false," writes Harper, adding that the government has not proposed any changes to the pension plan, "nor are any contemplated".

Orléans incumbent Royal Galipeau (bottom left) is joined by fellow National Capital Region candidates Walter Pamic, Benjamin Woodman, Abdul Abdi, David Pacini, Damian Konstantinakos, Maxime Hupé-Labelle and Pierre Poilievre at a press conference on Thursday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

As for sick days, Harper writes that his government wants to reform the civil service sick leave and disability program. In the letter he states that over 60 per cent of public servants do not have enough banked sick leave to cover a full period of short-term disability (13 weeks).

He also notes that 25 per cent of employees have fewer than 10 days of banked sick leave and that many new and younger employees, have no banked sick days at all. A short-term disability program would provide should they need to take an extended period of time off to recover from illness or injury.

According to the Treasury Board, federal public service employees have 14.7 million sick days socked away. That's an average of 75 days per employee, or about 15 weeks.

Contrary to public perception, federal employees can’t cash out their sick leave when they leave the civil service.

The Conservatives have passed legislation that would unilaterally limit the number of sick days from 18 per year to six. The plan would also cap the number of sick days an employee can carry forward from one year to the next to just two and they can accumulate no more than eight sick days in any one year which is a far cry from the current average.

But what has federal employees most upset is the fact that the plan would reduce whatever sick days they have accumulated by Sept. 1, 2016, to the maximum of eight.

The unions are challenging the plan on the basis it violates their members' collective bargaining rights. They're also challenging the Conservatives' claim that the changes will save taxpayers $900 million. They argue that because no one actually gets to cash out their sick days, there are no monetary savings, and therefore the claim is not just misleading but totally false. Still, the Conservatives stand by their estimate.

Orléans incumbent Royal Galipeau was among eight Conservative candidates from the National Capital Region who held a joint press conference following the release of Harper's open letter on Thursday.

The veteran MP wrote the Prime Minister in January 2012, suggesting that while it would be fair to change the benefits of public servants "yet to be hired", it would be wrong to make any changes retroactive, and wronger still to reduce the benefits of people who are already retired.

Harper responded to Galipeau thanking him for his input on the subject and at the bottom he wrote in his own hand, "Royal I agree that no changes can be made retroactively."

"I was ahead of the curve way before anybody wanted to assign ill-intentions to us on this issue" says Galipeau referring to his letter.

"I found it important before the issue even reared its head. Pensions of retirees had to be protected. Pensions of public servants already employed had to be protected and he agreed and all of the decisions we've made since then have respected that spirit."

When asked why he thought the opposition and the unions were coming after his party on the issue of pensions and sick leave, Galipeau accused them of fear-mongering.

"I think that a number of people have preyed on public servants and their anxieties," he says. "I anticipated that this might happen and that is why I obtained assurances from the Prime Minister before the ugliness might happen."

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

 

   

 


Posted Jan. 12



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