It was inevitable the 120,000 strikers within the largest bargaining unit of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) would vote to consider settlement first chance out of the box.

Not a very large contingent wanted the strike in the first place.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), its 35,000 members still on the picket line, is not so simple.

Different strokes; different folks.

When PSAC president Chris Aylward said at the outset of the job action almost two weeks ago that his union had an “overwhelming majority” voting for a strike mandate, he wasn’t exactly being honest.

Only a third of the union members actually voted on the strike, but it nonetheless pitched 155,000 onto the picket line which made it the largest strike against a single employer in Canadian history.

Some 42,420 PSAC members voted in the strike vote — 20% of them voting no — which left a “minority” of approximately 34,000 members calling the shots to hit the bricks.

No wonder the Treasury Board’s presentation of a “fair, competitive and reasonable” offer moved the union to consider settlement.

They didn’t want the strike in the first place.

Giving each member a pensionable lump sum of $2,500 for essentially bringing the strike to an end was a nice piece of unexpected news for the strikers because it basically covered the salary lost on the picket line.

The Treasury Board’s settlement offer applies to approximately 120,000 members in the four bargaining groups under its purview. They include strikers in the Program and Administrative Services, Operational Services, Technical Services, and Education and Library Science bargaining groups.

It does not apply to workers with the CRA.

Treasury Board President Mona Fortier told reporters Monday that the government’s commitments to the union on work from home have been made outside of the collective bargaining agreement, meaning it will not open the door to grievances over telework.

PSAC had been seeking a 13.5% wage increase over three years. The still-on-strike union representing CRA workers is seeking a 22.5% increase over three years.

The government said the four-year deal is worth 11.5%, while the union said it is worth 12%, or 12.6%, with compounding.

Both sides said the difference between their numbers relates to whether compounding is considered, as well as the accounting of a 0.5% wage adjustment that applies in the third year of the deal.

PSAC president Aylward was happy with the outcome.

“PSAC members held the line together and secured a fair contract that keeps up with the cost of living, increased protections around remote work, and creates safer, more inclusive workplaces,” he said in a statement.

The agreement must still be ratified by PSAC members.

PSAC’s regional vice president for the national capital region Alex Silas said bargaining came right down to the wire.

“What that means is the workers that are lower in the salary scale that’s a bigger boost for them than what their salary scale is. And through this entire fight we’ve been saying we want a standard for fair wages to keep up with the cost of living that will allow workers in the federal public service to not live paycheque to paycheque,” said Silas.  

Treasury Board president Fortier said the agreements came after weeks of “hard work, negotiation and compromise.”

“We are deeply grateful for public servants who work hard across the country to serve Canadians and look forward to welcoming them back,” she said. “These deals are fair, competitive, and reasonable, and bring stability to public servants and Canadians.”

The agreement is retroactive until June 2021 and runs until 2024.


  • 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.