by Barry Weisleder
“While the details of how the union leadership killed a three-day national strike are still emerging, this much is clear: The decision to put the employer's
final offer to a membership vote and end job action is being widely seen as a sell out by members”, writes Ian Shaw, president of Local 574 of the Canada
Employment and Immigration Unit of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
"‘Why are we going back to work?’ asked thousands of PSAC members from the biggest single union bargaining unit of some 80,000 federal workers on Oct. 15. The terms of the offer were in the same 2% -2.5 % range rejected a week earlier, and include rollbacks in wages for select groups amounting to $3000 in the case of fishery officers. It includes the loss of language to protect leave for shift workers and those on compressed workweeks, and a reduction in marriage leave provisions. The agreement will be for four years, and therefore offer no job protection against the expected job cuts of the departmental Program Review now underway.
“It strands thousands of contract workers, who have toiled for years on short term contracts without the demanded permanent status after two years service.” (This demand was won by an historic first strike of 60,000 Ontario public service employees in Spring 1996.)
Ian Shaw continues, “Due to the six to ten week window to conduct the vote, members are being asked to participate in a vote (which will only be completed days before the Christmas holiday) on the question of whether or not they want to strike against cutbacks they were already striking against!
“The only possible explanation for this ‘strategy’, which is not lost on members, is that the union leadership was desperate to exit negotiations, but reluctant to be seen accepting takeaways—so they suspended the strike in the hope members will do the dirty deed out of a sense of futility. This approach
was debuted by the PSAC National President Nicole Turmel in 2001, when she put members back to work citing the impact of the public mood after the 9/11 attacks—despite the fact she had commenced negotiating the terms of surrender on September 10, 2001, the day before the attack could have provided the fig leaf.”
PSAC members who attended the monthly meeting of the Workers’ Solidarity and Union Democracy Coalition on Nov. 18 in Toronto reported that locals oriented toward the rank-and-file are coordinating a Vote No campaign, to resume the struggle for a decent contract.