No deal yet on public service strike as union, government trade accusations of foot-dragging

The union representing tens of thousands of federal public servants across the country gave an update on the situation Saturday afternoon, saying the strike would continue and accusing the government of delays.

Treasury Board says there is no time for 'stalling and misinformation' from PSAC

A striking worker carries a union flag across a crosswalk.

The union representing tens of thousands of federal public servants currently off the job says its strike will continue, as it accused the federal government of incompetence and delays during negotiations.

But in a statement on Saturday afternoon, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier's office struck back at the union, saying its leadership was being inflexible when it came to negotiations and was responsible for delays of its own. It called on the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) to "bargain in good faith."

"We are not here to play games. We are here to get a deal. Our employees and the public they serve expect both parties to work hard at the bargaining table. There is no time, nor tolerance for stalling and misinformation," the government statement said.

The back and forth on Saturday represented a ratcheting up of rhetoric on the fourth day of a national strike for more than 155,000 federal public servants who are members of PSAC.

Over the course of the strike, which began at 12:01 am on Wednesday, picket lines formed across the country while some government services — including income tax, passports and immigration — were disrupted.

PSAC national president Chris Aylward told reporters on Saturday that his union had sent a "comprehensive" proposal to the Treasury Board, which is the formal employer for the striking workers.

He said the Treasury Board had responded on Friday that it would deliver an answer on a singular issue, relating to seniority and layoffs.

Aylward said the pace of the response meant the government was now responsible for delays in negotiations. "This screams of the incompetence of Mona Fortier as the president of the Treasury Board, and her team," he said.

"I've been involved in this union a long time, I've never seen a round of bargaining like this — the disrespect at the table from Treasury Board and from this government."

Aylward also said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had not contributed to progress in the negotiations, and he urged him to become directly involved.

Strike will continue over the weekend

In its own statement, Fortier's office countered that it had attempted to discuss the PSAC proposal on Friday, but the union could not be reached. The statement said the government intended to present a new proposal early Saturday afternoon, but after setting a meeting PSAC, had then cancelled.

"While our negotiators and our offer waited, Mr. Aylward chose instead to go on television to complain he had not received it," the statement said.

The government added that talks had resumed after PSAC's press conference.

Sharon DeSousa, the union's national executive vice-president, confirmed that the strike will continue over the weekend for those federal workers who would normally be scheduled to work.

"They will do whatever they need to do to get a fair contract," she said.

Two PSAC groups are striking: a larger Treasury Board group of more than 120,000 workers across several government departments and agencies, and a smaller tax group of more than 35,000 workers at the Canada Revenue Agency.

About 110,000 to 120,000 PSAC members were eligible to walk off the job after factoring out staff doing work designated as essential, such as employment insurance or pensions.

How did we get here?

Contracts for both groups expired in 2021. Negotiations between the federal government and PSAC's two groups began in 2021, but the union declared an impasse with each unit last year.

PSAC had previously asked for a 4.5 per cent raise each year for 2021, 2022 and 2023.

The most recent public offer from the government to each group was a nine per cent raise over three years — a total that matched recommendations from the third-party Public Interest Commission, which is required by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board to help parties reach a deal.

Aylward confirmed on Saturday that wages, remote work and the role of seniority when it comes to layoffs remain the three key points of contention in negotiations, though other issues are also up for discussion.

The PSAC leader also said the union had enough money to continue the job action.

"I'm not concerned about funds," he said. "That's not an issue, for the labour movement nor for PSAC."

CBC Newsletters

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Credit belongs to :

Check Also

Is it ethical for dietitian influencers to take money for posts? Not everyone agrees

Some registered dietitians in Canada have taken up the influencer business model of sponsored content …