(Ottawa) There was a time when an employee had to cross the picket line if they wanted to work anyway. Today, it is possible for some civil servants to circumvent the strike with telework. The federal government did not hesitate to remind them of this, which the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) denounces.

A note was sent to employees of the Department of Employment and Social Development a few weeks ago advising them that they “can choose not to exercise their right to strike” and that they will receive their wages if they continue to work.

A senior Treasury Board official confirmed in a briefing Wednesday that the direction given to the entire public service for hybrid working continues to apply. Civil servants whose tasks can be performed remotely can thus choose to work from home two or three days a week, depending on the agreement reached with their manager.

“The employer is not doing the right thing by encouraging employees to break strike lines!” said Judith Côté, national vice-president for Quebec of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union. We met her Wednesday morning in the heart of the small crowd of civil servants gathered on René-Lévesque Boulevard West, in Montreal, on the occasion of the first day of the strike.

“During a strike, unionized employees have the right to report to work,” said Professor Michael Wernick, holder of the Jarislowsky Research Chair in Public Sector Management, in an interview. “On the other hand, the employer has an obligation to continue to deliver services and to agree to pay employees who show up for work,” adds the one who served as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet under the Trudeau government from 2016 to 2019.

Except that teleworking can thus harm the ability of the union to negotiate, notes the professor of management and law at the University of Ottawa Gilles LeVasseur.

Employees who are tempted to virtually cross the picket line face a financial penalty imposed by their union, equivalent to the daily allowance paid to each striker. They receive $75 a day for four hours of picketing.

The leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh, called on all public servants on strike to stick together. “We support the idea of ​​solidarity where all workers are together to fight for better working conditions, better pay,” he said, refraining from calling those who decide to gang up as scabs. apart.

The NDP urges the Trudeau government to introduce anti-scab legislation. Their agreement stipulates that the Liberals have until the end of 2023 to comply if they want to continue to have the support of New Democrats to govern.

Neither Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Treasury Board President Mona Fortier directly responded to whether there was a contradiction between the public servants’ call to picket and the government’s promise to introduce anti-scab legislation.