(Ottawa) Tax returns will no longer be processed. Other services, such as the assessment of new passport, employment insurance and immigration applications, will be slowed down or stopped altogether. A total of 250 pickets are expected beginning Wednesday across the country.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the federal government did not reach an agreement in principle on Tuesday evening.
“Our members are ready to fight for a good, reasonable and fair collective agreement,” PSAC President Chris Aylward insisted in a press briefing.
The union had issued an ultimatum the day before: the two sides had to reach an agreement by 9 p.m. Tuesday or 155,000 public servants who report to Treasury Board and the Canada Revenue Agency would go on general strike. The last walkout of this magnitude dates back to 1991, when Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives were in power.
In Ottawa, picket lines are already planned in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and the West Block, which houses the House of Commons.
“And we will remain on strike until the government responds to our demands at the bargaining table,” he added.
The government indicated late in the evening that it would continue negotiations in the hope of reaching a settlement “as soon as possible”. He says he made “a fair and competitive offer” to meet union demands for telecommuting, bonuses, improved paid leave for family responsibilities, and measures for employment equity and diversity and inclusion.
“Even though there is a competitive deal on the table, the PSAC continues to insist on demands that are unaffordable and would seriously impact the government’s ability to deliver services to Canadians,” said know Monica Granados, press secretary for Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, in a written statement.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was still hoping for a settlement. “I know that Canadians expect us to continue to deliver the services they rely on,” he said before question period. That’s why I want to make sure that the two parties at the negotiating table continue their work with great intensity to be able to resolve this issue. »
Contingency plans have been prepared at the Canada Revenue Agency, the Department of Employment and Social Development and the Department of Immigration. Of the 155,000 civil servants who voted to strike, 32,000 must provide essential services. Employment Insurance benefits, pension, War Veterans Allowance, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement will continue to be paid.
“Our services will not be reduced to zero no matter what, but the appropriate government response may depend on the nature and duration of any work stoppages as well as our ability to leverage the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada that will be able to continue to operate,” said Minister Sean Fraser before the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Minister Fortier is to take stock this Wednesday with Minister Fraser, Minister of Employment and Social Development Karina Gould and Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier.
New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was “deeply disappointed” with the government’s attitude. “For two years, PSAC members have been voicing their legitimate demands for fair wages, job security and a safe work environment. Yet the government continued to drag its feet and caused this crisis,” he said.
The government does not rule out the use of a special law for the return to work of civil servants, but the NDP is fiercely opposed to it. This issue is not part of the deal he made with the Liberal government to allow him to stay in power until 2025.
Federal civil servants have been without a contract since 2021. The PSAC is calling for a salary increase of 13.5% over three years, or 4.5% annually to offset rising inflation. This increase would cover the years 2021, 2022 and 2023. The Treasury Board is instead proposing 9% over three years.
In addition to the salary issue, job security and teleworking are still the subject of disagreements. In particular, the PSAC wants to include remote work in the collective agreement. Employees in all departments were to return to work in person two or three days a week by March 31. Most of them had been working from home since the pandemic.