On Strike

Sourced from CBC news site – Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Public Service Allkiance of Canada (PSAC) and a smaller union Canada Revenue Agency employees have been on strike since last Wednesday Together, these two unions comprise 155,000 members.

I was born and raised in a union town, I did work in government for a number of years and then I went into private industry, as a small business, for a number of years, as well. I know there is little sympathy for government workers, given the stereotype that all government workers are overpaid and underworked. From experience I can tell you that there were (during my time) a minority of government works who fit the stereotype. The majority did not, however.

The union is asking for 4.5% increases per year, over three years. The government is willing to give 9% over three years, with most of that in last two years. The major issues are wages, seniority and remote working. It should be noted that PSAC has 120,000 members Only 42,000 members voted with 80% of that number voting to strike. Members, who show up to protest, receive $75/day.

To give a flavour of the public relations the following two quotes reflect, first the Treasury Board views, then PSAC’s views.

“We are not here to play games. We are here to get a deal. Our employees and the public they serve expect both parties to work hard at the bargaining table. There is no time, nor tolerance for stalling and misinformation.” 

“I’ve been involved in this union a long time, I’ve never seen a round of bargaining like this — the disrespect at the table from Treasury Board and from this government.”

No surprise from either side. I was a public service employee, working in Ottawa, in the 1991 public servant strike. Back then, if you walked the lines, strike pay was $25 a day. My wife was identified as a designated employee. She had to cross the line. I would go with her to her place of work, to ensure she crossed the line safely. Then I went to my place of work and picketed. Later we would walk the streets chanting “hey hey – ho ho lyin Brian got to go” Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister at the time. Near the end of the strike, many of us gathered at Parliament Hill, walked over the barricades and actually went to the front door. The police showed up. They told us to go home We are Canadian. Of course, we went home quietly. Thank goodness Donald Trump was not our union leader.

One other thing I remember is that some people, in our work unit, crossed the lines, rather than support the union. There were hard feelings for many months afterwards. Friendships were strained. Hopefully this strike ends soon. Be patient in the meanwhile.

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