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What They Asked for, What They Got, What Remains

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While the strike action has ended for 120,000 Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) workers, 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) workers remain on strike.

The 10-day strike came to an end for most striking federal employees on May 1, when it was announced PSAC had reached a tentative agreement with the federal government. Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the deal was expected to cost taxpayers an estimated $1.3 billion per year.

But the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE)—an arm of PSAC that represents CRA workers—has yet to negotiate a deal with the government. Here’s a look at how the strike has progressed and what demands remain:

What They Asked For

PSAC asked for a 13.5 percent raise for its members over the next three years, due to the rising cost of living, arguing that its workers stepped up during the pandemic and deserve compensation. The government initially offered a 9 percent wage increase over three years, as recommended by the Public Interest Commission.

PSAC also asked for several non-wage benefits, such as employer contributions to its Social Justice Fund, mandatory diversity and inclusion training, and shift premiums for working past 4 p.m. They also asked for employees to be given the option to work from home full-time, instead of the Treasury Board’s proposed “hybrid model.”

The UTE has asked for a 22.5 percent increase over three years, including a 2 percent wage adjustment. This proposal aims to address a wage imbalance between CRA and Canada Border Services Agency employees, with the latter making 9 percent more on average.

The CRA said on April 19 it had made a “fair” offer of 9 percent over three years to the UTE, which mirrors the recommendations of the Public Interest Commission to the PSAC.

“The CRA has made consistent efforts to address the PSAC-UTE’s main priorities, and we remain confident the parties can continue to find areas of potential compromise, through honest discussions and concessions by both sides,” the agency said in a statement.

What They Got

On May 1, Mona Fortier announced a tentative deal reached between Ottawa and PSAC. Fortier said the negotiated wage increases of 11.5 percent over four years were “in line with the recommendations of the Public Interest Commission.”

The increase for the Treasury Board workers totals 12.6 percent compounded over the agreements’ lifespan from 2021 to 2024. Additionally, on average, PSAC workers in the Treasury Board will receive a pensionable $2,500 one-time lump sum payment representing an additional 3.7 percent of salary.

“This wasn’t easy. We negotiated, we compromised, and we found creative solutions. And after many long days, nights, and weekends of hard work, we’ve reached fair and competitive deals for employees,” Fortier said.

The deal represents tentative agreements for 120,000 employees in the Education and Library, Program and Administrative, Operational Services, and Technical Services Treasury Board bargaining units. The employees returned to work on May 1.

What Still Remains

While PSAC said issues related to work hours and information management have been resolved, it said negotiations around wages, improved job security, and better protection against jobs being contracted out are still ongoing.

The union is also continuing to push for telework agreements to be enshrined in the collective agreement, as the tentative deal does not include such language. On May 1, Fortier said a joint review will be conducted to update that directive for the post-pandemic era, and “an additional mechanism will help address individual concerns.”

On May 2, the UTE said the CRA was continuing to “play games” by tabling offers “significantly inferior” to the tentative agreement PSAC signed with the Treasury Board.

“They also continue to push for concessions at the table that are simply unacceptable,” the UTE said in a release. “This is a slap in the face to the PSAC-UTE members who have been here for Canadians and this government during the pandemic, not only to resolve tax issues, but to deliver vital emergency financial aid to millions of Canadians, in record time.”

PSAC said if a deal is not reached by May 4, workers plan to picket the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, where the 2023 Liberal National Convention will be held.

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