Striking federal public service workers fined for BBQ in front of PMO
Several federal public service workers who remain on strike say they were fined $615 each for grilling hot dogs on the sidewalk in front of the office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
A group of striking workers set up a canopy covering folding tables, as they have done each day this week, on the sidewalk at the corner of Wellington and Elgin streets. The tables featured signs with the logo of their union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and were joined by a grill used to feed workers.
Jean Paul Surette says he was grilling hot dogs for his fellow workers on Thursday morning when officers with Ottawa police and the City of Ottawa's bylaw department approached the canopy.
Surette said bylaw have issued tickets to five people for "impeding a highway" — the sidewalk in front of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) — since Wednesday. The fine that goes along with the ticket is quite steep, too, at $615.
"A little intense for hot dogs," he said.
More than 150,000 workers with PSAC have been on strike for more than a week now, fighting for better wages, the ability to work from home and other issues.
The wieners were a hot ticket that kept morale high during the four hours on the picket line, according to Surette.
"What do we want? Hot dogs! When do we want them? Now!" workers were heard chanting on cellphone video as officers began issuing tickets.
Dana McDonald, who took the video, said they "just want to go back to work."
Others on the picket line said officers warned them about setting up their tent and playing music from a speaker.
Strikers will fight the fines
The city's head of bylaw Roger Chapman told CBC a complaint was made about the tent and table on the sidewalk in front of the PMO, and protests are prohibited from encumbering public roads and sidewalks.
"The City respects an individual's right to take part in a demonstration, but we ask that it be done in a respectful manner that does not block a sidewalk causing accessibility and safety concerns for others," read a statement from Chapman.
Chapman said warnings were issued before fines were handed out Wednesday and Thursday. Similar enforcement is happening at Tunney's Pasture, he said.
"All enforcement action occurred as [a] consequence of individuals not following direction from officers to remove the tent, tables and chairs from the sidewalk and continuing to pose an accessibility and safety risk to the public," he said.
Surette believes the tent and grill were placed away from the busier spots on the sidewalk, which should have sufficed. The canopy and grill was placed between large planters and the building where few people walk.
He said workers have contacted their union and challenge the tickets.