Tony Clement’s coming battle

The Treasury Board President and federal unions spar over sick leave

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

“We’re not in a race to the bottom, and we’re not in concession bargaining. We’re not prepared to give up our sick leave.” —Robyn Benson, the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s national president 

Jack Layton’s energized New Democrats waltzed into the House of Commons in June 2011 and found themselves staring down a government that was playing hardball with the country’s postal workers. The government hoped to force the striking posties back to work. The NDP promptly launched a 58-hour filibuster of the Tory legislation, standing unapologetically with the union. The effort served notice that, even if the NDP had moved closer to the political centre in an election just a month prior, the party would not abandon its traditional allies.

Today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer wades in to the next great battle between the government and federal unions. The Toronto Star reports that Jean-Denis Fréchette’s office will enter the crossfire on sick leave, the central issue in a very public dispute between Treasury Board President Tony Clement and a host of unions who protect their rights with some vigour. Clement says federal public servants take an average of 18 sick days a year. Robyn Benson, the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says her members take 11 sick days a year. Fréchette’s report will apparently disagree with Clement.

All of this matters because unions and the feds are gearing up for a big year in collective bargaining. No fewer than 27 unions will enter contract talks with their political masters. The government remains fixated on slashing whatever budget deficit remains. Clement has talked tough for years. The unions are entrenched. Where does that leave the NDP? Standing in the House of Commons, most likely, revisiting their spirited union defence of yore. Senate expenses and alleged spying and misguided electoral reform will rile up New Democrats on any given day, but go after hard-fought union benefits and the party will drop everything and get noisy.

The very moment Clement touches sick leave, all bets are off.


Globe: Heenan Blaikie, the famed Canadian law firm, is closing its doors.

Post: Canadian snowboarders are talking trash in Sochi.

Star: Toronto considers removing the easter section of its raised Gardiner Expressway.

Citizen: The government cut short debate in the House on its electoral reform bill.

CBC: The Sochi Olympics get underway.

CTV: Snowboarding is among the Games’ first events.

NNW: The Conservatives will move to comprehensively reform the Citizenship Act.


Near: A cash-strapped Manitoba First Nation refuses assistance from the federal government.

Far: Bombings in Iraq have killed 112 civilians since the beginning of February.


Tony Clement’s coming battle

  1. ” No fewer than 27 unions will enter contract talks with their political masters” really ehh??? masters u say. and who elects these political masters? the taxpayers. what a biased and uneducated statement to make. way to pander to the left. politicians are no bigger than the unionized worker, they are all public servants who are paid for by taxpayers.

    • Riiiiight.

      So the 24.3% of the voting population (16.6% of the total population) that voted for this government means they get to nullify the totality of legal agreements reached by negotiation over decades.

      You know, just because.

      (eye roll)

      • yes but 100% of people at some point pay taxes, and you dont have to be a conservative to appreciate having your tax dollars get thrown around to union bosses. seeing how the contracts have expired, other than the one thats expiring all other contracts are obsolete, expired and have no actual value or effect on the outcome of the new contracts being negotiated.

        • Taxpayer dollars are not going to Union bosses. Those bosses are paid for through people’s salaries. If you want to argue the salaries, then fine, argue salaries, but good luck with that.
          As far as the agreements, they hold force until another agreement is negotiated. Personally I’d prefer mediated settlements based on common sense, but NEITHER side wants that, so you’re left with negotiation, and don’t think for a moment the Union will back down when the Government is waging a misleading public relations war.

        • You make up your own facts as you go along, don’t you.

      • The courts have repeatedly affirmed that collective bargaining is a right, and a constitutionally protected one. That is to say, the courts will not permit unilateral abrogation of collective bargaining, or collective agreements. Read into that what you will.

    • who is the master of Mike Duffy? I think Public Servants would like to see some leadership…….not do as I say, while ordering $16 orange juice? you voted in these jokers? how stuppid must you be? oh this just in……the PM’s friend and bandmate was just charged with raping girls……….a new low.

