Union says government not budging on bargaining position or public service wage offer
By Cindy Tran and Laura Osman
Negotiations between the federal government and the largest public sector union seemed to reach a stalemate Wednesday as federal workers remain on strike for the eighth straight day.
Hundreds of workers piled onto Parliament Hill for a rally in the rain Wednesday as the government warned the job action has resulted in massive slowdowns at the Canada Revenue Agency at the height of tax season, as well as backlogs for immigration and passport applications.
Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said the government told the bargaining team in an email Tuesday evening that it would not move from it’s latest offer.
The government has remained firm on its latest offer of a nine per cent wage increase over three years.
“They’re telling us that we have to move,” Aylward said on the lawn of Parliament Hill Wednesday, as hundreds of public servants stood behind him in the rain.
“That’s not how bargaining works.”
The government’s first offer last year was 8.2 per cent over four years, backdated to 2021. Their current offer is now nine per cent over three years, also backdated to 2021.
The union’s initial ask was for 13.5 per cent over three years, saying it was needed to keep up with inflation. Aylward said the union has adjusted that ask but will not say what the new wage request is.
Aylward said he wouldn’t accept a nine per cent wage increase over three years, even if the government caved on all of the union’s other demands.
A week ago 155,000 public servants walked off the job to call for higher wages, and work-from-home provisions, among other things.
Aylward said the government is stalling the negotiations, but Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said in a written statement Wednesday that she wants to make an agreement quickly — she just wants it to be one Canadians can afford.
“We’re still at the table, it’s just that we keep receiving unreasonable and unaffordable offers,” Fortier told reporters on her way into a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday.
She told reporters repeatedly that she was feeling frustrated with the union’s stance.
Aylward has called for the prime minister to get directly involved in the negotiations, since Fortier won’t budge on the government’s wage offer.
“If the Treasury Board is saying they can’t move on the wages, that means Treasury Board needs a new mandate from the prime minister and the minister of finance,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the union a word of warning Wednesday on his way to meet with his caucus.
“The union is certainly very aware of Canadians’ impatience and they have to calibrate that carefully,” he said as he expressed frustration about delayed government services.
Trudeau said his government will respect the collective bargaining process and will stay positive and constructive at the negotiating table.
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