Federal workers strike, PSAC vs Trudeau: and Singh…

TORONTO – Clash between PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada) and Justin Trudeau: today, the first day of the “federals” strike, the Prime Minister urged the union that represents public employees to return to the negotiating table and conclude a deal to avoid major disruptions to citizens’ services, saying the government had made an offer on Monday but the union did not respond. The reply of the national president of the PSAC, Chris Aylward, was dry: the union is “ready to reach a fair agreement as soon as the government is ready to come to the table with a fair offer”. 

The PSAC had already announced last Tuesday that more than 155,000 workers would leave their jobs in light of the lack of agreement with Ottawa on the new collective agreement. In detail, the PSAC is asking for a salary increase of 13.5% in three years (4.5% per annum) while the Treasury Board Secretariat, the government department which is nominally the employer of bureaucrats, has offered 9% in three years.

The PSAC is also calling for greater flexibility in the rules on working from home: the government has asked for civil servants to return to work in person for a few days a week after years of virtual work in the midst of the pandemic, but the request was not liked by the union. As a result, the strike has begun. And the effects are already being felt.

The minister for families, Karina Gould, who is also in charge of the passport sector, said the action would lead to delays in the services Canadians rely on to travel: with many passport officers now on strike, Passport Canada will be able to process only “humanitarian” applications and a select number of “urgent” applications. “If the action wraps up quickly, it won’t have a big impact. But if it lasts for a pretty significant amount of time, then yes” she added.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has warned taxpayers that its services “will be delayed or unavailable” — a big deal given that the tax deadline is April 30. However, digitally presented income statements should experience fewer problems. “Although there are no plans to extend the tax filing deadlines, the CRA will continue to accept all tax returns. Digitally filed tax returns, which represent the vast majority of T1 and T2 returns, will largely be processed automatically by our systems without delay” the agency said. However, the CRA has ensured that benefit payments will be prioritized and child benefit payments will continue to be made as planned. However, call center operations will be limited.

Meanwhile, the opposition attacks. Today, Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie harshly criticized Justin Trudeau saying he is to blame for what is happening. “We are calling on the Prime Minister and the Liberal government to act together and end this strike” she said. “It is their incompetence that has brought us to this place. Canadians will not receive their passports. Canadians will not receive their tax returns because of the incompetence of this liberal government” she reiterated.

But the Prime Minister also has another problem and it’s inside the government: the NDP, whose leader Jagmeet Singh joined some PSAC workers during today’s pickets, declaring that the NDP will never support legislation on return to work, i.e. a possible injunction of civil servants to force them to return to work. “We envisage that there may be a scenario where the government introduces legislation on the insolvency of civil servants. They have done this in the past and I have made it very clear to them that we will never support it” Singh said. “I looked directly at the Prime Minister and said: ‘We are a workers’ party, we will not support the return to work legislation. Never look at it as an option for us, because we will not’ “. In summary: if Trudeau resorted to injunction to end the strike, he would also end his government which is in place only thanks to the support of the NDP.

In the pic above, a PSAC picket today with NDP MP Blake Desjarlais: his party backs the strike (Photo from Twitter – @DesjarlaisBlake)