Unions, workers share mixed feelings about latest details of PSAC agreements

While the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has released new details of its tentative agreements with the federal government, officials and union leaders representing workers in the four recently-striking bargaining units are still unsure whether their members will vote to ratify them the agreements.

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Over the weekend, PSAC posted six statements on its website, providing both a general overview of Canada’s Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department employee arrangements and summaries of specific employee arrangements in Canada PSAC-UTE (Union of Taxation Employees), Education and Library Science (EB), Technical Services (TC), Operational Services (SV) and Program and Administrative Services (PA) Groups.

The agreements, reached by the union earlier this month and sending more than 155,000 federal workers back to work after more than 10 days of strikes, include a 12.6 percent wage increase, as well as anti-legal safeguards and increased shift pay for some workers. New wording on remote work was also introduced in a separate MOU.

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While PSAC said it is still preparing ratification kits detailing the new agreements, which are set to be shared in the coming days, it said the deal will net workers an average of $23,000 more over the four-year deal . According to PSAC, that number comes from a $2,500 lump sum payment and annual salary increases, based on average member salary of $68,000 for CRA employees and $67,305 for Treasury Department employees.

PSAC said that for members working in the four bargaining groups under the Treasury Board, the pay increase secured in the agreement would increase their base salaries by an average of $8,473 through 2024. For CRA workers, this number is enough $8,559.

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At the start of negotiations, PSAC asked for 13.5 percent over three years for Treasury Department employees and 20.5 percent plus a one-time pay adjustment of 9 percent over the same period for CRA members.

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Federal officials have taken to social media to express their mixed reactions to the deal. While some are happy with the deal, others believe a better deal could have been reached.

Matthew Larocque, a communications manager for the PA group, said that while he acknowledges the deal is not “the best deal ever” and finds the additional details of the contract unconvincing, he is nonetheless happy with it.

“The union made members wait a week for some new information, and the new information was aimed at a very small part of the group,” Larocque said. “While my expectations for actual new wins were low, I expected some sort of ‘win’ once the details came out. I still plan on ratifying this deal as I believe it is the best deal we could get and is fair to both the workers and the employer.”

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Larocque said he has no problem with the current hybrid working model, noting that being able to work from home two or three days a week is pretty good. He added that he understands why the government decided to take remote work out of the collective agreement as it could result in it receiving an overwhelming number of complaints.

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“I might have accepted a higher salary if it had been offered, but it’s definitely not something I would fight harder for because I think it’s still fair,” Larocque said. “I think there’s a logical sense that this will be a good deal for most, it’s probably the best deal and they have the next deal to look forward to.”

Going forward, Larocque said he believes PSAC needs to communicate better with its members and understand and negotiate its few key demands, rather than demanding “everything and the kitchen sink”.

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Crystal Warner, the national executive vice president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU), which represents 36,000 of the nearly 100,000 members of PSAC’s PA group, has launched a campaign urging members to say “no” to the Agreement to vote, said that Even with the new details, the agreement is not enough.

Warner said that given that, the average salary mentioned by PSAC is higher than what CEIU members earn CEIU is the most racially diverse union in the federal public sector and is among the lowest paid 78 percent of the component members are women.

“The amounts released do not reflect the 36,000 members of the CEIU; that number would be a lower number,” Warner said.

Warner said some of the benefits outlined in the latest iteration of the agreements, including reimbursement of medical certificate costs during sick leave and extending the scope of bereavement leave to aunts and uncles, are “great” but wages remain a top -Theme for CEIU.

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She said the union’s membership was also unhappy with the decisions surrounding remote work and that CEIU hoped the language would be enshrined in the collective agreement. PSAC said over the weekend the new contracts offer the “strongest protections against remote work in federal public services.”

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Warner said she hoped the vote would fail so negotiations could resume, adding that she was not worried about the possibility of return-to-work legislation being introduced.

“I think there would be some serious political consequences for the parties if they went in that direction, and I think the whole labor movement would be on our side,” she said.

The unit-specific gains outlined in the recent statements range from allowances for various positions, increases Bonuses and more paid vacations for some workers.

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June Winger, national president of the Union of National Defense Employees (UNDE), whose members are spread across the Treasury Department’s four recently-striking negotiating units, said last week that members would await final agreements before making a decision on how and manner of voting, suggesting she was confident they would vote no if no additional funds were raised.

She said her workers are still “waiting with bated breath” for the deals on Tuesday before making a decision, noting that although additional allowances were announced over the weekend, the party hopes workers in the final more funds allocated to agreements.

“We have some significant pay differentials when we do the total pay comparisons between Treasury Department employees and the private sector, and so we want to try to minimize those as best we can,” Winger said, adding that the more competitive the government is, theirs wages, the better able they will be to address recruitment and retention issues.

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