The country’s largest federal public service union says if a deal isn’t reached with the federal government by 9 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday, it will strike this Wednesday.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada says some 155,000 employees are prepared to walk off the job, including 35,000 workers from the Canada Revenue Agency.
Mediated contract negotiations between the union and the Treasury Board continued over the weekend in what the union described as the government’s final chance to reach a deal.
The biggest sticking point in the talks appears to be pay increases, as the union is calling for raises to keep up with the rising cost of living and historic inflation.
The government offered a roughly two per cent average wage increase each year over a five-year period, while the union has pushed for annual raises of 4.5 per cent.
The union also wants to put greater limits on contract work, more anti-racism training and provisions for remote work on the table.
Though some 35,000 federal public servants in the union are deemed essential workers, the strike mandate has raised concerns about how important government services that are already backlogged, like the processing of immigration and employment insurance applications, will function.
A strike would likely delay income tax and benefits returns, and the delivery of passports would be limited to Canadians in emergency or humanitarian situations. Other government departments would also be affected.
If the union decides to strike, it has indicated it may take a staggered approach so that some workers remain on the job at all times.
The public servants have been without a contract for nearly two years, and the union declared talks had reached an impasse in May 2022.
The Treasury Board of Canada released a statement last Wednesday saying there is a realistic path ahead that includes “wage increase proposals that align with an agreement already reached with one bargaining agent.” It said those proposals were recently approved for more than 90,000 Canadian Forces members.
In December, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier approved a new collective agreement with the Association of Canadian Financial Officers that included a salary increase of 11 per cent over four years.
Last month, Canadian Armed Forces members signed a new four-year deal with a compounded wage increase of 10.4 per cent.
The Canadian Labour Congress issued a statement in support of workers looking for a wage increase on Saturday, as the parties sat down for final talks.
“When the federal government lowers wages for its workers, it impacts all workers from every sector, whether they are public sector workers, private sector workers, unionized or non-unionized — these workers are also taking a hit, seeing their wages being pushed further down,” congress President Bea Bruske said in the statement.
—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press