PSAC says Treasury Board won’t budge in strike talks

The union representing 155,000 striking federal employees says the federal government isn’t actively working to end an eight-day-old strike.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) held a rally Wednesday afternoon on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, providing an update on negotiations. PSAC National President Chris Aylward said despite the union agreeing to shift its position on wages, the Treasury Board has not done the same.

Aylward said an email was sent from the Treasury Board to the bargaining team Tuesday night, in which it was stated that it was standing firm.

“They still have nine percent on the table over three years,” said Aylward to a chorus of boos from picketing union members. “And they’re telling us that we have to move. That’s not how bargaining works, Madame [Treasury Board President Mona] Fortier. Once we make our pass, then the employer’s supposed to come back and make a pass. They did not do that last night.”

Aylward, in a media availability broadcast on Facebook Live, once again called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for help.

“The prime minister knows exactly what it takes to settle this dispute,” said Aylward. “The prime minister has one of two choices to make. He can either get involved personally and help settle this dispute, or he can turn his back on the workers who are striking, predominantly women making $40,000 to $65,000 a year. If the prime minister can turn his back on these striking members, he can turn his back on every single worker in this country.”

PSAC members have been without a contract since June 2021 and walked off the job on the night of April 18.

Wages appear to be the main sticking point, with the union calling for raises to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of living.

The strike has impacted business with the Canada Revenue Agency, with potential delays in processing income tax and benefit returns. Passport services from Employment and Social Development Canada, client assistance with employment insurance, social insurance and Canada Pension Plan (CPP), and old age security through Service Canada are also impacted.

The Treasury Board of Canada said earlier this week that it has been working around the clock to reach an agreement with the PSAC.

“Agreements that deliver wage increases for all employees represented, as soon as possible. Agreements that respect the work of public servants and are in the public interest,” said Fortier in an open letter published Monday. “This round of negotiating has been a heavy lift for both parties. The union came to the table with over 570 demands, and we have managed to reach agreement on most of them during our negotiations, in particular over the past three weeks of mediation.”

Fortier said the Treasury Board has agreed to take a closer look at the current directive on working remotely to address doing business after COVID-19. Fortier also pointed out that the contracting out of work is being reduced under the current federal budget, and that seniority would be given more consideration after merit when it comes to adjusting the size of the workforce.

—with files from Ruby Sweeney

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