Union secures mandate to hold largest strike in Canada’s history

Trudeau promises to 'engage in constructive way' at bargaining table

Union secures mandate to hold largest strike in Canada’s history

The largest federal union representing federal public service workers has received a go signal to hold the largest strike against any single employer in Canada’s history.

“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,” says Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada (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 union – which collectively represents more than 120,000 federal government workers employed by Treasury Board – received the mandate from members in the Program and Administrative Services, Operational Services, Technical Services, and Education and Library Science bargaining groups.

About 35,000 workers represented by the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) and PSAC will be in a legal strike position April 14, PSAC recently announced.

Negotiations between PSAC and Treasury Board began in June 2021, but reached an impasse in May 2022. The two sides met again during mediation in September and Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearings in December.

In February, a Public Interest Commission (PIC) report offered a pathway to make gains for workers. However, that fell short of PSAC’s demands to reach a fair contract that keeps up with the rising cost of living, according to the union.

PSAC wants a 13.5 raise over three years. Until the talks, Treasury Board’s best offer was 8.5 per cent over four years, according to a report from Policy Options.

In December 2022, PSAC announced it is filing a complaint around the federal government’s insistence on having hybrid work.

“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,” says 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.”

PSAC represents 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.

Prime minister weighs in

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government recognizes the “incredible work” public servants do.

“On the collective bargaining that’s going on right now, it’s really important that that happens at the collective bargaining table,” Trudeau says, according to a Global News report.

“That’s where the best and the right deals get done, and that’s why we’re going to continue to engage in a constructive way at the bargaining table.”

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