“Feds”, the fight gets tough: roadblocks
TORONTO – The strike action of the PSAC (Public Service Alliance of Canada), which mobilizes over 155,000 federal civil servants throughout the country, intensifies: today, the “feds” increased the presence of pickets, particularly in Ottawa, limiting access to federal buildings and temporarily halting traffic on an inter-provincial bridge.
On day 9 of the strike – which affects the services of the Treasury Board and the Canada Revenue Agency – the union decided to “step up the mobilization, here and across the country” said Alex Silas, PSAC regional executive vice president for the region of the national capital.
Traffic in the city of Ottawa has reported temporary disruptions in the area of the Portage Bridge, which connects Ottawa and Gatineau over the Ottawa River, where – we said – a march of protesters took place, which blocked traffic on both sides of the river.
In Quebec, striking federal civil servants held a rally near the Lacolle border crossing in the Montérégie region. Buses carrying dozens of protesters arrived at the border between Lacolle, Canada, and Champlain, New York, in the United States, usually one of the busiest in the country.
And the negotiations, meanwhile, do not seem to lead to anything. PSAC accuses federal government of deadlock in negotiations. “This government is still inactive and not proactive at the negotiating table to establish a fair contract” Silas said. “It’s time for this government to come back to the table with a fair offer so we can end this strike and we can get back to work with a fair deal”.
Earlier in the week, Treasury Board chair Mona Fortier said there were four main issues still unresolved in the talks: wages, telecommuting, a contract ban and seniority in case of possible layoffs. Initially the union had asked for a 4.5% a year increase over three years, while the government recently proposed a 9% wage increase over three years. “We have come down to our position twice. The union is actively trying to find a middle ground with this employer, the employer has to show some willingness to find a middle ground, but we haven’t seen it so far” Silas said, adding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland must be involved in the talks.
The positions still seem distant. In a statement released around the same time as Silas spoke to reporters, Treasury Board Chair Fortier said the government is “determined to get deals quickly, just as we have already done with other unions, but we need PSAC to start bringing its demands in line with the recommendations of the Public Interest Commission” i.e., the 9% over three years proposed by the federal government.
In an open letter earlier this week, Fortier had already repeated several times that the government has offered union members a 9% wage increase over three years, in line with the recommendations of the Public Interest Commission issued in February. And she pointed out that such a raise would provide the average employee with an extra $6,250 a year. “Workers have the right to strike and we fully respect that” added Fortier. “We are committed to providing a fair settlement that recognizes the valuable contributions federal public employees make every day.”