PSAC workers return to picket lines for day 6 of strike action

More than 150,000 federal workers will return to the picket lines in Ottawa and across Canada today, after weekend contract talks failed to produce a new deal to end one of the largest strikes in Canadian history.

It is day six of the strike by Public Service Alliance of Canada members working in Treasury Board and at the Canada Revenue Agency, which is affecting several government services including passport and immigration applications and tax returns.

The PSAC website shows picket lines will be set up at several locations in the Ottawa-Gatineau area on Monday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.:

  • Treasury Board headquarters at 90 Elgin Street
  • The Prime Minister’s Office on Wellington Street (picket 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Tunney’s Pasture
  • Treasury Board President Mona Fortier’s office on Montreal Road
  • The Canada Post building on Heron Road
  • Liberal MP Marie-France Lalonde’s office on Centrum Boulevard
  • Liberal MP Greg Fergus riding office on Promenade du Portage in Gatineau
  • Liberal MP Steve McKinnon’s office on Boul. de l’hopital in Gatineau

Pickets will also be set up at other locations across Canada. The Canadian Press reported the union plans to ramp up its strike by moving picket lines to strategic locations such as ports. 

There were no picket lines set up in Ottawa and across the country over the weekend.

Negotiators for the union and Treasury Board returned to the bargaining table over the weekend as the two sides pointed the finger of blame at the other for poor communication and the slow pace of contract talks. 

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to be able to get a deal,” Chris Aylward, PSAC national president, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“I’m still hopeful that a deal is achievable and that we’re going to get our members back to work. We’re apart on a couple of the key issues but we’re going to continue working at it.”

Aylward has said the main issues in the negotiations are wages, hybrid work arrangements and job security in relation to layoffs.

In a letter to union members Sunday evening, Aylward reported “some progress” in contract talks over the weekend, “but we’re not there yet.”

“I can report that at the Treasury Board common issues table, we made some headway on remote work language, and both sides have moved in order to get closer to a resolution on wage increases,” Aylward wrote.

“At the CRA bargaining table, talks continue but without a new mandate from the employer, things haven’t moved much further. 

“So we’re not at the finish line yet, but I know that we can get to a fair deal for all 155,000 PSAC members thanks to the strong strike mandate you’ve delivered and the incredible solidarity you’ve shown from coast to coast to coast.”

Aylward’s letter ended, “see you on the picket lines on Monday!”

PSAC has asked for a 4.5 per cent raise in each year of a new three-year contract, while Treasury Board has offered a nine per cent raise over three years.

On Saturday, Aylward called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get involved in the talks, because PSAC had not heard back from the Treasury Board after presenting a “comprehensive package” two days prior.

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier responded with a statement on Twitter, saying the union was “unreachable” when the government tried to meet on Friday.

“We’ve been in mediation for three weeks, we’ve been at the table for three weeks,” Fortier told CTV’s Question Period with Vassy Kapelos on Sunday. “There have been ups and downs, there has been kicking and screaming, but the important thing right now is that we are focused, and we have a deal that is good for public servants, a fair one, and that is reasonable for Canadians, and that’s what we’re trying to focus on right now.”

Aylward confirmed to the Canadian Press the government presented a revised contract proposal on Saturday, and the union responded the same day.

Aylward told CTV News on Sunday that the federal government needs to start taking the negotiations “seriously.”

“That’s why it’s called negotiations, there has to be compromises, of course, on both sides and we’re seeing that,” Aylward said. “I remain 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.”

With files from CTV News Parliamentary Bureau Writer Spencer Van Dyk and The Canadian Press

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