Demystifying Essential Services Identification Codes for Treasury Board Employees

Are you a Treasury Board employee and have received an Essential Services Notice indicating that you’re Code 1, Code 2, or Code 3? No idea what it all means? We’ve prepared a short explanation that’ll help you decipher these codes and how they might affect you if labour actions occur in the workplace between your union and the Employer.

First, a little background information.

  1. An essential service is a service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.
  2. Services should be identified as essential where there are reasonable grounds to believe that human life or public safety would suffer if a work stoppage interrupted the duties of these employees.
  3. Examples include essential business lines such as Border Safety/Security, Income and Social Security, Search and Rescue, and National Security.

An Essential Services Agreement (or ESA) is an agreement between the Employer and the Bargaining agent that identifies:

  1. The types of positions in the bargaining unit that are necessary for the Employer to provide essential services;
  2. The number of those positions that are necessary for these purposes; and
  3. The specific positions that are necessary for that purpose.

Once an ESA is reached, positions identified as essential services are assigned numeric codes (1, 2, or 3). These are the codes we are demystifying.

CODE 1Full-Time – Essential position

Full-Time alternate:

position whose incumbent would serve as an alternate to a CODE 1 (or more).



position whose incumbent is required to perform the duties when specific conditions are met and agreed to by the parties (e.g. essential at certain period of the year / circumstances).

Identification of essential employees at picket lines.

If you are an essential employee, you must present yourself to the picket/strike captain along with your Essential Services Notice letter (in either hard copy or electronic copy) before you are permitted to cross the picket line.

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