CRA union searches for members who crossed picket line

Striking PSAC members at Tunney's Pasture check in with their strike captain last month. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)
Striking PSAC members at Tunney's Pasture check in with their strike captain last month. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

The hunt is on for tax collectors who their union feels didn't pay their dues during this spring's federal worker strike.

Workers with the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE), who review and process tax returns and run the offices of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), were on the picket line for two weeks earlier this spring.

The national president of the union, the second largest unit within the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), says members who chose to continue working while their colleagues picketed will now have to pay a price.

"It's shameful in a way," said Marc Brière. "You're basically betraying your coworkers."

CRA employees will have a chance to explain why they weren't on the picket line and there will be disagreements about who was doing "essential" work during the strike, said Brière, as those members were allowed to continue to work.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

'Harder to find' workers who crossed picket line

In the era of remote work, it might be hard to discipline members who the union can't find.

"In the good old days, people will cross the picket line in your face — in front of you," said Brière, who estimates six per cent of the roughly 39,000 UTE members — or about 2,400 — chose to ignore the union's call to action.

"It's harder to find them out but we're working hard on it."

Those workers will hear from the union once ratification of the vote on a new collective bargaining agreement is concluded.

Brière insists leaders will not harass people who crossed the line and everyone will be given a fair hearing. The union wants to know of those who didn't sign in daily with stewards, who were essential workers and who chose to stay home, thus not collecting strike pay.

The union's constitution calls for fines equal to the amount members were paid by the government each workday, and suspension from the union is also possible.

Ostracism of those who crossed the picket line is less likely than in the past due to remote work, workers told CBC. Brière recalled stories from his father of when a worker would suffer property damage after crossing the picket line.

In this case a worker who crossed the picket line might not see as many side eye glances, but they will hear from the union over the next few weeks. The UTE constitution also outlines discipline for leaders who fail to take disciplinary action.