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Parliament Hill staff demand improved working conditions

VANCOUVER – The union representing House of Commons employees is calling for seniority recognition and improved shift scheduling and today presented a petition to House Speaker Peter Milliken’s Office with their demands.

The petition, signed by over 300 employees, calls on the employer “to introduce fair systems for hours of work, systems that would provide some stability for all PSAC-represented employees and recognize our years of service with this institution.”

Current scheduling practices seem arbitrary and are unpredictable, said Serge Séguin, president of Local 70390 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“In the security services, for example, we have an employee with over four years experience who received a schedule for seven weeks without knowing what days he would work - and that’s including weekends,” he said.

The union represents Parliament Hill employees in a variety of services including security, food, maintenance, postal, and document preparation.

Four of the union’s seven bargaining units are currently in negotiations for a new collective agreement.

Their key demands include transparent rules for shift scheduling and shift redistribution based on seniority -- already recognized for holidays and layoffs, Séguin said.

The union lacks the ability to strike and three of the bargaining units have requested arbitration.

“We’re at an impasse with the employer,” said Séguin. “They’re not even offering counter-offers and are not ready to sit down.”

House of Commons management said it remains open to negotiations and said it was the union that left the bargaining table.

“PSAC and the House of Commons have been bargaining in good faith on behalf of four bargaining units represented by the PSAC,” said a statement from Heather Bradley, director of communications for the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

“The PSAC decided to end negotiations and filed for interest arbitration before the Public Service Labour Relations Board.”

A timeline for arbitration has not yet been announced. The union is willing to reopen negotiations, Séguin said, but only if the scheduling and seniority concerns will be addressed.

“We want management to come back to the table only if they’re ready to fix the problem.”

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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