Ottawa

Federal budget 2015: Taking aim at public service sick leave

The federal government says it is counting on the proposed overhaul of its sick leave and disability programs for federal public sector workers to save $900 million in the next year, and says it will "take steps" to introduce the changes if it can't negotiate them.

Government expects $900M in savings from overhaul of sick leave program

The federal government says it is counting on the proposed overhaul of its sick leave and disability programs for federal public sector workers to save $900 million in the next year, and says it will "take steps" to introduce the changes if it can't negotiate them.

Public sector unions and the Treasury Board have been in ongoing negotiations for the last year about the proposed overhaul of sick leave.

The government wants to get rid of the system whereby public sector employees can bank sick days while providing them access to short-term disability benefits previously unavailable.

Tuesday's federal budget says negotiations held to date "reflect the government's commitment to good faith collective bargaining," but adds that if negotiations fail, it will "take the steps required to implement the changes within a reasonable timeframe."

The government says the overhaul will clear $900 million in future liability to sick leave, which it is applying to the coming fiscal year to help the reach a $1.4-billion surplus.

Reducing long-term disability costs and other savings related to the unwinding of the liability related to sick leave will result in savings of $200 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and  $100 million in the following two years.

Canada Labour Code changes

The budget also outlines the government's intention to make a number of changes to the Canada Labour Code, including:

  • Put interns under federal jurisdiction, regardless of whether they are paid or not, and clarify the circumstances under which unpaid internships are offered.
  • Provide new short-term and long-term unpaid leaves for family responsibilities, increased bereavement leave.
  • New amendments to address violence and sexual harassment in federally regulated private-sector workplaces.

The budget also calls for increasing the number of occupational health and safety officers from 90 to 100 at an additional cost of $4.8 million over five years.

The government also says it will modernize the act governing benefits and services to federal employees suffering from work-related injuries and illnesses to accelerate claims and clarify what's covered. 

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