by Sandra Griffith-Bonaparte
“What do we need? A contract! When do we need it? NOW!” After months of lies and deceit by the Trudeau Government and the Treasury Board, promising to return to the bargaining table with a fair offer to the Program and Administration (PA), Operational Services (SV), Technical Services (TC) and Education and Library Science (EB) bargaining units, the Public Service Alliance of Canada decided to take a stand. It authorized strike votes of its 140,000 members across the country.
Widespread dissatisfaction with how the Liberal government, and the Conservatives previously, mishandled the Phoenix pay scandal, forms the background to the present conflict. At its center are disputes over pay equity, job security, domestic violence and leave provision.
At a Strike Session in Ottawa with members on February 24, PSAC President Chris Aylward said that it is evident that the government will not present a fair deal on its own. Its current position falls short on every level. For example, while the cost of living rose 2.24 per cent in 2018, the Federal government is offering public servants a meager wage increase of 7 percent over four years. He said that the “PSAC bargaining teams need a strong strike mandate from members to force Treasury Board to come back to the bargaining table with a new mandate so that we can get a fair settlement quickly.” The Public Interest Commission (a body appointed by the responsible Minister whose mandate is to assist the conflicting parties, to resolve disputes, and to make recommendations for settlement) made it clear that the government will need to increase compensation to PSAC members. “The threat of a strike will give the employer the nudge it needs to avoid more disruption during their minority government,” said Aylward. “That’s why we urge all PSAC members to vote yes.” Aylward indicated that the strike votes would begin in mid-March and proceed through early May. Numerous strike vote sessions will be held in the coming weeks. The union asked members to watch for information updates via local and regional offices and web links.
Minority government status makes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau more vulnerable to pressure. Sector-wide work stoppages, working to rule, walkouts for an hour, or a day, mass rallies with our allies across the labour movement – these are tactics that could show that federal public service workers mean business. Let’s think outside the box, and build our confidence from the ground up. It is time for us to stand and fight for our rights, just like teachers and Indigenous people are doing. It is time to shake the branches of government to show we’ve had enough of delay and denial.