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PSAC, Treasury Board president blame each other for the pace of contract talks

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier and the head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada pointed blame at each other for the slow pace of contract talks, as negotiations resumed in an attempt to end the strike by 155,000 public service workers.

During a media conference Saturday afternoon outside a downtown Ottawa hotel, PSAC national president Chris Aylward accused the federal government of failing to respond to a new offer tabled on Thursday night.

Two-and-a-half hours later, Fortier issued a statement saying PSAC did not respond to a request to meet on Friday and cancelled a planned meeting Saturday afternoon.

"While our negotiators and our offer waited, Mr. Aylward chose instead to go on television to complain he had not received it," Fortier said, adding "the facts don't support the claims made by PSAC today."

The two sides returned to the bargaining table Saturday afternoon, on day four of a strike that has affected many federal government services including passport applications, immigration applications and tax returns.

PSAC, Canada's largest public sector union, began a nationwide strike Wednesday after an agreement with the Treasury Board could not be reached by Tuesday night.

The union called a media conference for 1:15 p.m. Saturday to provide an update on contract talks with the federal government. A frustrated Aylward said the union presented Treasury Board with a "comprehensive package" on Thursday but by Saturday afternoon, he had not received a reply.

"We still not have heard back yet from Treasury Board on a package that we give them Thursday night, and this is Saturday afternoon. This screams of the incompetence of Mona Fortier as the president of Treasury Board and her team," he said.

Aylward told reporters that the Treasury Board had promised a reply on one of their key issues, that of seniority with regard to layoffs, but that response has yet to arrive. That issue stands with wages and remote work as the key sticking points between the two sides, he said.

"Unless we get through those issues, we're not going to get a deal," he said.

Aylward called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get involved.

"This is a complete demonstration of the incompetence of this minister in this position to allow these negotiations to drag out this long," he said. "I need to see the prime minister getting involved in these negotiations and helping and assisting to move these negotiations along."

Saturday marks day four of a nationwide strike by Treasury Board and Canada Revenue Agency workers. Workers are not picketing this weekend but the union remains on strike. Aylward said employees who are scheduled to work on weekends were on picket lines, but a spokesperson for the union said he misspoke and confirmed no picket lines were set up. Pickets will resume Monday if no deal is reached.

"We are not here to play games," Fortier says

At 3:35 p.m., the Treasury Board president issued a statement, calling on PSAC to "bargain in good faith" to reach an agreement.

Fortier says Treasury Board negotiators tried to contact PSAC on Friday to arrange a meeting, but "they were unreachable" at the common issues table. She says they reached out to PSAC through the mediator again Saturday morning and said they would present a new offer at 1 p.m. today.

"The PSAC took three hours to respond to the request, initially accepting the meeting at 12:31 p.m. and then at 12:40 p.m. advised they were no longer available at that time," Fortier said in the statement posted on Twitter.

"While our negotiators and our offer waited, Mr. Aylward chose instead to go on television to complain he had not received it. We are not here to play games. We are here to get a deal. There is no time, no tolerance for stalling and misinformation."

Fortier says the government has made "numerous proposals" to PSAC since the start of negotiations and "have seen very little movement from them on their demands."

The Treasury Board president suggested talks resumed Saturday afternoon.

"Now that the PSAC has returned to the table after their press conference, talks have resumed," Fortier said.

"We need the PSAC to bargain in good faith so we can reach agreements that will put an end to the strike and provide PSAC members with fair, competitive and reasonable wages."

Fortier said Friday she's confident a deal will be reached as contract talks were set to continue. The union earlier said progress had been made this week.

Strike pay

When asked about funds—the union is paying more than 100,000 striking workers $75 per day in strike pay—Aylward said he was not worried.

"I have no concerns about that. We have access to funds. I am not concerned about funds. That's not an issue," he said. Top Stories

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