The clock is ticking for the government and Canada’s largest federal public-service union to reach an agreement by a deadline of 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday evening.
If they don’t, some 155,000 workers are prepared to walk off the job on Wednesday, including 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers.
Mediated contract negotiations between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the government began in early April and continued through the weekend in what the union describes as the government’s last chance to reach a deal.
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Though the contract for CRA employees is being negotiated separately, the Public Service Alliance of Canada said that these employees would strike, too, if no deal was reached with their employer by the same deadline.
Chris Aylward, the union’s national president, said at a news conference on Monday morning that workers are prepared to strike for “however long it takes.”
Wage increases have been top of mind at the bargaining table.
The Treasury Board released a statement on Monday afternoon saying that it offered the union a nine per cent raise over three years on Sunday, on the recommendation of the third-party Public Interest Commission.
But the union has pushed for annual raises of 4.5 per cent over the next three years, arguing the increases are necessary to keep pace with inflation and the cost of living.
It has also kept issues such as greater limits on contract work, more anti-racism training and provisions for remote work on the table.
“There is still time to reach agreement before strike action begins. We know that the sooner an agreement is reached, the sooner wage increases and benefits reach employees,” the Treasury Board, which is responsible for the administration of the federal government, said in a statement on Monday afternoon.
Negotiations over the new contract first began in June 2021, with the union declaring an impasse in May 2022 and both parties filing labour complaints since then.
The union called a strike vote in January, and it announced that members had voted in favour of a strike mandate early last week, days after CRA employees signalled their own intention to take job action if necessary.