The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Treasury Board failed to reach a bargain before striking on April 19, prompting 12 days of heated protests.
However, Board workers struck a tentative deal late Sunday with the federal government and will return to work this week.
According to PSAC, the tentative agreement increases worker wages by 12.6% over the next four years with a pensionable $2,500 one-time lump sum payment.
Treasury Board workers initially asked for a 13.5% wage hike over the same period, ultimately rejecting the Board's offer of a more tenable three-year raise compounded at 9.25%, triggering one of Canada's largest public service strikes ever.
Approximately 120,000 Board workers and 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) staff called for a strike. Only CRA workers continue their strike unabated, with contract negotiations ongoing.
The CRA said their employees wanted a 22.5% pay raise over three years. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) says it is a "huge price tag" for Canadians "struggling" to make ends meet.
According to the CTF, the wage and non-wage benefits demanded by PSAC would cost taxpayers $9.3 billion over three years. They added the lost salary for eight days of striking is upwards of $2,300 for union members; hence, the $2,500 lump sum payment
“The government needs to explain why it’s giving PSAC bureaucrats a lump sum payment that neatly covers the cost for eight days of striking,” said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the CTF, costing taxpayers $300 million for 120,000 employees.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) said compensation for each full-time federal employee is $125,300 on average for their pay, pension and other benefits. Some 312,825 federal employees received at least one pay raise during the COVID pandemic and $559 million in bonuses since 2020.
In addition, union members will have more protections when managers make "arbitrary decisions" about remote work. According to the tentative agreement, they must assess remote work requests individually and provide written responses to ascertain their reasoning.
Since the strike began, protesters have circled different buildings, chanted slogans through megaphones, and blasted music. They even marched outside Parliament Hill, picketing messages. "People hate us," read one picket.
Initial negotiations on a new collective agreement began in June 2021, with PSAC declaring an impasse last May. Both parties filed labour complaints at the time.
Last week, some union members escalated their antics, disrupting traffic and limiting access to office buildings in downtown Ottawa. On April 28, hundreds of disgruntled union members occupied the Portage Bridge between Gatineau, Québec and Ottawa, Ontario.
A picket captain faced pushback from a visibly distraught resident angered by the ongoing antics of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). "We, the people, pay your salary," she said. "Are you working right now?" he replied.
"The hypocrisy is strong," Convoy participant Traiq Elnaga told Rebel News. "The PSAC strike is blocking critical infrastructure in the taxpayer dime."
Elnaga took exception with their antics, stating their actions have caused backlogs of essential services while members "dance in the streets to oppose their employer."
Service disruptions loomed during the initial breakdown of collective bargaining, including slowdowns at the border to disruptions on new employment insurance, immigration and passport applications.
"Canadian taxpayers reap no benefits from this ordeal," continued Elnaga, adding he hopes the feds will legislate CRA staff to return to work.
"If anything, many MPs, especially from the NDP, are standing in solidarity with them. It's disappointing, but a sad state of a government that turns a blind eye to their voting base while vehemently not standing up for all Canadians," he said.
People's Party leader Maxime Bernier did not mince his words when he highlighted the "hypocrisy" in Ottawa's handling of the protests in contrast to the 2022 Freedom Convoy.
"If Trudeau were consistent in dealing with supposed threats to national security, he would [have] invoked the Emergencies Act right away and ordered the end of strike actions by PSAC," Bernier told Rebel News.
"Of course, I'm not advocating doing this — it's no more justified now than it was for the Freedom Convoy last year. But this shows how [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau is a complete hypocrite," he continued.
"Truckers were challenging his lies and authoritarian policies. Strikers only want more money, which he loves handing out, and they're not a threat to him, so that explains the difference in treatment."
Elnaga commented on the matter, stating the "peaceful" Freedom Convoy "stood against the erosion of Canadians' rights."
"The feds invoked the Emergencies Act to shut down the Convoy protest because the Liberals would not have lost any support doing so," he said.