Staff of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) are escalating their strike action in B.C. as the labour disruption enters its sixth official day.
More than 100 employees picketed at the Cascadia Terminal in Vancouver Monday morning, while others flooded the Delta office of local MP and federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.
“We’ve started taking escalated actions from coast to coast to coast,” said Jamey Mills, PSAC’s regional executive director, in Delta.
“How long will be (at the terminal)? We’ll be there for as long as we need to be, or we won’t. I think our tactics are going to be changing every day.”
More than 100,000 PSAC workers — civil servants — are on strike across the country, hoping to enshrine better wages and working conditions, including remote work and seniority rights, into a new bargaining agreement with the federal government. The job action kicked off on April 19.
Picket lines have since been set up at more than 250 locations across the country, with the union and the federal employer both accusing each another of obstructing negotiations over the weekend. PSAC represents about 15,000 federal workers in B.C.
According to union, the Treasury Board presented a new offer on Saturday afternoon, which it countered the very same day. The office of Treasury Board president Mona Fortier said it made a second proposal Saturday that the union hadn’t responded to as of late Sunday.
PSAC said that offer did not address its wage demands.
In Delta, strikers posted sticky notes to the doors of Qualtrough’s office. The minister is currently in Japan for an international labour and employment ministers’ meeting.
They also waved flags, rang cow bells and chanted slogans like, “We got the power!” and “Fair contracts now!”
“We just really want to ensure the employer comes back to the table with a respectful mandate,” Mills told Global News on Monday.
“We don’t want to be on strike, we don’t want to be impacting Canadians. This is a position that Mona Fortier and the Treasury Board has put us into.”
Mills said staff are motivated and will strike as long as they need to. The average worker currently on strike makes between $40,000 and $65,000 per year, he added.
Striker Nielene Chan, a mother of three, said she’s struggling to afford groceries and post-secondary tuition for her son.
“If we are being treated like this by the government, how about the rest of Canada? It’s not just us. Everybody deserves fair wages in order to survive.”
Brayden Norcliffe said remote working is an important option for his family, with his commute to the office in Surrey lasting more than an hour.
“At this time I’ve at 40 per cent in the office,” he said. “We really had to downsize, especially after the pandemic. We’re down to a single car household at this point.”
Many picketers at the Cascadia Terminal on Monday work for the Canadian Grain Commission. They too, waved flags while wearing orange union “solidarity” vests.
Steve Faria, president of the local Syndicat Agriculture Union chapter, said his workers — who inspect grain vessels from around the world for quality and safety — have “had enough.” The Local 20060 has about 80 members, he added.
“We need the government to move and get us back to work.”
PSAC is asking for a 13.5-per cent wage increase over four years. To date, Ottawa has countered with nine per cent, Mills said.
Picket lines have now been set up at more than 40 sites across the province. Some 3,000 people are at a single site in Surrey, Mills added.
— with files from The Canadian Press