Published April 18, 2023

With no deal with feds in hand, union says federal workers will strike

155,000 federal public servants will walk off the job, including 35,000 Revenue Canada Agency workers

By Sarah Ritchie in Ottawa

Canada's largest federal public-service union says that some 155,000 workers will go on strike across the country after talks with the government failed to produce an agreement before a Tuesday night deadline.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said strike action would begin Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. EDT., calling it one of the largest strikes in Canadian history.

Picket lines will be set up at more than 250 locations. 

Chris Aylward, the union's national president, said the bargaining teams would remain at the table throughout the strike.

"We are still a ways apart, but we're staying at the table because we're still hopeful and our goal is still to get a tentative agreement," Aylward said during a brief press conference Tuesday night.

"We will remain at the table until we reach a tentative agreement if the employer is prepared to stay at the table as well."

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said in a statement late Tuesday that the government has done everything it could to get a deal, but the demands put forth by the PSAC bargaining team are unaffordable and would severely affect the government’s ability to deliver services to Canadians.

The bargaining groups involve some 155,000 federal public servants, including 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers.

Mediated contract negotiations between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the government began in early April and continued through the weekend in what the union describes as the government's last chance to reach a deal. 

Wage increases have been top of mind at the bargaining table, and the union has also pushed for work-from-home options to be written into a new collective agreement.

Negotiations over the new contract first began in June 2021, with the union declaring an impasse in May 2022 and both parties filing labour complaints since then.

The union called a strike vote in January and it announced that members had voted in favour of a strike mandate early last week.

"Our members are pumped," Aylward said, adding "They're prepared to fight for a good, decent, fair collective agreement."

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier told reporters Tuesday afternoon that she was optimistic a deal would be struck by the deadline.

"We have a competitive and fair wage on the table and also that is reasonable to Canadians. Therefore, we're going to continue to work hard until we get to a deal," said Fortier.

Her office had not responded to a request for comment about the strike at the time of publication. 

The Treasury Board released a statement on Monday afternoon saying that it offered the union a nine per cent raise over three years on Sunday, on the recommendation of the third-party Public Interest Commission.

But the union has pushed for annual raises of 4.5 per cent over the next three years, arguing the increases are necessary to keep pace with inflation and the cost of living. 

It has also kept issues such as greater limits on contract work, more anti-racism training and provisions for remote work on the table.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement that his party stands in solidarity with the union. 

"For two years, PSAC members have been voicing their legitimate demands for fair wages, job security, and a safe working environment," Singh said. "Yet, the government continued to drag its feet and has provoked this crisis."

Both the union and the government have warned that disruptions are likely to affect a number of federal services, including what it called a complete halt of the tax season, slowdowns at the border and disruptions to EI, immigration and passport applications. 

The strike includes nearly a third of all federal public servants. 

Banner image: Public Service Alliance of Canada National President Chris Aylward speaks during a news conference at union headquarters, Monday, April 17, 2023 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2023.

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