Some 155,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada started to strike across the country on Wednesday, inducing fears of disrupted government services such as passports and tax services. The labor union represents nearly 230,000 workers, including 120,000 employed by the Treasury Board of Canada and 35,000 employed by the Canada Revenue Agency, while the federal government of Canada maintained a workforce of 335,000 individuals as of last year.
“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract for Canada’s Federal Public Service workers,” Public Service Alliance of Canada National President Chris Aylward said in a press release. “Now more than ever, workers need fair wages, good working conditions and inclusive workplaces. And it’s clear the only way we’ll achieve that is by taking strike action to show the government that workers can’t wait.”
Reporters in Canada shared video footage of union members preparing to establish picket lines. The Public Service Alliance of Canada plans to create more than 250 picket lines across the country in what the group characterized as “one of the largest strikes” in the nation’s history.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada initially suggested a 4.5% wage increase over the course of three years, equivalent to a 13.5% overall increase. The government countered with a proposal of a 9% wage increase over three years and granted other demands from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, such as virtual work arrangements, shift premiums, improved paid leave for family-related matters, and a renewed emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
“The government has done everything it can to reach a deal and avoid disrupting the services that Canadians rely on,” the Treasury Board of Canada said in a statement. “Even though there is a competitive deal on the table, the PSAC continues to insist on demands that are unaffordable and would severely impact the government’s ability to deliver services to Canadians.”
Union officials have noted that pay hikes are needed to offset the inflationary pressures of the past several years. “The government of Canada recognizes the important contributions of public servants and will continue negotiations with the PSAC to reach an agreement quickly that would get needed wage increases into employees’ hands as soon as possible,” the statement from the Treasury Board of Canada acknowledged.
The strike in Canada occurs as demonstrators in France continue to protest after President Emmanuel Macron overrode a provision of the nation’s constitution to advance a bill through Parliament that raised the retirement age from 62 to 64. Labor unions and other entities have organized nationwide strikes in response to the move, which Macron pursued amid concerns about the state retirement fund’s looming insolvency.
French protesters in recent weeks have stormed the headquarters of prominent corporations and vandalized government buildings. The pension reforms increased the retirement age for workers in more labor-intensive sectors from 57 to 59; sanitation workers therefore went on strike, causing several tons of trash to accumulate in the streets of Paris.