Remote members must join striking workers in picket lines, says PSAC

Were federal employees told to continue working in event of strike?

Remote members must join striking workers in picket lines, says PSAC

About 155,000 public-sector workers could walk off the job as early as this week, and even those who are working remotely have been tasked to picket.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has told federal employees who work from home that they will have to join co-workers on the picket line during a strike.

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

Some departments and managers are sharing information that encourages PSAC members to continue working in the event of a strike, according to the union. 

“This is a union-busting tactic that aims to undermine our efforts to secure a fair agreement for all workers — including wages that keep up with the rising cost of living and don’t force you to take a pay cut,” it says.

The union warned that doing any remote work would constitute crossing the picket line. Any work from home, such as reading office e-mails at a kitchen table, would be considered a violation of the strike action, PSAC told members.

“Any member who works during a strike, including working remotely, betrays the entire bargaining unit,” the union said.

“Crossing a picket line, whether in person or remotely, weakens our bargaining position and can cause the strike to last longer or result in a deal that’s less than workers deserve. It could also have long-term impacts on the working relationships between the coworkers who held the line and made sacrifices to get a good deal for everyone, and those who sided with the employer.”

Tracking picket lines

However, tracking those who are joining the picket lines may be challenging in the current situation, according to Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council from 2016 to 2019.

“What does a picket line look like in 2023?” he said in The Globe and Mail’s report. “The images that people are posting – union stewards in yellow vests standing by the doors of a building with a clipboard taking names – doesn’t really apply to a lot of modern workplaces.”

“How is management going to take attendance and decide who gets paid and who gets pay docked, and how will the union keep track of who went into work?”

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

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