Labour dispute between federal government and workers heats up

Saying contract talks with the federal government are stuck in neutral over wages, the union that represents workers at the Treasury Board Secretariat plans to ask 120,000 members if they’re willing to walk off the job to back their demands.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada will launch nationwide strike votes for workers in its Program and Administrative Services, Operational Services, Technical Services, and Education and Library Science bargaining groups on February 22. It ends on April 19.

The bargaining groups are part of the Treasury Board Secretariat, a central government agency crucial to the continued operation of the federal government. It could impact many of the services on which Canadians rely.

PSAC announced strike votes for 35,000 members at the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this month. Those votes start on January 31 and finish on April 7, just as Canadians file their income taxes.

The union declared an impasse with the federal government last May after more than a year of negotiations. The government offered a 2.06 per cent increase in wages, but PSAC said it was “completely out of touch with record high inflation over the past two years.”

Mediation in September failed to reach an agreement, and Public Interest Commission hearings last month went nowhere.

Now the union is waiting for the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board to release a report this winter with non-binding recommendations to break the impasse. Once it does, and if the members vote yes, PSAC will be in a legal strike position.

“Everyone deserves fair pay and safer workplaces,” said PSAC national president Chris Aylward. “Wages are stalled, the cost of living is rising, and workers are being left behind. Workers can’t wait.”

The union is also seeking protection in the workplace from harassment, racism and discrimination, ends the practice of outsourcing public sector jobs, and offers better work-life balance.

“Federal public service workers have been here when Canadians needed them most — seeing us through one crisis after another,” added Aylward. “Now the government needs to be here for workers because while they stall on making things right, we all pay the price.”

PSAC represents nearly 230,000 workers across Canada.

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