OTTAWA – The federal government and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, (PSAC), are still at the bargaining table but with the announcement of a strike on Wed., April 19; and talks are at a stalemate.
The strike means 155,000 public servants will not be on the job. That number includes 120,000 Treasury Board Members. The strike will affect all kinds of services from passport services to tax returns.
A press release from the PSAC stated, “The cost of living has hit highs we haven’t seen in 40 years, and people are struggling. Every day, we see that our dollar doesn’t go as far at the grocery store or at the gas pump,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “Today, PSAC members are sending a clear message that they won’t be taken for granted, they won’t fall further behind, and they’re ready to fight for better.”
The press release continued, “The strike mandate follows nationwide strike votes that took place from Feb. 22 to April 11 and comes on the heels of the strike vote mandate announced last week for 35,000 PSAC-UTE members working at the Canada Revenue Agency. A strike by PSAC members working for the federal government would be the largest against any single employer in Canada’s history.
“Our members won’t take the decision to strike lightly. They know that a strike will be difficult for them and for the Canadians who depend on the services they provide,” said Aylward.
“But they’re exercising their bargaining power because they just can’t wait any longer. Their bills can’t wait. Their families can’t wait. None of us can.”
The PSAC is the largest federal union representing federal public service workers. This includes the workers responsible for doling out vital new financial aid programs like CERB and ensuring emergency business loans were up and running for Canadians during the pandemic. They’re also cleaners and cooks on military bases, clerks and maintenance workers, tradespeople, coast guard search and rescue teams, teachers, firefighters, and the people Canadians rely on to help process employment insurance, passport applications and immigration documents.
Negotiations between the PSAC and the Treasury Board have been going on since June of 2021. By May of 2022, the two sides were at an impasse.
Members of PSAC include 4,027 members working at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Parks Canada has another 4,070 members, Statistics Canada has 1.253 members, the RCMP has more than 1,000 civilian members, Canada Post has 1,396 members of PSAC who work in administration, the Canada Revenue Agency has 35,868 members from across Canada and the Treasury Board has 123,856 public service workers. Around 47,000 workers with the Canada Revenue Agency are considered essential and although in a legal strike position, will continue to report to work.
A press release from the Treasury Board of Canada stated, “The government has done everything it can to reach a deal and avoid disrupting the services that Canadians rely on. Despite some ongoing movement at the bargaining table on key issues by both sides, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has decided to proceed with a nation-wide general strike.
Our goal has always been to reach agreements that are fair and competitive for employees, and reasonable for taxpayers. While we recognize and respect the right to strike, a strike should always be a last resort.
The government has presented a fair, competitive offer to the PSAC and responded to all their demands. This includes a 9 per cent wage increase over three years, as well as proposals on other important PSAC priorities, such telework, shift premiums, improved leave with pay for family-related responsibilities, and measures to support employment equity and diversity and inclusion.”
The PSAC in their press release outlined some of the negotiating challenges: “For nearly two years, the government has dragged their feet and refused to address our key priorities — not the least of which is fair wages that protect workers from skyrocketing inflation. Instead, they tabled serious concessions that impact our rights by weakening job security and access to leave to care for our families.
Treasury Board’s insulting wage offer — averaging 2.06 per cent per year from 2021–25 — is completely out of touch with the soaring cost of living across Canada and asks workers to take a big pay cut when they need a raise most.
Other key issues include: job security, remote work, systemic racism in the workplace, work-life balance, and contracting out and privatization.
Joseph Morin is the Editor of the Eastern Ontario AgriNews, and the Record. He is, despite years of practice, determined to eventually play the guitar properly. He has served the Eastern Ontario community as a news editor, and journalist for the past 25 years with the Iroquois Chieftain, Kemptville Advance, West Carleton Review, and Ottawa Carleton Review in Manotick. He has never met a book he did not like.