PSAC president ‘hopeful’ that a deal will be struck soon, reiterates call for Trudeau to weigh in

The president of the country’s largest public service union says he is “hopeful” that a deal will be reached with the federal government soon amid the continuing strike of more than 155,000 federal public servants.

Speaking to CTV News Channel on Sunday, Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), reiterated his previous call for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get involved.

“We still believe that the prime minister, at this point, should be weighing in, because we know that the strike is having an impact on the economy,” he said. “Certainly we’re trying to have the least amount of impact on Canadians as possible, but certainly our members—if we don’t reach a deal this evening—our members are back on the picket lines tomorrow, unfortunately.”

Aylward originally called for Trudeau to weigh in during a media availability on Saturday, saying the union had not heard back from the federal government for two days.

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier responded to this on Twitter, claiming the federal government had tried to table a counter-proposal Saturday, during which time the union held a press conference instead, before both parties met.

This isn’t quite what happened, according to Aylward.

“On Thursday night, we gave the employer a comprehensive package that we thought could get us to a deal,” he said. “They told us Friday morning, that they would respond sometime on Friday. Friday came and went.”

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, having still not heard back from the federal government, Aylward said, they decided to schedule a media availability for 1:15 p.m. He claims when the Treasury Board discovered this press conference was coming, they “tried to basically force us into a meeting at 1 o’clock to avert the media availability.”

The Treasury Board is currently offering a nine per cent pay increase to be doled out over three years for the affected employees, but PSAC is pushing for a 13.5 per cent raise over three years, as well as remote work protections.

“If they really want to get to a deal, then they have to start taking this seriously, and start responding to these issues at a more timely basis, basically, and not taking 30 and 35 hours to respond,” Aylward said.

Despite the hiccups in negotiations, which Fortier characterized Sunday as “kicking and screaming,” Aylward says morale is high among union members.

“We had over 100,000 members on picket lines last week, and the spirit and the morale of the membership is very good,” he said.

“All of our bargaining teams, four Treasury Board bargaining teams and our CRA bargaining team as well, are all here in Ottawa. We all meet face to face. There are some Treasury Board folks here as well, at the hotel, and we are working with a mediator.”

He acknowledged that there may need to be more movement on both sides to come to an agreement, but said there are certain core components they’re seeking to stay strong on.

“That’s why it’s called negotiations—there has to be compromises on both sides, and we’re seeing that,” he said. “We’re remaining hopeful that we can get to a deal, but the government has to come back to the table, certainly, with a mandate that’s in line with what we’re seeking, especially in respect to wages, and trying to ensure that our members stay somewhat in line with the rate of inflation.

“We’re apart on a couple of the key issues, but we’re going to continue working at it, and as I said, we’ll stay here, our goal is to get to a deal. That’s what our goal has been since day one.”

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