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PSAC head accuses government of stalling as striking public servants rally on Parliament Hill

Thousands of striking public servants rallied on Parliament Hill Wednesday as their union accused the federal government of stalling in negotiations.

"We have moved off our wage demand," Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward told a news conference on Wednesday. "The employer hasn't moved on their wage demand, and yet they're telling us that we're the ones that have to move. That's not how bargaining works."

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) National President Chris Aylward speaks to striking members protesting on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

More than 150,000 workers with the Public Service Alliance of Canada are on strike for an eighth straight day as union representatives negotiate with the government for a bigger wage increase and more flexibility to work remotely.

Earlier Wednesday, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said she was frustrated at the offers PSAC negotiators are tabling.

"We’re still at the table, it's just that we keep receiving unreasonable and unaffordable offers. ... I cannot write a blank cheque."

Fortier said the government's proposal of a nine per cent wage increase over three years, which a third-party Public Interest Commission recommended, remains on the table. 

"We have a PIC report, a third party that recommended salaries at a fair advantage for the employees, and that's what is on the table," Fortier said.

The union had been pushing for a 13.5 per cent increase in pay for its members over the same period of time. Aylward did not say what the union is now demanding, but said by holding at nine per cent, Fortier "expects the union to negotiate with itself."

Aylward reiterated his call on Wednesday for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get involved in negotiations.

"The prime minister has one of two choices to make. He can either get involved personally and help settle this dispute, or he can turn his back on the workers who are striking," Aylward said. "He's the one who can help settle this dispute."

Aylward also suggested that Treasury Board negotiators are stalling on the issue of remote work, although some progress has been made on the issue.

"They've been telling us for a week that they're working on something for remote work. We haven't seen anything yet, he said.

Fortier also issued a statement on Wednesday saying the government is "determined to land agreements quickly," but needs the PSAC to start bringing their demands in line with the PIC recommendations.

"We are committed to delivering a fair deal that recognizes the valuable contributions that public servants make every day," she said.

"But let me be very clear, these agreements must be in the best interest of Canadians. We will not sign agreements that the country cannot afford."


Workers have been picketing in several locations across Ottawa and Gatineau, including Tunney's Pasture and Treasury Board President Mona Fortier's office on Montreal Road. But Wednesday was a different story, with thousands of them gathering on Parliament Hill.

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) striking government workers protest on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Earlier Wednesday, Trudeau said he knows Canadians' frustrations will rise as the strike impacts services, but said the right to collective bargaining is important for the government.

"Yes, it's frustrating to know that Canadians may, as the days come, have more difficulty accessing services. But that's a motivator for everyone to try and resolve this."

Trudeau added that the union is "very aware of Canadians’ impatience and they have to calibrate that carefully."

"We're there to make progress at the table. And right now, progress is being made," he said. "There's an ebb and flow in these negotiations always. But we're going to continue to stay positive and constructive."

The rally on Wednesday comes as the union escalates its strike activities, even as talks continue with the federal government in an effort to reach a deal.

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) striking government workers protest on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

On Tuesday, hundreds of public servants marched across the Portage bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau. Outside the Prime Minister's Office building and the Treasury Board headquarters a few blocks away, strikers limited entry to just one person every five minutes.

In an open letter published on Monday, Fortier identified four main areas of disagreement that remain between the union and the government: wages, teleworking, outsourcing contracts and seniority rules in the event of a layoff.

- with files from Haneen Al-Hassoun, CTV Morning Live, and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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