Canada's largest public service union has reached a deal with the federal government after accepting an offer that many onlookers are calling a sign of tough economic times.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at what the economy is doing right now in Canada and around the world," said John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

The deal, which gives members of PSAC a pay raise of 6.8 per cent over the next four years, was reached at about midnight Sunday after a lengthy bargaining process that ended 18 months of negotiations.

"I might say there was a lot of hard bargaining involved in the context of achieving this agreement and I would encourage other unions to take a similar path," said Treasury Board President Vic Toews.

Although wage increases are limited, Gordon said the deal should be considered a victory for employees because the union gave up nothing and won other non-monetary demands.

"I felt that the best thing that we can do is get back to the negotiating table, take recognition of these economic times and at the same time address issues that we have had for many, many years to see if we can achieve some accomplishments," said Gordon.

Still, the NDP MP for Ottawa-Centre told CTV Ottawa PSAC had little choice but to settle on the government's cash terms.

"Essentially, what we had was bargaining with a gun to one's head. If they said 'no,' we don't accept this, the government had already made it clear in the speech from the throne that they were going to legislate this," said Paul Dewar.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, though, said the deal was one that reflects public sentiment.

"If they were smart, they saw the writing on the wall -- that the government had the backing of the public to do everything it can to keep costs down," said Kevin Gaudet.

Members of the Public Service Alliance must now ratify the agreement; a process that's set to begin in early December and should be wrapped up sometime in January.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Norman Fetterley