Union-government disputes, risk of a domino effect

TORONTO – The success of the PSAC strike, which saw more than 120,000 federal civil servants of the Public Service Alliance of Canada mobilize for days until practically all the requests made to the federal government were granted, could have a “domino effect”. Now, unionized workers in other sectors may be making similar demands, experts say. 

In a nutshell, the success of the PSAC could lead to the “rediscovery” of the right to strike, triggering a “domino effect”, as Jock Climie, a labor lawyer, told Canadian Press in recent days: “The reality is that when The largest federal public service union strikes and gets what it asks for, it will have a profound impact on every bargaining table that comes after it, not just in the public sector”.

The deal famously came after Treasury Board Chair Mona Fortier put on the table over the weekend what she called a “final” offer: a 12.6% pay rise over four years , with retroactive effect to 2021, so much more than the 9% in three years that the government had left on the negotiating table for most of the strike, but lower (slightly) than the 13.5% request with which the PSAC she had presented herself at the table itself. The Treasury Board will also offer these workers a “group specific allowance of 0.5%” in the third year of the agreement, as well as a one-time payment of $2,500. Also met nearly all other union requests on paid leave, remote working, employment equity, diversity and inclusion.

And if many think that the federal government has “yield”, the president of the Treasury Board defends herself: the agreement with the PSAC will cost “only” 1.3 billion dollars a year, less than half of the original union demands, according to Mona Fortier.

“It wasn’t easy – Fortier said – : we negotiated, we compromised and we found creative solutions. And after many long days, nights and weekends of hard work, we reached a fair and competitive agreement for the employees”.

In reality, the problems for the federal government are not over yet: the 35,000 workers of the CRA, the Canada Revenue Agency, are continuing their strike: the two sides also met on Monday, without reaching an agreement. The CRA itself stated that the agency and the union have resumed negotiations in person, with “the aim of reaching as soon as possible a new collective agreement, which is fair for employees and reasonable for taxpayers”.

Strengthened by the success of the PSAC, the workers of the CRA will certainly not give up until the end, certain at this point of being able to obtain almost the maximum. And employees in other sectors will probably do the same, citing the same reason: wages are not keeping pace with inflation. After all, now there is the precedent.

In the pics above, a protest by PSAC (from Twitter – @psac_afpc) and Mona Fortier (da Twitter – @MonaFortier)