Federal workers take to the picket line
About 125 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 647 are walking the picket lines in three Chatham-Kent locations as a part of the 159,000 federal workers across Canada who went on strike after 11:59 p.m. last Tuesday.
There are about 300 workers in legal strike positions at the Judy Lamarsh building in Chatham and Service Canada outlets in Chatham and Wallaceburg.
However, about 175 workers remain on the job.
“These workers are deemed essential and are still working and delivering services under the Essential Services agreement,” said Lyle Gall, president of Local 647 PSAC/Canadian Employment and Immigration Union.
Among the duties of workers at the Judy Lamarsh are processing Old Age Security pensions and Canada Pension Plan and Disability applications.
The service centres in the Federal Building on Wellington St. and in Wallaceburg offer more front-end services, such as passport applications, Guaranteed Income Supplements, Employment Insurance, issuing Social Insurance Numbers, OAS and CPP and EI.
These offices remain open but at reduced hours as members of the public will be crossing the picket line to enter.
Delays can be expected for in-person and virtual support through eService Canada as service is limited to clients requiring assistance with OAS, GIS, CPP, EI and issuing Social Insurance Numbers.
Passports are not deemed as essential as processing is limited to clients experiencing humanitarian or emergencies.
Canada Post Offices in Blenheim and across Chatham-Kent are not affected by the strike and are open for regular hours.
Gall said union members have been working without a contract since June 2021, when the collective agreement expired.
Workers have not had a pay increase since June 2020.
The PSAC seeks a 13.5 percent raise over three years (or 4.5 percent a year) for its 120,000 members.
The Union of Taxation Employees, representing about 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers, is seeking a pay increase of 22.5% over three years.
Gall said negotiations between the unions and the Federal government had been ongoing for over two years before they entered a legal strike position last week.
“We’re hopeful the collective bargain process runs its course, and both sides come together and reach a fair collective agreement for our members,” Gall said.
Wages are at the top of the list for PSAC members.
“With inflation raging as it has, we’re looking for a fair wage increase,” Gall said.
Other issues include more inclusive workplaces, addressing systemic racism, job security and working remotely.
“Remote work is a significant factor in this collecting bargaining process,” Gall said, adding that workers continued to provide service to Canadians throughout the pandemic by working from home.
“We’re looking to have language around remote work in the collective agreement that supports a fair remote workplace and procedures and allows our members to have a work-life balance and take care of family needs and responsibilities.
“The right to disconnect and separate work from home four our members are in some of the languages that we’re hoping to have in the next agreement,” Gall said.
Despite the strike by tax workers, the CRA said it would not be extending the April 30 tax deadline of April 30, although delays can be expected for residents receiving their returns.
International border crossings remain open, but delays can be expected with Canada Border Service Agency workers part of the strike.
Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News