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Description found in Archives

National Joint Council of the Public Service of Canada fonds [textual record]. 



Place of creation


3.8 m of textual records

Added language of material: French

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records for the years 1944-1994 documenting activity of the Council as a consultative body mandated to promote the efficiency of the Public Service and well-being of those employed within it through the negotiation of government-wide agreements reached on a consensus basis. The records also document the activity of working subcommittees responsible for the review and monitoring of certain directives reflecting negotiated agreements through the Council and certain boards that have acted as trustees since 1987 for the benefit plans administered by private sector contractors for health care, dental care and disability insurance. The subjects negotiated in the form of directives or agreements include such matters as foreign service directives, the Employee Assistance program, travel, isolate posts, office technology, government housing, workforce adjustment, physical working conditions, occupational safety and health standards, official languages, and employment equity. The records predating 1966 include such matters as leave, holidays, prevailing rates, night differential, classification, superannuation, union check off and other matters relating to working conditions and conditions of employment.

Textual records
32: Restricted by law
Archival reference no.

Terms of use

The copyright was assigned to the National Archives under written agreement with the National Joint Council 12 April 1999.
Restricted by creator: the restrictions are provided in the Memorandum of agreement between the NJC and the National Archives, 12 April 1999. The restriction is to ensure that personal information in the records is treated on the same principles as it would be if the records were covered by the Privacy Act. The material must technically be reviewed before research is permitted. Consult the portfolio archivist responsible. The archivist will ascertain whether the records are sensitive in regards to personal information and/or consult the NJC Secretariat as to whether they will waive the restriction based on an explanation of the nature of the research.

Finding aids are available. See lower level descriptions and accession records in ArchiviaNet (the NA website). (Other)

Biography / Administrative history

The National Joint Council (NJC) was created as a consultative body on 16 May 1944 by order-in-council P.C. 3676 and its first constitution was comprised of a Treasury Board Minute, 272382B, 8 March 1945. It has always remained an autonomous consultative body that constitutes an organizational hybrid entity composed of equal representation between the government as employer (senior officials from various departments with Treasury Board providing a lead role) and the public servants as represented by their various associations. The purpose of the Council is to provide a forum for discussion as between the Government of Canada as employer and public servants as represented by their Unions (or since 1967 certified bargaining agents) in order to facilitate mutual agreements relating to the administration of the Civil Service of Canada. The basic mandate remains substantially what it was in 1944 - to improve the efficiency of the public service and the well-being of those employed in it through consultation. The basic operating principle has remained the same as well; agreement and action is by mutual consent and negotiation of consensus without any mechanism for redress or third party intervention should the government of the day reject the Council's recommendations. The Council has its own internal grievance recourse procedure applicable to the provisions of any agreement negotiated through the Council.

The constitution and make up of the Council changed fundamentally in 1967 by virtue of the staff side being reconstituted to reflect the formal bargaining agents set up under the provisions of the Public Service Staff Relations Act (PSSRA). Thereafter the consolidated and revised PSSRA has defined the basic parameters within which the Council membership has operated and amendments to the Act in the mid-1990s have made grievance decisions of the Council subject to appeal to the Public Service Staff Relations Board. Indirectly the structure of staff bargaining agents is governed by the prerogatives of the Government as employer in regard to classification of the Public Service (which in turn governs the basis of bargaining units). The constitution of the Council was revised by order-in-council, P. C. 1966-37/2106, 10 Nov 1966 and finally approved with revisions on 30 May 1967 as a cabinet conclusion (RG 2, Cabinet Conclusions, vol 6323). The draft constitution was circulated to Cabinet as Cab. Doc. 307/67 of 4 May 1967. There have been numerous subsequent amendments to the constitution by order-in-council but none that materially changed its structure or essential character.

The Council came into existence when the future and stability of labour relations in the federal public sector were uncertain and as a concession to proposals which federal employee organizations had been advocating for a quarter of a century. The National Joint Council was originally designed to create a supplementary mechanism in staff relations in the federal Civil Service at a time when war imperatives were leading the federal government to encourage consultative mechanisms in private sector labour relations and in anticipation of extending collective bargaining rights to private sector workers.

