With the Government of Canada now filing a failure to bargain in good faith complaint against the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a strike in the taxman’s offices looks more and more inevitable.

The union’s persistent demand to continue with the pandemic need for remote work has since devolved into a reason to go on strike.

And the bad faith complaint, of course, fell on Friday the 13th, a bad-luck day of all days.

“From the start of negotiations in June 2021, the PSAC has flooded the bargaining tables with costly proposals—over 500 across its five bargaining units,” a Treasury Board spokesperson said Friday.

“At the same time, they have refused to prioritize their requests, refused to move on their initial proposals, and did not respond to the employer’s comprehensive offers.” 

Earlier in the week, PSAC and the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE)  launched a nationwide strike vote for more than 35,000 workers at Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) after talks broke down over wages and remote work. 

Strike votes will be conducted from January 31 to April 7, 2023. Workers at CRA have been without a contract for more than a year, and the union declared an impasse in September.

“Workers’ wages have stalled while the cost of living has continued to rise, and everyone is feeling the strain,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “We’ve been clear negotiating wages that keep up with inflation and a sensible remote work policy are critical to reach a deal, but the Agency has refused to respond to our wage offer and still has major concessions on the table. Workers can’t wait any longer.” 

The government, naturally, sees things differently. Hence, Friday’s complaint.

“PSAC’s actions,” said the government, “do not respect their obligation to  bargain in good faith. The (government)  is therefore filing a complaint with the intent of  directing  PSAC to return to the bargaining table and engage in meaningful, good faith negotiations.

“We remain confident that if both parties come together with a genuine intent to negotiate, renewed collective agreements can be reached for employees.”

The union’s response was not so positive.

“Throughout bargaining, the conciliation process and Public Interest Commission hearings, the government has made their position clear,” said PSAC’s Jeffrey Vallis. “They expect workers to take a real pay cut by accepting a wage offer far below inflation. They refuse to negotiate remote work and better work-life balance at the table. They have also rejected our calls for mandatory anti-oppression training for all workers and managers. 

“Rather than filing frivolous complaints to delay the process, the government should focus on coming back to the table with a reasonable mandate to reach an agreement. More delays to the bargaining process means members will continue to fall further behind. All workers are asking for is fair wages in the face of soaring inflation and better working conditions,” said Vallis.

“There’s no doubt the best way to reach a fair contract is at the negotiating table – but it’s becoming clearer every day: the way to reach an agreement with this government that supports workers is a strong strike mandate from our members. 

“That’s why we’ve already announced strike votes for our 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers, and why we’re moving towards potential job action for federal public service workers at Treasury Board, who make up another 120,000 of our members,” said Vallis. 

“While the government stalls on making things right, we all pay the price. Our bills can’t wait. Inclusive workplaces can’t wait. Good, secure jobs can’t wait. Workers can’t wait.”


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.