Canada reaches deal with 120,000 striking federal workers

Another 35,000 employees at Canada Revenue Agency remain on strike, demanding better pay and telework flexibility.

Approximately 155,000 workers with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) walked off the job last month in one of the largest public-sector strikes in Canadian history [File: Blair Gable/Reuters]

Canada has reached an agreement with 120,000 striking federal workers, effectively ending one of the largest public-sector work stoppages in the country’s history, which had crippled services from passport renewals to immigration.

While most strikers are set to return to work after almost two weeks of deadlock, more than 35,000 workers at the Canada Revenue Agency who also went on strike last month are still negotiating, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union said on Monday.

“During a period of record-high inflation and soaring corporate profits, workers were told to accept less – but our members came together and fought for better,” PSAC National President Chris Aylward said in a statement.

“This agreement delivers important gains for our members that will set the bar for all workers in Canada.”

A third of Canada’s public workers – around 155,000 people – began striking on April 19, hitting picket lines at hundreds of locations around the country with demands for cost-of-living raises and telework flexibility.

Striking federal workers hold a banner reading 'Respect' on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Picketers march on Parliament Hill after more than 155,000 public sector union workers began a strike, in Ottawa, April 19, 2023 [Blair Gable/Reuters]

The head of the Treasury Board – the federal employer – said on Monday that the deal came after “many weeks of hard work, negotiation and compromise”.

“The best deals are reached at the bargaining table — we respect the right to negotiate and appreciate Canadians’ patience and understanding over the past two weeks,” Mona Fortier said in a statement.

“We are deeply grateful for public servants who work hard across the country to serve Canadians and look forward to welcoming them back. These deals are fair, competitive, and reasonable, and bring stability to public servants and Canadians.”

The union said it had won a 12.6 percent wage increase over the four-year contract period (2021-2024), below its desired 13.5 percent raise but above the nine percent bump proposed by the government.

On the sticking point of teleworking, which many employees had grown accustomed to during the COVID-19 pandemic, PSAC said it had secured “significant new protections”.

It said that new “language in a letter of agreement” would require managers to assess remote work requests on an individual basis and not by group.

Striking Canadian federal workers outside PM Justin Trudeau's office in Ottawa
Picketers march around the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council in Ottawa, April 24, 2023 [Blair Gable/Reuters]

In a separate statement on Monday, the union said the remaining 35,000 federal revenue agency workers remained on strike because a few outstanding issues had not yet been resolved.

PSAC said the striking workers were seeking language in their collective agreement to allow for “telework arrangements”, as well as pay that would address “cost of living and inflationary pressures”.

Lastly, the workers also want more job safety provisions, “including years of service recognition and protections against the contracting out of our jobs”, the union said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies