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Détermination des salaires dans la fonction publique fédérale américaine : applicabilité au Québec

Luc Bessette


Cet article cherche à cerner des relations du travail dans les secteurs public et parapublic, à tracer un parallèle avec le système québécois et à y voir les possibilités d'application.


Salary Determination in the US Federal Service: Applicability to Québec

The purpose of this article is to identify the characteristics of the American federal pay system, compare it with the Québec System and assess the possibilities of application.

The 1964 Labour Code gave the same bargaining advantages to both the employees in Quebec's public sector and the employees in Quebec's private sector. In addition, the right to strike was granted to all employees in the public sector except municipal police officers and firemen, peace officers and members of the Québec Police Force. However, the Cabinet retained the right to institute a commission of inquiry if it believed than an impending or existing strike could endanger public health or security and, through the Attorney General, to request a judge of the Superior Court to issue a temporary injunction to prevent or end a strike (sec. 99).

In the American federal civil service, the right of association and the right to make representations, individually or collectively, to Congress, was granted as early as 1902 under the Lloyd-La Follette Act. Until 1961, the American Congress had always excluded federal employees from labour legislation and refused to give them the right to engage in collective bargaining and the right to strike.

In spite of several amendments to the legislation since 1962, Congress has always jealously guarded its authority over salary determination and working conditions, but the Federal Pay Comparability Act of 1970 meanwhile provided for consultation with the unions for determining salary rates.

During the last two negotiations, the Québec Government used the principle of the « average salary paid in Québec » in defining its salary policy. This principle is not included in the legislation. During the last round of negotiations, it was the subject of a declaration by the Minister of the Public Service Department at the7e Conference sur les benefices sociaux à Québec and was reiterated in a press release on the progress of negotiations.

In the United States, the principle of salary comparison between the private sector and the American federal civil service is found in the legislation.

The Federal Salary Reform Act of 1962, the Federal salary Reform Act of 1967 and the Federal Pay Comparability Act of 1970 all provided for salary determination mechanisms and the unions' right to recommend salary rates.

These acts stipulate that salary rates in the federal civil service must be comparable to those in the private sector.

The principle of comparison was included in legislation governing blue-collar-workers as early as 1861. Before 1968, there was no coordination between government departments and agencies; consequently, comparable rates for similar functions in a given geographical area could not be set.

In July 1968, the Coordinated Federal Wage System replaced the numerous revision boards by a central government agency. The system gave unions representation on investigation and salary determination teams and committees.

The previous section implies the creation of a neutral body which makes research data available to the two negotiating parties.

Today the unions and the employer in Québec each have their own research services and conduct their own surveys. The data obtained are used to support offers and demands at the bargaining table and are not made available to both parties.

During the past decade, the American federal civil service has set up mechanisms to determine the salaries of white-collar and blue-collar workers which involve gathering data on salaries in consultation with the unions.

The Federal Salary Reform Act of 1962 suggested that there be an annual survey of salaries paid in the private sector in order to determine the salaries of federal white-collar workers performing similar duties. Persuant to the Federal Pay Comparability Act of 1970, the results of this annual survey became the basis used to determine the salaries of white-collar workers.

In the case of blue-collar workers, the Coordinated Federal Wage System gave unions representation on the salary survey team and entrusted a single government agency with the analysis and interpretation of statistics.

Therefore, the American federal civil service has brought new elements to the discussion on the definition of a labour relations system in the Québec public and para-public sectors. One should not, however, expect these to be magic solutions which can be copied and applied rapidly and indiscriminately. American institutions and democratic processes are the result of continuous evolution in a social and labour climate which differs greatly from that of Québec and their success rests to a large extent on this fact.