Canadian public servants set for strike ballot as governments worldwide grapple with industrial action

By on 02/02/2023 | Updated on 02/02/2023
A photograph of public sector workers on strike in Whitehall, London, UK
A photograph of public sector workers on strike in Whitehall, London, UK. Photo: Enough Is Enough campaign on Twitter.

Public servants in Canada are to be balloted for strike action later this month as governments around the world face increasing industrial relations pressure over pay settlements.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) announced last week that it would ballot 120,000 members on possible industrial action due to what its national president Chris Aylward called “total disrespect and disregard” from the Treasury Board of Canada.

Aylward said that since the beginning of the pandemic, PSAC members have stepped up by helping Canadians when they needed it most, but that public servants’ wages were “falling further behind as the cost of living increases”.

Aylward also highlighted that the union wanted government action on “solutions to harassment, discrimination and systemic racism in the workplace”, as well as enshrining the right to remote work and the ‘right to disconnect’ in collective agreements between government and public service trade unions.

Read more: Canadian public servants could face discipline for shirking return-to-office rules

“Unfortunately, Treasury Board is hell-bent on pushing through serious concessions that impact your rights, including reducing job security and access to some leaves. And their insulting wage offer of 2.06% per year over four years is asking more than 120,000 hard-working PSAC members to take a big pay cut,” he said.

Strike action is “never our first choice”, Aylward said in a statement, and a ballot does not mean one would be automatically called. “But securing a strong strike mandate from our membership shows we’re willing to fight and will give us the leverage we need to reach a fair and decent contract. And if we need to take job action to get the collective agreement you deserve, then that’s exactly what we’ll do,” he said.

Possible industrial action in Canada comes as governments around the world face increasing industrial disputes as public servants seek pay settlements that reflect the high rate of inflation.

Read more: Details emerge of UK civil service job cuts – but minister backs away from 91,000 target

In the UK, over 100,000 public servants took strike action on 1 February over pay, pensions, redundancy terms and job security. The action was called across departments including the Department for Work and Pensions, UK Border Force and Rural Payments Agency, while teachers, train and bus drivers, and university lecturers were also on strike on the UK’s biggest day of industrial action in a decade.

Action has also been taken by university staff in New Zealand, and by thousands of workers at state level in Australia. Public servants in New South Wales took action over a proposed 3% pay rise, which is below Australia’s current inflation rate of 7.8%.

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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