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Public service strike? Union says 120K more workers will vote amid deadlock concerns

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Federal government workers unhappy about return to office
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More than 120,000 Public Service Alliance of Canada members will start strike votes next month as Ottawa claims the union is not negotiating “in good faith” for a new collective agreement.

The union, also known as PSAC, said Tuesday the strike votes will be for workers in program and administrative services, technical services, education and library science, and operational services groups. They will be held between Feb. 22 and April 19.

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The four bargaining units involved are part of the Treasury Board Secretariat, a central government agency that facilitate a significant amount of work related to the basic functioning of the federal government.

“Federal public service workers have been here when Canadians needed them most — seeing us through one crisis after another,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president, in a news release.

“Now, the government needs to be here for workers, because while they stall on making things right, we all pay the price.”

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Federal public servants returning to offices, including Canada Place in Edmonton

Earlier this month, the federal government filed two complaints against PSAC over claims the union is not negotiating “in good faith” for a new deal.

The government alleges that PSAC has “flooded the bargaining tables with costly proposals,” with at least 500 proposals over its five bargaining units, while saying that PSAC has “refused to prioritize their requests, refused to move on their initial proposals, and did not respond to the employer’s comprehensive offers.”

PSAC left the bargaining table on Sept. 1, 2022, during the sixth negotiation session and declared an impasse. The parties had been negotiating since last summer.

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The union has said that the federal government’s move to file a complaint is “just another stalling tactic to deny workers a fair contract.” It has alleged the government has refused to “negotiate remote work and better work-life balance at the table.”

PSAC said on Tuesday it declared impasse in bargaining in May 2022 after the government made a wage offer of 2.06 per cent per year, which was “completely out of touch with record-high inflation over the past two years.” The government then refused to compromise during mediation in September and Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearings in December, the union claimed.

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board is set to release its PIC reports shortly with non-binding recommendations for the parties to return to negotiation. Already, a report released earlier this month instructed one of the four Treasury Board bargaining units to come back to the bargaining table.

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PASC, which is one of Canada’s largest unions, announced a strike vote among its 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers earlier this month as well. The vote, which comes ahead of tax filing season, is set to take place between Jan. 31 and April 7. It says workers have been without a contract for more than a year, with talks held previously over wages and remote work.

The Canada Revenue Agency specified has also filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the bargaining unit for its employees, saying it has “(failed) to observe its duty to bargain in good faith and duty to make every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement.”

“Everyone deserves fair pay and safer workplaces. Together, we’re taking a stand for workers,” Aylward said Tuesday.

“Wages are stalled, the cost of living is rising, and workers are being left behind. Workers can’t wait. None of us can.”

When combined, the 35,000 CRA workers and the 120,000 Treasury Board workers make up 155,000 federal employees, which is roughly half of the staff of the 335,957 employees working with the federal public service.

— with files from Global News’ Eric Stober

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