This explainer is no longer maintained. Refer to The Globe’s coverage of the Public Service Union of Canada for further reporting and opinion.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada reached a tentative contract agreement on May 1 with the Treasury Board covering more than 120,000 federal government workers across the country.
The union’s 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers struck a deal with Ottawa for a new collective agreement three days later, ending its strike on May 4.
The deals concluded almost two years of charged and contentious negotiations between both sides that culminated in the strikes.
Public servants hit picket lines at locations across the country beginning April 19 in what the union said was one of the biggest job actions in Canadian history.
What did the Canada Revenue Agency workers strike affect?
A strike by CRA workers will affect services for Canadians filing their 2022 taxes.
Access to CRA’s online tax service would still be available, such as registering for direct deposit, tracking the status of your return, applying for child benefits, making a payment and viewing uncashed cheques.
However, the CRA warns that there may be delays in processing some income tax and benefit returns, particularly those filed by paper. The CRA says it also anticipates increased wait times in its contact centres.
Which services did the PSAC workers strike affect?
Many federal services, including passport and immigration applications are affected by the PSAC strike. The union says it’s likely there will be slowdowns at airports and border crossings, as administrative workers with the Canada Border Services Agency were on strike.
The agency says it expects to maintain services for travellers and businesses, but PSAC says the strike would affect the organization’s administrative staff, which would inevitably cause delays at the border.
Canadians are most likely to notice the effects of a strike with these services. Services deemed essential, such as administering the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance and social insurance numbers will be maintained. But passport services, grants and contributions programs, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Canada Education Savings Grant, the Canada Learning Bond, the Canada Disability Savings Grant and the Canada Disability Savings Bond and the job bank will be partially or fully disrupted.
Approximately 300 Service Canada locations will remain open during the strike, but service will be limited to those requiring assistance for Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan payments and the issuance of Social Insurance Numbers.
Travel advice and advisories for Canadians abroad, consular services and EduCanada, the program for international students who want to study in Canada, are not expected to be affected.
Consular services abroad, including citizenship and passport services, will continue to be provided but delays are likely. Passport applications and the delivery of new or renewed passports will only be processed for Canadians experiencing humanitarian or emergency situations and Canadians residing abroad, as long as the strike continues, the government said in a news conference Wednesday.
Emergency situations apply to those who depend on travel for their income security, those who have to travel for medical reasons, or those who experience a family illness or death.
Document authentication services will see delays in response time for enquiries, reviewing and processing requests, authentication requests and returned authenticated documents.
Search and rescue, navigation aids and environmental response are among the services that won’t be affected, but lighthouse and wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels services will be disrupted. Indigenous funding programs, licensing – relevant to Canadians in need of a new or renewed boat licence for the summer – aquatic invasive species, aquaculture management, marine mammal and small craft harbours services will also be disrupted.
The AgriInvest and AgriStability programs, Poultry and Egg On-Farm Investment Program, Wine Sector Support Program, Youth Employment and Skills Program and the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership programs might experience delays. The Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Contact Centre could also experience delays and may be unable to take calls.
Regulatory activities, including the issuing of air licences, and air, rail and marine determinations will continue but may see delays. The agency will likely experience delays in responding to information requests and dispute resolutions.
People will still be able to apply online, mail applications to IRCC, use their online accounts and access some emergency services. Settlement services from partner organizations, health care through the Interim Federal Health Program and visa application centres outside of Canada will still be available.
However, most IRCC services will be affected, and people should expect delays with application processing times, in-person appointments, events such as citizenship ceremonies, contact response times and consular citizenship and passport services in Canada.
The government has said that because of the strike, passport applications would only be processed on an emergency basis.
Regular police services will be delivered by the RCMP across the country. But other services such as administrative support, media relations, web updates and public access to buildings where RCMP detachments are located may be disrupted.
Processing times for material requests, reference and genealogy questions and licensing and copyright requests can all expect delays.
Public outreach, regulatory work, aircraft services, licences, certificates and registrations, the vehicle safety 1-800 hotlines and other services can also expect delays. Airport, rail and marine safety oversight services will be maintained. PSAC warned that port workers on strike could cause supply chain disruptions.
Established or periodic payments to veterans from Veterans Affairs Canada will continue uninterrupted, but expect significantly reduced ability to process new payments. Career transitioning services, the education and training benefit, disability benefits, caregiver recognition allowances, case management services, benefits, medical services and the National Contact Center Network could all see disruptions, as well as delays for in-person service appointments in regional offices.
These agencies may see delays but list no specifics:
- Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
- Indigenous Services Canada
- Prairies Economic Development Canada
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
- Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
These agencies advise that there may be general processing and program delivery delays:
- Health Canada
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- Public Safety Canada
Why are workers striking?
PSAC and CRA workers have been in a protracted labour dispute with the federal government. Negotiations between the unions and Ottawa have been ongoing for the past year. In January, talks between PSAC and the government broke down, with the union accusing the Treasury Board of not coming close to meeting its wage demands. PSAC is asking for 4.5-per-cent annual increases that fall in line with inflation. The government’s initial offer was 2.07 per cent yearly over three years.
The Union of Taxation Employees, an arm of PSAC that represents CRA workers, asked for an annual wage increase of 4.5 per cent, 8 per cent and 8 per cent for 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively.
In response to a government mandate that all federal public employees be in the office at least two to three times a week, PSAC is also pushing for the addition of remote work clauses in bargaining agreements, which would allow workers who have been forced back to the office the formal right to grieve it. The Treasury Board has maintained that the location of work is the right of the employer.
On pay and work from home rules the final deal landed much closer to the government’s position than the union’s. The government’s commitments to the union on work from home were made outside of the collective bargaining agreement, meaning it will not open the door to grievances over telework.
With reports from Vanmala Subramaniam and Bill Curry.