by Barry Weisleder – February, 2005
Last month we reported on the struggle of members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who had embarked on a brave battle last summer against harmful government cuts to public services and jobs. The militant walk outs were cut short and a huge strike mandate was betrayed by top union officials, who talked ‘rejection’ but channelled the ranks into accepting an inferior deal.
In an update, Ian Shaw, president of PSAC Local 574 in Scarborough (Toronto) writes: “Over the past year, seven major federal Treasury Board and Agency bargaining units entered their final stages of negotiations. Some groups (such as Parks Canada workers who waged a 55-day strike in late summer 2004) achieved decent tentative agreements. But the most
controversial settlement occurred at the biggest bargaining table, representing a range of federal government workers—from office clerks to immigration
officers, from parole officers to community development workers.
“Fully 15 weeks after sending members back to work to vote on the employer's final offer, the PSAC top leadership concluded the ballot process. This was a
process that seemed designed to wear down the resolve of members to fight a federal Liberal government offer full of labour concessions, and a wage offer not likely to keep pace with the cost of living over the next four years.
“The bargaining team ’recommended’ rejection. But there was a subtle ‘vote yes’ message hidden in the lack-luster NO campaign. Predictably, by the time all the votes were counted in January, members of the 80,000 strong unit had voted 72% to accept.
Ironically, the same percentage had voted for strike action months before in what must be one of the most stunning displays of how not to conduct bargaining by a major union in recent memory....
“The result is a new contract that freezes wages for 8000 customs and border services workers, destroys language that protected shift worker needs-based
leave, and eliminates marriage leave altogether. In addition, the employer refused to address job security, which will likely be under attack as the
Federal Government Program Review sets out to strip millions of dollars from departmental budgets, as the contracting-out agenda continues.
“Nonetheless, resistance by activists did make some inroads. Despite the bad time frames and the general demoralization amongst a membership stripped of a strike only three days old in October, PSAC members in Ontario actually voted to reject the deal.”