  2. OPSEU (one group of unionized public servants in Ontario) get 6 sick leave days a year. No banking of time. Use them or lose them. Banking might be a good idea, but there should be no cash payout if you don’t use sick leave.

    • There is no cash payout for federal public servants.

      • Well, that’s good. There shouldn’t be. Used to be, I believe.

      • You are correct. When I can let go from the federal government a year ago, my 200+ day of accumulated sick vaporized. There was no payout which was the right thing.

        btw: I would normally average about 3-4 sick days a year, except for the year I was treated for CANCER.

        • I too averaged about 3 days sick each year for 31 years and retired with somewhere around 300 days. Fortunately, I never had to deal with anythng like cancer. The most I ever took at once was 5 days after a minor bike accident.

    • The only reason the federal system used the banking concept, was that it was cheaper for the government to do this than provide timely disability insurance.

      As it is, if you become sick with cancer, you have a three month waiting period before you can claim disability.

      This has seriously skewed the statistics, as anyone who gets sick after years of working in the government, suddenly claims hundreds of sick days.

      That Clement uses this to pad his numbers is disgusting beyond belief.

    • The banked days are used, in most cases in lieu of short-term disability coverage (not 100% sure about the Fed employees now but that’s how it was both
      when I worked in Customs and when I was a teacher, a few decades back). So if the average # of sick days is higher for public servants than those in the employ of private companies, it may be because the private-sector sick days do not factor in STD. Presumably OPSEU gets STD benefits instead, if only six sick days are allowed per annum..

  3. The media is trying of obfuscate the issue. The issue is not the number of sick days, but the banking of sick days. And then all those banked sick days get cashed out before retirement.

    • They don’t have STD coverage; the banked days are used in lieu. And while there may be some who abuse the system and find a doctor to say they are sick enough to be off when they aren’t, that’s hardly the standard procedure. And there are those in the private sector who find ways to abuse STD leaves too.

      Tony is bulking up his numbers by not making a fair comparison of sick plus STD days on the private sector side of the equation.

      Edit: This is covered nicely here:

    • Are you sure federal banked days get cashed out at retirement. I had heard that wasn’t so.

      Also, any thoughts on the argument that the reason the government agreed to the banking of sick days during negotiations was that it’s cheaper for the government to allow employees to bank sick days than it is for them to pay for short term disability insurance?

  4. “Star: Toronto considers removing the easter section of its raised Gardiner Expressway.”

    Oh nos! Can the christmas section be far behind?

  5. The Conservatives will be more than happy to go to war with these public service unions and the NDP. If ever there’s an issue that resonates with voters it’s over paid public servants.

    • Yup…the politics of resentment always works.

      • What you call resentment, most of us call fairness. Unlike you, most of us aren’t leeching the system.

        • The politics of resentment are obviously supported by the politics of totally unverified allegations. I was paying into the system while you were probably still crapping your diapers.

        • Well, if we’re talking about fairness, if Clement is claiming that public sector employees take more sick days on average than comparable workers in the private sector, and the PBO issues a report saying that, in fact, they take roughly the same average number of sick days as comparable private sector workers, what would the fair thing to do be? ‘Cause I’d be a little surprised at this point if Clement’s response to that were anything other than “attack the PBO”.

          • The PBO has skin in this game. They’re hardly a neutral third party.

          • Right…just another evil Officer of Parliament picking on the poor majority government.

          • They’ve got a personal interest in the what comes of these negotiations. That doesn’t mean their evil, it just means they’re not the people who should be reporting on such matters. It’s called a conflict of interest. Look it up.

          • Facts are value-free, my friend, regardless of who looks them up.

          • Whatever. You’re just another government employed bum who spends his day here commenting on matters of your own personal interest trying to lie to the public for your own gain. People aren’t as dumb as you think.

          • Speaking of unverified allegations, I rest my case. Thank you.

          • Ricky: “That doesn’t mean their [sic] evil… Look it up… People aren’t as dumb as you think.”

            The unintentional humour is strong in this one.

          • You would be well to stay quite and let people guess.

