(OTTAWA) The Treasury Board and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) are still unable to reach an agreement on the eve of their seventh day of strike. The union intensified the means of pressure Monday by blocking the port of Montreal, but it still hopes to reach an agreement.

“The only thing I have in common now with Ms. Mona Fortier is our optimism to resolve this quickly,” joked Yvon Barrière, PSAC’s first regional vice-president for Quebec, in an interview.

Hounded in question period by both the Conservatives and the New Democrats, the President of the Treasury Board replied that the government is working “very hard and tirelessly” to negotiate new collective agreements that are “fair, competitive and reasonable”.

“This round of negotiations has been heavy to bear,” she added. The union came to the bargaining table with 570 demands, I’m proud to say there are only a handful left. »

Treasury Board circulated a letter on Monday detailing the four points still in dispute: the wage increase, the inclusion of telework in the collective agreement, the ban on contracting out, and the maintenance of the seniority as a criterion for keeping a position in the event of cuts.

“They always came back with the 9% for three years,” laments Mr. Barrière. And they presented that to us with a small non-pensionable [sic] and taxable lump sum. The PSAC is calling for 13.5% for the years 2021, 2022 and 2023 in order to catch up with inflation.

The government argues in its letter that the 9% salary increase over three years would amount to an additional $6,250 per year for the average public servant. The union argues that a majority of its members are paid between $40,000 and $65,000 a year.

Mr. Barrière acknowledges that there has been some progress on the issue of teleworking at the negotiating table. Treasury Board agrees to review this policy with the union, but still refuses to include it in the collective agreement. “If it stays outside, we will still be caught with favoritism where certain managers will manage it the way they want,” explains Mr. Barrière.

With regard to subcontracting, a problem that made the headlines because of the juicy contracts given to the consulting firm McKinsey, the government has undertaken to reduce this practice, but not to eliminate it. “[…] we hope everyone understands that reducing it to zero would seriously compromise the government’s ability to deliver services to, and work for, the people of Canada,” Treasury Board wrote in its letter.

The government would also like merit to take precedence over seniority in determining who could keep their job in the event of cuts in the civil service.

The strikers blocked the four entrances to the Port of Montreal on Monday morning in an attempt to increase the pressure. These disruptions only caused a minor slowdown, according to its spokeswoman Renée Larouche. The PSAC denounces the hiring of strikebreakers to inspect grain destined for the Chinese and Japanese markets, which the Canadian Grain Commission denies.

“We have about 15 managers who continue to do the inspections,” said its spokesperson, Rémi Gosselin. Companies that export grain must send composite samples representative of their cargo and would therefore hire private inspectors to do so, particularly at the ports of Vancouver and Montreal.

The Trudeau government had promised during the election campaign to table an anti-scab bill that would apply to federally regulated sectors, which it has still not done. This is one of the elements of the agreement between the Liberals and the New Democrats.

The strike is slowing down several government services. For example, passport applications are not processed unless they are urgent or humanitarian. Contrary to what the union said last week, the processing of tax returns is not at a standstill.

“I want to reassure my colleagues to tell them that since 2015, this is the best tax season we have had,” National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier ended up answering during question period. Conservatives repeatedly asked him if there was going to be a delay in tax refunds. “Ninety-five percent of people file electronically and there is no backlog in payments,” she added.

However, the government is advising taxpayers that there may be delays in processing tax returns, particularly those filed on paper.