20 May 2019
Non-recognition of experience
In reaction to a form of wage disparity that has emerged in schools since the unified salary structure came into force, the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ) has initiated legal recourse under the Labour Standards Act on behalf of its members affected by this situation.
FPSS-CSQ President Éric Pronovost explains that after the new wage scales were implemented on April 2, many support staff employees have been demoted by one or more salary steps, which has effectively broken the link between their experience, their recognized training and progressive salary increases.
An illegal wage disparity
Meanwhile, people hired since that date are having their experience and schooling fully recognized and are being integrated into wage scales accordingly. “This unequal method of recognizing experience based on when you were hired clearly represents a wage disparity or what is referred to as an orphan clause. The Labour Standards Act, amended in 2001, clearly prohibits such wage disparities,” says Éric Pronovost.
Pronovost cites the example of a Recreational Activities Technician working in a school board for 25 years who was demoted to salary step 9 of her new scale on April 2. “Using the implementation rules as a pretext, the employer is refusing to provide a process that would have her experience recognized. On the other hand, if a technician with 10 years of experience in another institution is hired after April 2nd, their experience will be recognized and they will be placed at the top of the same scale. With the same amount of experience, one will earn $27.76 per hour while the newer employee will earn $29.05. This 5% gap is an unacceptable wage disparity for our members,” according to the President of the FPSS-CSQ.
Concerns and inconsistencies cited
Éric Pronovost says the union party had raised concerns about this type of situation when the new salary structure was being negotiated. Their team at the central negotiating table even managed to secure the creation of a Committee Concerning the Implementation of Salary Relativities on April 2, 2019, a committee with a mandate to analyze and correct problems caused by the new system. “In the last few months, our representatives on this committee warned about the inconsistencies that would result from non-recognition of experience in the process of implementing the new structures. They proposed a mechanism to deal with such problems, but the Treasury Board has so far refused to take any action,” says the FPSS-CSQ President.
A law that takes precedence
The Labour Standards Act is public policy which means it prevails over any provisions of an agreement that go against it. “Our responsibility as a union organization is to take any legal recourse required to defend the rights of our members, even for provisions that were agreed upon during the negotiations,” says Éric Pronovost.
In the context of current labour shortages where there is a consensus on the urgent need to valorize the workers who provide essential support to our schools on a daily basis, it seems absurd that our employers are refusing to recognize and reward the experience of their long-serving employees. “We would like to avoid this legal recourse. We would prefer that the government recognize the problem of wage disparity and immediately take advantage of the joint committee to resolve this situation,” says the FPSS-CSQ President in conclusion.