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Federal government highlights 4 issues in talks with PSAC; union says some movement on wages

As more than 100,000 public servants walk picket lines across Canada Monday, on the sixth day of a nationwide strike, the federal government says four key issues remain unresolved.

But the head of the union representing workers says there has been some movement on the issue of wages.

Contract talks over the weekend between the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Treasury Board failed to produce a deal. Workers, who were not picketing Saturday and Sunday, returned to picket lines across the national capital region and elsewhere in Canada Monday, in areas such as major ports.

In an open letter Monday afternoon, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the union came to the table with "over 570 demands" and the two sides have reached an agreement on nearly all of them.

"Four key PSAC demands remain: wage increases; making telework a negotiated right for some employees; a ban on contracting out; and a requirement that, in the event that the size of the workforce needs to be adjusted, decisions concerning which employees to retain would be based on seniority," Fortier wrote.

During a news conference Saturday outside an Ottawa hotel, PSAC national president Chris Aylward identified three of these issues and the main sticking points, but did not mention a ban on contracting.

Fortier's letter responds to each of the four issues. The government reiterated its offer of a nine per cent increase over three years for workers, compared to PSAC's demands of 13.5 per cent over three years. Fortier said the government's offer would provide the average employee with an extra $6,250. In addition to the nine per cent increase, the government has also agreed to a signing bonus for every member. 

"This is higher than our original offer and it compares well with similar agreements being established across Canada, including some recently signed by employees represented by the PSAC in other jurisdictions," she wrote.


The open letter, when it was published April 24, said that the government's offer of nine per cent over three years would result in an annual pay increase of $6,250. 

A screenshot of Mona Fortier's open letter, as it was published April 24, 2023. The letter states the government's 9% increase would result in an increase of $6,250 annually for the average worker.

According to archived versions of the page hosting the letter as seen on the Wayback Machine, the government quietly changed the language in the letter some time Tuesday morning. It now no longer says the increase would be annually, but rather over the life of the contract. Sometime between Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night, the page was updated again to include a link showing the government's math on the increase.

A screenshot of Mona Fortier's open letter, as it appeared April 26, 2023. The letter states the government's 9% increase would result in an increase of $6,250 for the average worker, but removes the language saying it would be an annual increase.

The language about annual increases also appears in a screenshot of the letter posted by Fortier to Twitter. She has not tweeted since to say the letter has been changed. On Wednesday, she tweeted the link to the government's math about their wage offer.


Speaking on CTV's Power Play Monday afternoon, Aylward said the union has moved away from its request of 13.5 per cent over three years, but the union is still not satisfied with the government's offer.

"Our starting position on wages was 13.5 per cent over the three years because the same three years, the rate of inflation was at 13.8 per cent. So, we have moved off our 13.5 per cent," he said. "Nine will not get us a deal, that's what I'm saying. Have we moved off 13.5? Yes, we have."

On remote work or telework, Fortier said the government proposed to review, jointly with unions, the current telework directive. PSAC wants language around telework enshrined in collective agreements. Fortier admits the current directive "has not been re-assessed for a post-pandemic world."

"On seniority, we’ve proposed the possibility of jointly requesting that the Public Service Commission consider making seniority a factor to be considered after merit, when decisions are being made to adjust the size of the public service," Fortier wrote.

"On contracting out, we intend to reduce this practice as we outlined in Budget 2023. That said, we hope everyone can understand that reducing it to zero would severely compromise the Government’s ability to deliver services and work for Canadians."

Fortier called on PSAC to work with the government to finalize these last issues and reach an agreement.

"This will ensure that workers receive fair, competitive agreements and together, we can resume providing important services to Canadians," she said.

In a letter to union members Sunday evening, Aylward reported "some progress" in contract talks over the weekend, "but we're not there yet."

"I can report that at the Treasury Board common issues table, we made some headway on remote work language, and both sides have moved in order to get closer to a resolution on wage increases," Aylward wrote. "At the CRA bargaining table, talks continue but without a new mandate from the employer, things haven’t moved much further."

Aylward told CTV's Power Play that the open letter was a "positive sign" from the government.

"The employer recognizing that there's outstanding issues and listing the issues that are outstanding, I think that's a good signal that they're ready to start moving these issues forward and get to a deal," he said.


