Letter to DM on Launch of Civilian Classification Grievances Investigation

28 June 2016

 

Mr. John Forster
Deputy Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
13th floor, North Tower
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K2

 

Dear Mr. Forster,

Over the past few years, my office has received numerous complaints relating to delays in the civilian classification grievance process and the resulting backlog of approximately 120 cases as of May 2016. I shared these concerns a number of times with the former ADM (HR-Civ), and we exchanged a series of letters on the matter, dating back to 2012. I have also raised the issue as a concern in my annual report, as well as my intent to examine the matter more closely.

Our early enquiries revealed that the 80-day deadline for a written response - pursuant to Section 237 of the Public Service Labour Relations Act - was not being met in the majority of files handled by the Directorate Civilian Classification and Organization (DCCO). In fact, just last month we were advised that most files comprising the backlog were submitted between 2013 and 2015. It’s important to note that the DCCO considered the deadline to apply only once the grievance hearing occurred, not from the date the grievance was submitted. Despite some improvements to the process, it can still take several years before a grievance reaches the hearing stage.

As you are surely aware, a new classification grievance directive was issued by Treasury Board (TB) in July 2015. The revised directive places a greater emphasis upon accountability and compliance via increased TB oversight and control. It does not alter the timelines set out in the Public Service Labour Relations Regulations; however, it clearly states the expectation that prescribed timelines are respected.

When asked about the impact of the new directive on actual processing timelines in September 2015, staff at the DCCO responded that while the DCCO expects reductions in backlog and timelines generally, it was still too early to provide an assessment of the impact thus far.

Regardless, current delays are still a source of frustration for civilian employees and do not instill confidence that classification grievances will be resolved in a timely and fair manner.

In addition to highlighting these issues of concern, my purpose in writing to you is to advise of my intent to investigate the administration of classification grievances within the department. More specifically, I will be examining the process itself (within the context of the new directives), current and future resourcing plans at the DCCO, as well as the current backlog of files, and steps being taken to mitigate/resolve these matters.

In closing, I would appreciate a point of contact that would be made available to the investigation team. I would appreciate receiving your response as soon as possible.

Our Office will keep you informed of our progress and a draft copy of our report will be made available for your review prior to submission to the Minister.

Sincerely,

 

Gary Walbourne

Ombudsman

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