Federal civil servants have been on strike for a week now. This is bad news, especially for small business owners. Due to this strike, the services of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Immigration and Citizenship Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada are being disrupted. Small business owners risk suffering considerable financial damage if the strike drags on.
What could those harms be? Temporary foreign workers who do not arrive in time to help our farms, for example. A loss of production. Lost sales. Pending transactions. Important requests and questions at the CRA that remain unanswered.
All of these financial losses are going to have to be absorbed by SME owners. Unlike unions, they do not have access to a generous strike fund.
Taking into account all salary adjustments, the CRA employees union initially demanded a 33% salary increase spread over three years. Since then, the union has reduced its demands somewhat, but they remain high and costly.
There are not a thousand and one solutions. The government will have to impose a special back-to-work law if the strike lasts more than a few days.
The government must also send a clear signal to the 26 out of 28 labor groups with which it is currently negotiating: negotiate in good faith while respecting taxpayers’ ability to pay. Indeed, since 2015, the size of the civil service has increased by 30%. Salary expenditures for staff now stand at more than $60 billion. Moreover, the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) estimates that the additional cost for the government would be $19.7 billion from 2023-2024 to 2027-2028 if annual salary increases were of the order of 4 .5%. It is the taxpayers who will pay the price for an ever-growing public service.
Unfortunately, we do not hear union leaders say that their members want to improve the services they provide to the population. That their members are ready to return to the office to be more efficient and help improve the vitality of our downtown cores, like Ottawa. We do not hear them being indignant at the thousands of applications waiting to be processed at Citizenship and Immigration Canada to bring the foreign workers we need quickly to the country. We do not hear the union leaders recognize that their members have a relatively guaranteed job, with a very competitive salary and one of the most generous pension plans.
It is high time for the unions to negotiate in good faith in order to reach an agreement. But a deal can never be done as long as the union behaves as if taxpayers’ pockets are a bottomless pit.