The National Joint Council may be characterized as a minor but distinct institution in the field of federal public service staff relations practice, 1944 to the present, which has played a contributing role in many major innovations and improvements in the conditions of public service employment and the human resources management function. It was modeled after British Whitley Councils which were implemented a generation earlier, in 1919, at the end of the First World War. The Council constitutes a distinctive Canadian institutional experiment; it is modeled on a British institution from which, in operation, it departs significantly and for which there is no institutional counter-part whatsoever in the United States. The Canadian National Joint Council has always operated exclusively in the sphere of the federal Civil Service and on a basis where virtually everything it recommended, no matter how mundane, was subject to cabinet review (i.e. it had no executive authority). Most of the concrete results of its activity are attributed to the constituent entities out of which it is created and many of the results fall into the category of intangibles.

Since 1967 the official side has represented not only the government as employer as represented by the Treasury Board but also separate employers under the Public Service Staff Relations Act such as the National Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, and the Auditor General. The certification of some staff associations into bargaining agents in 1967 resulted in a huge transformation of the staff side. The staff side has evolved since then in response to the structure and composition of certified bargaining agents (from 12 in 1967 to 17 as of 1998). At its origin, only a minority of public servants were in fact represented on the Council (as only a minority were unionized, about 33000 employees in 6-8 employee organizations as of 1944-45). With the advent of collective bargaining in 1967, the representation of public servants through the council was greatly increased (to over 200,000 employees by the early 1970s).

The office of General Secretary has been supported by a small administrative secretariat since 1978. The internal organization of the Council has evolved gradually to include multiple sub-committees organized by major function or subject focus which do much of the detailed work on a delegated basis, as well as a series of Boards created in more recent years (1987-1997) related to employee benefit plans. These Boards serve as the primary liaison and recourse mechanism in relation to the private sector insurance providers contracted to administer the plans.

After 1967, the scope of the Council's mandate excluded rates of pay, standard hours of work, leave entitlements and related conditions of employment as well as classification and staffing (which had been excluded before 1966 as well). The Council, however, quickly emerged as an essential and often effective adjunct to collective bargaining. At the inauguration of collective bargaining in 1967, there were over 80 certified bargaining units representing a still complex set of job classifications. In these circumstances, the National Joint Council became the mechanism whereby the government and the unions could rationalize the collective bargaining process by referring matters of a broader application to the Council for a negotiated service-wide agreement (which could be incorporated wholesale after 1978 into collective agreements and thereby make the NJC results even more invisible). Such procedures have been established for travel regulations, relocation of employment, isolated posts regulations, commuting assistance, physical working conditions, and health and disability insurance plans. The very first instance of such activity was initiated in 1968 in the context of contract negotiations between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and Treasury Board. There are now a total of ten such functional sub-committees administering 12 policy directives or regulations (including the workforce adjustment directive, and employment equity provisions) and 16 occupational health and safety standards (all subject to formal and timely cyclical review) and three boards of trustees for benefit plans. This role as an umbrella for a Board of Trustees began with the Dental Plan in 1987 and was expanded to the Health Plan in 1991 and the Disability Plan in 1997.

The role which the National Joint Council played in relation to the Workforce Adjustment Directives illustrates how the Council may occasionally act as an extremely effective forum through which Unions and the Treasury Board as employer negotiate real and substantial protections of worker entitlements in the context of successive downsizing initiatives. Notably the Council played a significant role in developing details and procedures and securing buy-in for the renewed and radically revised program of Official Languages inaugurated in 1973 under Treasury Board auspices, a role publicly acknowledged by the government of the day in the House of Commons.

Throughout its life, National Joint Council activities, accomplishments, and setbacks chronicle significant issues in federal public sector staff relations, the subtleties of employer-employee relations and the ambiguities in inter-union solidarity and competition.

Additional information

Source of title
Title is based on subordinate legislation under which the National Joint Council was created: various orders-in-council and an original Treasury Board minute. P.C. 3676, 16 May 1944, Treasury Board Minute 272382B, 8 March 1945, Order-in-council P.C. 1966-37/2106, 10 November 1966 and cabinet conclusion 30 May 1967, based on Cabinet Document 317/67. The French version of the title is based on Order-in-Council, P.C. 1980-2413, 5 September 1980.

Further accruals are expected.

Subject heading