Striking federal public servants demonstrated Thursday at the Lacolle border crossing

Striking federal public servants demonstrated Thursday at the Lacolle border crossing

Striking federal public servants demonstrated Thursday at the Lacolle border crossing

Photo: Jeff McIntosh The Canadian Press Public service strikers were visible in the reflection of a woman's glasses, Monday, in Canmore, Alta.

The Liberal government is giving no indication it will end the strike at its largest public sector union by forcing some 100 or so workers back to work 000 federal public servants.

Union members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada walked off the job nine days ago now, after negotiations with the government failed to find land agreement on issues such as salary increases and telecommuting.

Striking federal civil servants organized a demonstration on Thursday morning near the Lacolle border crossing in Montérégie. A few buses carrying dozens of demonstrators arrived in the morning at this border crossing between Lacolle and Champlain, in the State of New York, usually one of the busiest in the country.

Several police officers from the Sûreté du Québec were also on the scene Thursday morning. Television footage showed the police lined up to form a human barrier limiting protesters' movement.

Meanwhile, other Public Service Alliance protesters marched through streets in Quebec in order to show their displeasure.

According to former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, the federal government cannot really discuss the use of special back-to-work legislation, because negotiations are still in progress.

Mr. Wernick, who led the federal public service for three years, says that by prematurely tabling back-to-work legislation, the government could be accused of bad faith at the bargaining tables.

Not to mention the question of political support in the Commons, which the minority Liberals would need to pass such a law.

The New Democratic Party has already warned that it will not support a special law in the House, while the Conservatives have not spoken on the issue. And Bloc Québécois MPs have been pointing out for several days that this party has never supported the use of back-to-work legislation in the past.

In 2018, when the Liberal government had a majority in the Commons, he forced by a special law the return to work of the employees of the Post offices.


But despite the union's heavy-handed rhetoric, Wernick believes there was momentum during the negotiations and both sides appear motivated to reach a tentative agreement. “To me, it doesn't look like a dead end,” he said in an interview.

According to an open letter from Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, dated April 24, four key demands are still being negotiated, including wages and telecommuting.


Growing backlogs

The outcome of the negotiations will affect 155,000 workers, about one-third of the entire federal public service, including 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers, who are separately negotiating their collective agreements.

< p>The federal government is offering a 9% wage increase over three years, retroactive to 2021. In the meantime, the union says it has adjusted its initial demand of 13.5% over three years, but it does not reveal the new figure.

The other two points in dispute concern subcontracts and seniority rules in the event of dismissal.

Delivery of federal services continues to be affected by the strike as growing backlogs of immigration and passport applications are not processed.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser , said that last week about 70,000 immigration cases that should have been processed were instead put on hold. “This is a very serious level of service reduction,” he said in an interview Thursday in Halifax. The impact has already been serious.”

The minister said his department planned to announce last week that it had returned to certain service standards it had reached before the COVID-19 pandemic doesn't settle in 2020, but standards fell at the start of the strike.

And massive Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) slowdowns remain at the height of tax season, as Monday's filing deadline approaches. The CRA said it has no plans to extend the deadline.