BANFF – A public interest commission hearing has been scheduled for January following a breakdown in talks between Park Canada and the union representing its employees over pay and other demands.
The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board upheld the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s (PSAC) decision to declare impasse in Parks Canada bargaining and set a Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearing for bargaining Jan. 27-30, 2020.
According to a PSAC memo sent to its members last week, the board assigned a mediator so both parties could engage in mediation while waiting for the establishment of the hearing.
“PSAC told the labour board that it expected the employer to come to mediation with a complete monetary proposal and with a response to the union’s pay and workforce adjustment proposals,” stated the memo.
“In September, the employer responded that they were no longer willing to move forward with scheduled mediation because they have no mandate, despite initially requesting continued negotiations and mediation.”
PSAC is looking for a competitive pay increase for all Parks Canada members to create parity with the core public service, which includes market adjustments to close wage gaps.
The union has also called for Parks Canada to align national park wardens’ employment terms and conditions with the overall law enforcement community such as that of police agencies. In addition, it’s pushing for an appropriate mental health support program for wardens.
Parks Canada wardens deal with many situations in national parks, such as poaching, protecting endangered species, illegal camping, illegal campfires, dogs off leash, liquor and highway violations to name just a few.
According to Parks Canada, there are currently 95 park warden positions across Canada. Seven of these positions are in Banff National Park, while Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, and Kootenay National Park are managed as a single area with six park wardens stationed between two detachments; two at the Kootenay detachment and four at the Lake Louise detachment. The positions are not always filled, however whether that's leave, vacation and so on.
Another big push by the bargaining team is conversion of seasonal park warden positions to year-round positions, particularly because many national parks are getting busier and busier.
For example, Banff National Park draws more than four million visitors a year, with the traditionally quieter shoulder seasons getting busier each year.
A spokesperson for Parks Canada said that five sessions had taken place when the PSAC concluded the latest session on July 18, and at that time the agency and alliance were preparing to set future bargaining dates.
“Parks Canada was informed that the alliance was declaring an impasse in our collective bargaining negotiations,” said spokesperson Megan Damini in an email to the Outlook.
“The agency’s position is that the parties had not negotiated sufficiently for an impasse to be declared.”
To continue discussions, Damini said the federal agency requested mediation and PSAC agreed to it.
“The decision to put the mediation process in abeyance was also subsequently agreed to by both parties,” she said.
PSAC’s statement said it would continue pressing for a fair deal that addresses Parks members’ demands regardless of which party forms government after the federal election on Oct. 21.
“However, if PSAC and the government are still unable to reach an agreement after the PIC report is issued, Parks members will have the legal right to strike,” read the statement.
“All members impacted will have the opportunity to vote in favour, or against strike action. In preparation for this possible situation, PSAC will ensure that strike training is offered to members in the coming months.”
The last time Parks Canada employees went on strike was on Aug. 13, 2004 and it lasted for 58 days.
Staff conducted rotating strikes at national parks and historic sites across the country, with managers stepping in to try to keep services up and running where they could.