The 2019 edition of the APS National Council, held in Montreal, was presided by Mario Poudrier, thus ending a ninth consecutive mandate at the helm of the Association of Professionals and Supervisors of the CBC.
Many of the delegates were long-standing allies of the outgoing President but there was also a strong representation of the more recent generation of union supporters from the crown corporation.
The operation of APS is articulated around this annual gathering of its participating members who devote the weekend to take stock on the orientation of their union. This is also the opportunity to meet the vast majority of APS Officers also present at the meeting.
APS is an open union that gives the members of its bargaining unit the freedom to participate actively in the life of the Association or simply to let the others take care of business. In total, the majority of members choose to participate which makes the National Council a defining event for its orientation.
With over 800 members in total, the By-Laws of the Association call for a ratio of one (1)delegate for each portion of fifty (50) members to establish the maximum number participants for the National Council.
Since the CBC has chosen to centralize its operations by favoring Montreal and Toronto as the two pivots of its networks, the concentration of APS members has followed suit. However, the structure of the Association still guarantees Regional representation. This is reflected by the composition of the National Executive Committee made up of representatives from the East (Maritime Provinces), Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and the West (from Manitoba to British Columbia).
We had then an accurate sampling of the country as a whole to debate the faith of our union on Saturday, November 2, 2019.
Among the long list of topics on the agenda for the event, the renewal of the APS/CBC collective agreement stood as the main highlight of the day, which ended with a surprise farewell ceremony in honor of the outgoing President of the Association, Mario Poudrier.
The delegates were faced with discussions concerning the option to renew the agreement for the next two years or to negotiate a new version on the deadline of the present agreement set for March 31, 2020.
The very same topic was also there the following day at the National Executive Committee meeting and even the centerpiece of discussions during the traditional Saturday night dinner. Indeed, the main event of the weekend.
In short, APS has suffered difficult moments since the signing of its new contract in 2016. A legalistic orientation from the employer has sparked a record number of grievances as well as a new-found rigidity with the interpretations of the new clauses negotiated in 2016.
Recently, however, the employer has shown signs of willingness to change, leaving the association with the obligation to explore the situation further. New players are at the helm, both from the union and the employer.
The format of the National Council calls for a regional round table to start proceedings by hearing from all the different areas of the country covered by APS to provide an overall view of the preoccupations and reality from everywhere. Pascal Baczyk, Stéphane Désautels, Nathan Farr and David MacFarlane took care to provide participants with the report on activities in their respective areas. Only the Ottawa Region was missing because of the absence of Anne-Marie Roy away on illness.
Isabelle Benoit, the National Treasurer, then followed by offering a unique look on the content of her mandate by supplying delegates with a detailed account of the work she does on a monthly basis. The impact of financial control and registration of monetary transactions on the life of the union became alive with her presentation.
This was the first of her two presentations as she followed suit the next day by the presentation of the APS financial statements for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2019.
The presentations that followed were handled by David MacFarlane and Nathan Farr, who covered activities on Health and Security in addition to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as well as an update on recent changes in the Canada Labour Code.
The rest of the presentations were made by the President and the General Manager because of the absence of the National Secretary, Sébastien Fleurant.
Mario thus took over the floor to explain statistics related to the evolution of membership in the last year. In short, the drop in the percentage of contract workers has stabilized around the 30% mark of all employees, while APS is continuing on its growth pattern with now over 850 members.
However, his last turn at bat would come later to deliver an ultimate presentation to the members in attendance while he gave the floor to Claude Beausoleil, the General Manager. The latter did not mince words as he explained that APS was presently having its worst period in the union’s short existence with some 12 grievances in activity. A hardening of the employer’s legal approach to problems is forcing APS to modify its orientation concerning labour relations. Claude gave the example of a grievance in the English Network yet to be concluded after 6 years of acrimonious bickering. The employer has filed for this grievance no less than two judicial reviews, a procedure rarely used in arbitration. He also painted a gloomy picture of the repeated and costly procedures coming from other unions against APS. From the CSN in the French Network as well as from the Guild in the English Network, a concerted attack is being made to claim a good part of APS members before the Canada Industrial Relations Board. However, despite stormy times, the General Manager ended his presentation by stating that the Association is functioning as well as can be expected and is in good financial health.
Afterward, Mario returned to finish his presentation by reporting to the group that a recent Montreal meeting for APS members had been crowned with success as the topic covered the impact of remuneration policies on employees’ salaries. Drawing a summary of his presentation before the Montreal Local, Mario concluded that his analysis showed:
The evolution of modifications to the salary bands has produced a concentration of salaries around the midpoint of the bands;
That employees who were placed toward the summit of bands have regressed as the result of the band increases applied in 2017 and 2018 now ending up close to midpoint positions;
The performance appraisals have lost their impacts on employees situated in the top areas of the bands as a result, thus rendering the ratings meaningless.
Mario finished by recommending that members would be wise to consider using conventional universal step increases equal for all in the future.
He concluded his presentation by bringing delegates up to date on two major negotiation issues at stake with the employer; the perception of the 0,1% of salaries contained in the 10-year MOA now coming to its end and the renewal of the collective agreement brought up at the beginning of the present text.
The day ended with a surprise item on the agenda to celebrate the last report filed by the man who had led the Association ever since his very first election as President in 2001. A heartfelt salute by his teammates, recognizing his accomplishments. For once, the outgoing President was lost for words, in all probability the victim of a touch of nostalgia.