Canada’s largest federal public-service union and Ottawa are both warning of likely service disruptions as nearly one-third of all federal workers remain on strike for a second day in a row.
The job action taken by members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada could amount to a complete halt of the tax season, slowdowns at the border and pauses to new EI, immigration and passport applications.
In one of the largest strikes in Canada history, government workers walked off the job as of 12:01 a.m. ET Wednesday, hitting the picket lines at some 250-plus locations across the country.
Bargaining is ongoing between the union and the federal government.
“We’re back at the bargaining table today, continuing to work hard to get a deal that is fair to employees and reasonable for taxpayers — as quickly as possible,” Treasury Board President Mona Fortier tweeted on Thursday.
The bargaining groups involve some 155,000 federal public servants, including 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency staffers and about 46,000 essential workers who are not part of the strike action.
The Treasury Board says the majority of full-time federal workers in four bargaining units, which make up 120,000 employees, earn between $50,000 and $75,000. About three per cent earn less than $50,000.
The union is asking for a 13.5 per cent raise over the next three years, saying the increases are necessary to keep pace with inflation and the cost of living.
The Treasury Board and the CRA both say they have offered the union a nine per cent raise over three years, on the recommendation of the third-party Public Interest Commission.
As day two of the strike continued, hundreds of workers headed to the picket line at Parliament Hill Thursday morning armed with signs, megaphones and their dogs.
Public servant Paul Jones arrived at the Hill in an inflatable costume that made it look like he was riding a black-and-pink bird.
He said that while the atmosphere seems playful with music blasting and people dancing and talking with other union members, the strike is serious and it is happening out of necessity.
This is not just for fun, he said.
“We want to go back to work,” said Jones.
“We’re suffering and I hope they go back to the table with a genuine offer.”
Jones said that while public servants are making more than minimum wage, they are not making enough to sustain their expenses during a time of high inflation.
PSAC’s national president, Chris Aylward, told reporters Wednesday that members are willing to strike for “as long as it takes.”
“Workers are fed up, workers are frustrated and workers are saying, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not going to take the garbage anymore.’”
—Nojoud Al Mallees and Cindy Tran, The Canadian Press