155,000 Federal Public Service Workers on Strike

Keep the Support Coming for Striking Public Service Workers!

Many unions join PSAC on the picket line in Calgary, April 21, 2023

Reports from across the country and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) confirm that there is a mass participation of over 110,000 of the 155,000 striking workers on the picket lines in more than 200 locations across the country. These workers bring supporters with them and, along with the participation of workers of other unions on the picket lines and members of communities across the country, the President of PSAC Chris Aylward reports that this mobilization is having a good effect on negotiations. Aylward makes it clear that it is the determination of the PSAC workers to get wages and working conditions that they deem acceptable for themselves and to enable the delivery of services that has produced motion at the bargaining table.

This week PSAC is expanding its strike actions to ports and other federal infrastructure. The aim is to step up the pressure on the federal government to force it to meet the just demands of the workers. On April 24, the Port of Montreal, the Port of Vancouver and the Port of St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador were shut down by the workers for part of the day. Through their picket lines, they are showing the important work they do and all the federal infrastructure they contribute to operating which creates immense value. Far from being a cost, these workers are showing the vital role they play in the economy of Canada. 

On Thursday, April 21, outside of an announcement in which Prime Minister Trudeau unveiled a $700 million handout to a subsidiary of Volkswagen to build an electric battery factory in St. Thomas, Ontario and $10 billion more in production based incentives over 10 years, striking PSAC workers upheld the dignity of labour by showing how the Trudeau government's talk about supporting the "middle class" is a fraud. They showed clearly that when it comes to actual workers, governments claim poverty and to be reasonable because they want to use public funds to pay the rich in various ways. The government's claim that PSAC workers are being unreasonable or are going beyond what is "competitive" must be rejected. What is unreasonable is that billions are being handed out every day to the rich in the name of "greening the economy" with no end in sight in order for the U.S. to be socalled competitive, while the workers who create all the value and provide all the services in both Canada and the U.S. are told to limit their demands, to be reasonable and competitive! It is absurd and the stand of PSAC workers to say No! punctures the Trudeau government's arrogance.

It is only after the union served it's strike deadline that Treasury Board moved from its wage offer of just over eight per cent over four years to nine per cent over three years. This is still an unacceptable offer, the union says. Without the mobilization of the workers, the situation at the table was at an impasse over this issue and other issues as well. In a TV interview on April 24, the President of PSAC said that the union started the negotiations with a demand of a 13.5 per cent increase over three years, against a rate of inflation of 13.8 per cent over the same period. The union made a move on its demand recently, he said, but the government's current wage offer will not produce an agreement.   

The union maintains that a wage settlement that would be acceptable to PSAC workers would give an impulse to similar demands of other public service workers as well as private sector workers in the country, including non-unionized workers, against what PSAC calls the wage repression by governments and employers against all workers.

There is also some motion on the part of Treasury Board on the issue of remote work, which the union wants to include in the collective agreement. The union maintains that remote work is now part of everyday life for many workers. Experience during the pandemic has shown that public service workers can be as effective working remotely as they are in the office. According to the union, it is time to look to the future by negotiating remote work protections into the collective agreement instead of Treasury Board imposing a mandatory return to offices in ways that violate workers' collective bargaining rights.

PSAC picket line in Montreal, April 24, 2023

In an April 23 update, Aylward writes:

"You may have seen the headlines this weekend – things didn't get off to a great start.

"We made some progress in the end, 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.

"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."

Now is the time to keep up and step up support for the striking public service workers on the picket lines. They are fighting for the dignity of labour of all workers which contributes to inspiring all workers to do the same. The government seems to have money to pay the rich for all kinds of schemes but when it comes to increasing the wages of public sector workers, it pits this against the delivery of services, saying there is no money to pay for both. Clearly, it has its priorities mixed up at a time all Canadians know that it is cutbacks and the anti-social offensive,  including  privatization, which affect the delivery of services in a very negative manner.

Make your opposition to the anti-social offensive known by stepping up support for the members of the public service!

Find the nearest picket line using PSAC's picket line finder tool: workerscantwait.ca

National Capital Region, April 23, 2023

St. John's, Newfoundland,  April 22, 2023

(Photos: WF, PSAC)

This article was published in
Number 23 - April 25, 2023

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