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“Feds”, four key issues remain unresolved: open letter to public servants and Canadians

TORONTO – Four key issues to resolve. And the strike goes on. A week into the large-scale mobilization of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the federal government comes out of the closet with an “open letter to public employees and Canadians”, in which the chair of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier, reveals the critical points of the negotiation with the PSAC for the renewal of the contract of federal civil servants. 

“It’s important for Canadians and public servants to understand what the Government is doing to end the stress and strain from the labour disruption” the president wrote. In the letter, Fortier says the government has reached agreements with the PSAC on more than 560 union demands. But she adds that four key issues remain unresolved: wage increases, remote work as a negotiated right, a ban on contracting out and deciding who gets fired in the event of cuts based on seniority. On salaries, Fortier said, in addition to the 9 percent three-year hike offered by the government – which is less than the 13.5 percent three-year hike demanded by the PSAC – the negotiators also offered a signing bonus for every member. The government has also promised to revise the telework directive “for a post-pandemic world”, though declined to say whether it would consider PSAC’s request to make it part of the collective agreement. And applications for retentions based on seniority will also be considered. Finally, while Fortier underscores the latest federal budget commitment to reducing the use of contractors as part of an effort to cut costs, she writes that a total procurement ban “would severely undermine the government’s ability to deliver services to Canadians”.

Negotiations have been ongoing since more than 155,000 public service workers quit their jobs last Wednesday. However, both sides have accused each other of obstructing negotiations and of being too slow to respond to key developments. On Monday, some striking workers moved their pickets to strategic locations most likely to impact the federal government, including Canadian Coast Guard ports and RCMP detachments.

“It is clear that the Liberal government is feeling the pressure as we step up our strike actions across the country” PSAC National Chairman Chris Aylward told Global News on Monday. “But we’ve been clear: the offer the government has on the table just doesn’t cut it”.

Fortier also stressed that PSAC will have to compromise on some of its key demands to reach an agreement and end the strike, saying the government will not “write a blank check”.

The tug of war has been going on since last weekend: on Saturday, Aylward accused Fortier and his negotiating team of “incompetence” and invited Trudeau to intervene in the negotiations. The union chairman said the Treasury Board submitted an offer on Saturday afternoon and the union responded with its own proposal the same day. Fortier’s office said it submitted a second proposal on Saturday to which the union did not respond until Sunday. Aylward eventually acknowledged the government’s additional offer but said nothing had been done to advance the union’s wage demands.

In short: the passing of the buck continues, while the inconvenience for citizens increases day after day.

In the pics above, some protesters (from Twitter – @jenncarr) and, in the small photo, the president of the Treasure Board, Mona Fortier (from Twitter – @MonaFortier)

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