Interpretation Article 21 Registration Fees Applied Science and Engineering Group - October 2001
Recently, a number of departments, as well as the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, sought clarification from the Employer as to the interpretation of Article 21, Registration Fees, of the Applied Science and Engineering (AP) agreement which reads as follows:
“The Employer shall reimburse an employee for payment of membership or registration fees to an organization or governing body where membership is a requirement for the continuation of the performance of the duties of the employee’s position.”
More precisely the following questions were asked:
- Since there are both languages in the AP collective agreement and a Treasury Board policy on this issue, which one applies?
- Does the policy still apply to employees covered by the agreement?
- Who decides that membership is a requirement?
- Can management require an employee to be eligible for membership in a professional organization without actually requiring the employee to belong to the organization in question?
As it is often the case, the answers to these questions are deceptively simple as far as principles are concerned, but tend to get more complex when looking at individual cases. Nonetheless, the following is provided as guidance to departments who have to implement the AP collective agreement:
The collective agreement supersedes the Treasury Board policy when the policy contradicts or restricts the meaning of the collective agreement.
For example, the language of the agreement does not put any limitations on the criteria to be used to decide if membership is a requirement, whereas the policy lists a series of criteria to determine if membership fees shall be reimbursed. Since the policy is more restrictive than the negotiated agreement, the agreement prevails.
The policy still applies to employees when it does not contradict or restricts the agreement.
For example, the policy specifies that in certain circumstances it is only the Deputy who has the authority to approve memberships. As long as this is interpreted to mean that it is the Deputy who will decide if membership is a requirement, it can be said the policy simply provides an administrative procedure and does not contradict the collective agreement. However, once it is determined membership is a requirement, the policy cannot be interpreted to mean that the Deputy has the authority to deny payment of the fees.
- Departments are responsible for deciding if membership in a professional organization is a requirement.
- Requiring employees only to be eligible for membership in a professional organization is a legitimate practice in certain circumstances. However it should not be used as a mean to avoid the obligations set out in the collective agreement under Article 21.
For more information on Article 21 of the AP agreement, please call the Treasury Board negotiator, Daniel Langevin, at 952-2968 or e-mail him at Langevin.Daniel@tbs-sct.gc.ca. For information regarding another agreement, please call the negotiator in charge of that agreement.
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