As part of every negotiations round for a new contract, all bargaining units must have essential service positions ‘designated’ as being essential to the ‘safety and security of the public’. No legal strike can take place without one and employees occupying those positions must remain on the job in the event of a walkout.

Our members are now receiving notices from their employer as part of the requirement to identify positions deemed to be essential services in the event of a strike. The notifications point out that our bargaining agent – the Public Service Alliance of Canada – has been consulted.

Many members are rightfully confused because this designations process is a huge change from the way things used to be done.

Under the former system, where a bargaining group chose the conciliation/strike contract settlement route, the union and the employer attempted to agree on which duties of positions, or part thereof, should be deemed essential. Where there was no agreement, disputed positions were decided by the neutral Public Service Labour Relations Board.

Fair enough. But of course, when it comes to the Conservatives, fairness is the last thing on their minds. Last year, as part of a wide-ranging legislative attack on the long-standing rights of public service workers, the Harper government gutted the old designations system.

Under the new changes, the government has the EXCLUSIVE right to declare which positions and duties are essential. Period. With no recourse.

However, the employer has 60 days to consult with the union. After that, management has 30 days to come up with a list of designated positions. The employer then notifies designated employees ‘as soon as feasible’.

The consultation that is required has taken place. And our members are now being notified of the employer’s decision.

This undemocratic designations process is yet another reason why Agriculture Union members should be sure to vote for change on October 19!