          • Negotiate? Clement? LMFAO

          • I’m just going to mark this down for reference for the next time the Tories boast about having created the PBO in order to give Parliament a neutral third party that could check the numbers that the government reports to the citizenry.

            I KNEW they never really fulfilled that promise! :-)

          • So, Tony Clement is a reliable source for numbers, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer isn’t?

            I suspect I’d have an easier time believing that if I was a Tory supporter, or alternatively, knew nothing whatsoever about Tony Clement.

          • I loathe toady dumplings like Paul Callandra and Dean Del Mastro. But you need hamsters to turn the wheel and they fulfill that purpose.
            But Tony Clement has leadership aspirations and this makes him utterly repellent.

          • Every time the PBO has produced figures that disagreed with the Conservative party line, the answer has been to discredit the PBO. It is now to the point where the numbers the PBO requests are largely refused and the entire office, one the Conservatives crowed about as proof of their commitment to transparency and accountability, has been gelded. And tell me this: if we agree that the PBO is nothing but a number skewing, bureau of misinformation, then why the hell are we pouring precious tax dollars into it?
            As a thinking man, can you tell me how this has been a success for Harper? He creates the office, appoints the boss, puts up the victory banner, then castrates the office. Was the point a master chess strategy to fool voters into voting Conservative while they actually provided less transparency and accountability? Doesn’t this feed the “secret agenda” narrative? And if so, do you approve of this tactic? If not, do you feel you have been duped?

      • I call it ‘the politics of envy’. Basically it amounts to kids in a sandbox fighting because they think one of the kids has a nicer, shinier toy, and they don’t.

    • Do you suppose it’s possible that there’d be ANY problem for Clement if it’s accurate that he said that PSAC members take X sick days a year, whereas PSAC says it’s Y, and the PBO is about to issue a report saying it really is Y?

      • No, I don’t see it being a problem at all. For one, I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if the PBO just took PSAC’s numbers verbatim. All staff at the PBO after all are also government employees, so they have a major conflict of interest.

        Secondly, it all boils down to total compensation, and federal government employees have got it much better than most of the private sector. Ultimately it comes down to fairness.

        • “[F]ederal government employees have got it much better than most of the private sector”…except those working for large private sector corporations in positions of similar scope and responsibility.

          And you accuse the PBO of having fun with numbers.

          • That’s a complete lie.

          • Where’s the evidence making your argument “the truth”?

          • I’m gonna need some links to help me verify that your completely unsubstantiated assertion is the truth, and dog’s completely unsubstantiated assertion is a complete lie.

            Have at it gentlemen.

        • I recently saw a report somewhere that stated civil servants make about the same as private-sector workers do for comparable work. The report was generated by an agency that isn’t partisan. Granted, there are a few areas where civil servants make more than those in the private sector, but this is by no means a universal thing, and the flip side of the coin is that there are private-sector workers who make more than civil servants do.

          But it seems to me that when times are hard, everyone just loves to use the public service as a convenient scapegoat or whipping boy. I can guarantee you that if you chop their pay in the name of ‘fairness’, the economy will get worse, and you will eventually find yourself of really having something to complain about – i.e. maybe losing your job because more people are spending less and your company has fewer buyers.

  6. If we manage to cut sick days by 20%, how many gazeboes do you suppose that could build? Two? Three?

    • That is a very good question indeed!!

  7. Can someone really look like a frog and a weasel at the same time? And a smiling one at that?

  8. sick days are to be replaced by personal days. with personal days you call in and say you won’t be coming in, no reason or excuse necessary. that is not such a bad thing to have.
    instead of banking sick days you get paid out every year for the days you don’t use and if you do get a long term illness you get paid but only 65 or 70 percent of your wage. there will always be a cheque every two weeks just like now.
    not nearly as good for people who use all ten to fifteen sick days a year they are now entitled to and not nearly as good for people who bank sick days for years and then have to miss months of work, but not all bad.
    Whether this new system will actually save any money is far from certain, the main Conservative objective as usual is not saving money or improving efficiency but instead to punish working people they suspect of abusing the system. This is a government ruled by hate and run by whim