The country’s largest federal public-sector union reached a tentative contract agreement with the government overnight, covering more than 120,000 public servants across the country and bringing them back to work after a 12-day strike.
It meant that the majority of Public Service Alliance of Canada workers who had been on the picket lines since April 19 were expected to sign in for duty on Monday morning or at their next scheduled shift.
But some 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency employees were still on strike Monday — the day of the federal tax-filing deadline — as negotiations over a separate collective agreement continued.
“PSAC members held the line together and secured a fair contract that keeps up with the cost of living, increased protections around remote work and creates safer, more inclusive workplaces,” Chris Aylward, the union’s national president, said in a statement.
The union said that its Union of Taxation Employees bargaining team would enter a “blitz of negotiations” with the CRA on Monday.
The tentative agreement announced in the wee hours of Monday morning came after the Treasury Board, which oversees the administration of the federal government, tabled what it described as a “final offer” on Friday.
“This wasn’t easy. We negotiated, we compromised and we found creative solutions,” Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said in a news conference Monday afternoon.
“And after many long days, nights and weekends of hard work, we’ve reached fair and competitive deals for employees.”
The tentative deals come after a push from the union for wage increases that compensate for inflation, along with a host of other demands, including language on remote-work arrangements, referred to in the public service as telework.
The agreements include 11.5 per cent wage increases over four years, with an additional 0.5 per cent group-specific allowance in the third year of the contracts.
Previously, the federal government had offered a nine per cent wage increase over three years, while the union was asking for 13.5 per cent.
With the tentative agreements, the union says the compounded wage increases total to 12.6 per cent.
Workers will also be receiving a one-time, pensionable $2,500 lump sum payment that represents an additional 3.7 per cent of salary for the average union member in Treasury Board bargaining units.
The union said members will have access to additional protection when the employer makes arbitrary decisions about remote work, and managers will have to assess telework requests individually, not by group, and provide written responses.
Fortier clarified that telework is addressed with a separate letter.
“As stated in a letter outside the collective agreement, a joint review will update our directive for the post-pandemic era, and an additional mechanics will help address individual concerns,” Fortier said.
The tentative agreement also includes protections against the contracting out of work. According to the union, in the event of a layoff, an employee who can carry out work that is being conducted by a hired contractor will not lose their job.
PSAC said the tentative deal also addresses its demands regarding seniority rights in the event of layoffs.
It said both parties have agreed to jointly submit a proposal to the Public Service Commission of Canada to include seniority rights in future “workplace adjustment” plans — or changes to the workforce to reflect the executive’s priorities.
Public servants had hit picket lines at locations across the country for a dozen days in what the union said was one of the biggest job actions in Canadian history.
Service disruptions loomed large during the strike, from slowdowns at the border to pauses on new employment insurance, immigration and passport applications.
“We are going to resume activities as fast as we can,” Fortier said about the disruption of federal services.
Initial negotiations on a new collective agreement had initially begun in June 2021, and the union had declared an impasse in May 2022, with both parties filing labour complaints since then.
—Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press