Published May 4, 2023

Canada Revenue Agency, union reach tentative deal, ending strike of 35,000 workers

There are signs of resistance

By Laura Osman in Ottawa

The public-sector union representing Canada Revenue Agency employees struck a tentative deal with the federal government Thursday, ending a strike of 35,000 workers just after the tax season wrapped up.

The announcement of a prospective agreement came in the wee hours of Thursday morning, three days after the government and Public Service Alliance of Canada came to separate deals that ended the walk-out of more than 120,000 other public servants.

CRA employees represented by PSAC's Union of Taxation Employees were off the job for 15 days in total, during which Monday's tax-filing deadline came and went.

The union told members to return to work on May 4 by 11:30 a.m. ET at the latest.

In a statement, PSAC said the tentative deal includes wage increases totalling 12.6 per cent compounded over the life of the agreement from 2021-2024, as well as an additional fourth year in the agreement that protects workers from inflation. 

The tentative agreement also includes a pensionable $2,500 one-time lump sum payment that represents an additional 3.6 per cent of salary for the average member.

In its own release, the CRA said it and PSAC reached a tentative settlement on telework outside of the collective agreement. It said both agreed to undertake a review of the directive on virtual work arrangements, and to create a panel to advise the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner regarding employee concerns.

The union threatened earlier Wednesday that it would plan to send its members to disrupt a Liberal party convention in Ottawa on Thursday if the employer didn't table a "fair" deal. 

The separate agreements that PSAC negotiated with the government included largely the same terms. 

But CRA workers had pushed for even larger wage increases than their colleagues in other parts of the government. Earlier in the negotiations, the tax employees' union had sought a 20.5 per cent increase over a three-year period.

The bargaining groups' 155,000 union members are expected to vote on whether to accept the deals in the next few weeks.

There are already signs of resistance.

The group that represents workers at Service Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has called on its members to vote against the deal.

In a letter to its members, the Canada Employment Immigration Union said the tentative deal doesn't increase wages enough and doesn't enshrine work-from-home provisions in the collective agreements. 

Local executives from across the country agree the bargaining groups should return to the negotiation table, said Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president for the union.

"The response that we're getting from our members is that they are not satisfied with this contract and they also share our view that they want to vote against it," she said in an interview Thursday.

PSAC president Chris Aylward said in a statement Thursday that it will be up to the membership to decide what happens next.

"It's a democratic process and members have the right to vote on their respective agreements," he said. 

If members vote against the deal, that would open the door to another potential strike, though workers would not automatically walk off the job.

Employees returning to work at the Canada Revenue Agency are likely to face a huge backlog of calls, Marc Brière, the president of the union that represents taxation employees, speculated on Wednesday.

"Our call centres were practically closed, except for the essential services," Brière said at a press conference at PSAC headquarters in Ottawa before the deal was reached.

That means some two million calls went unanswered ahead of the tax filing deadline, he said. 

Banner image:  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2023.

— With files from Nojoud Al Mallees.

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