Speaking in the House of Commons during Question Period Monday, Fortier said some of PSAC's demands would be too costly for Canadians.

"There is a competitive deal on the table, but the PSAC continues to insist on demands that are unaffordable and would severely impact our ability to deliver services to Canadians. Now Canadians can expect both parties to bargain in good faith and find compromise," she said in response to a question from Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.

Fortier later repeated her claim about PSAC's 570 demands in the House and said the work to reach an agreement has been 'tireless.'

"This round of negotiations has been a heavy lift," she said. "We need to find a balance between what is fair for employees, reasonable for Canadians, and that's what the deal is and on the table at this time."


It is day six of the strike by Public Service Alliance of Canada members working in Treasury Board and at the Canada Revenue Agency, which is affecting several government services including passport and immigration applications and tax returns.

The PSAC website shows picket lines will be set up at several locations in the Ottawa-Gatineau area on Monday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.:

  • Treasury Board headquarters at 90 Elgin Street
  • The Prime Minister's Office on Wellington Street (picket 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Tunney's Pasture
  • Treasury Board President Mona Fortier's office on Montreal Road
  • The Canada Post building on Heron Road
  • Liberal MP Marie-France Lalonde's office on Centrum Boulevard
  • Liberal MP Greg Fergus riding office on Promenade du Portage in Gatineau
  • Liberal MP Steve McKinnon's office on Boul. de l'hopital in Gatineau

Alex Silas, PSAC's regional executive vice-president for the national capital region said the rain in Ottawa wasn't dampening morale.

"Morale is good. Members are out across the country and the rain is not stopping us and it is certainly not extinguishing the fire in PSAC members who keep fighting for a fair contract and fair wages," Silas said. 

Pickets were also be set up at other locations across Canada. The Canadian Press reported the union plans to ramp up its strike by moving picket lines to strategic locations such as ports.

The two sides pointed the finger of blame at the other for poor communication and the slow pace of contract talks over the weekend. On Monday, Aylward struck a more optimistic tone.

"I am pleased to report that we're still at the table and we're still talking and I'm still hopeful that we're going to be able to get to a deal," Aylward told CTV's Power Play on Monday.

But he told host Vassy Kapelos that the union will be escalating its strike actions the longer workers remain on strike.

"We started escalating some our actions in specific locations across the country today," he said, noting that picketers blocked ports in Montreal and St. John's on Monday."We'll continue the escalation of these actions as long as we're at the bargaining table, as long as we're on strike... We have over 100,000 members out walking picket lines. We're not just going to stay there, in front of buildings. So, we will be escalating."

Aylward warned of travel delays to come.

"Whether it be land travel or air travel, you may start seeing some delays. If anyone is travelling, then I would suggest that you plan well ahead and you give yourself lots of time to get where you're going, whether it's by land or by air."


On Saturday, Aylward called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get involved in the talks, because PSAC had not heard back from the Treasury Board after presenting a "comprehensive package" two days prior.

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier responded with a statement on Twitter, saying the union was "unreachable" when the government tried to meet on Friday.

“We've been in mediation for three weeks, we've been at the table for three weeks,” Fortier told CTV’s Question Period with Vassy Kapelos on Sunday. “There have been ups and downs, there has been kicking and screaming, but the important thing right now is that we are focused, and we have a deal that is good for public servants, a fair one, and that is reasonable for Canadians, and that's what we're trying to focus on right now.”

Aylward confirmed to the Canadian Press the government presented a revised contract proposal on Saturday, and the union responded the same day.

Aylward told CTV News on Sunday that the federal government needs to start taking the negotiations "seriously."

"That's why it's called negotiations, there has to be compromises, of course, on both sides and we're seeing that," Aylward said. "I remain hopeful that we can get to a deal, but the government has to come back to the table, certainly, with a mandate that's in line with what we're seeking, especially in respect to wages and trying to ensure that our members stay somewhat in line with the rate of inflation."

By Monday, he said the two sides had moved past the strong words on the weekend.

"Unfortunately, when you put members on strike, that sort of thing happens, but we're past that," he said. "There were some good discussions today with treasury board. I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to start moving this process forward, get to a deal for our members, get to a deal for workers, and get to a deal for Canadians."

With files from CTV News Parliamentary Bureau Writer Spencer Van Dyk and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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