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PSAC workers and supporters picket in front of President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier's office in Ottawa on April 21.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal government has given an updated deal to a public-service union that signed its collective agreement in the fall in order to match deals reached with the Public Service Alliance of Canada during a strike this spring.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury Board confirmed Tuesday that the agreement for a comptrollership group was adjusted to align with the tentative agreements reached with PSAC and other unions.

The deal between the Association of Canadian Financial Officers and the federal government was previously approved last December, six months before PSAC secured separate deals on May 1.

The spokeswoman said other tentative agreements signed since May 1 also align with the same wage profile.

The move suggests PSAC, which is the largest federal public service union in the country, has set the bar for other unions in the federal public service.

The government was able to modify the collective agreement with ACFO because it included a “reopener clause,” which stipulates the agreement may be amended by “mutual consent.”

Larry Savage, a labour studies professor at Brock University, said the clause gives both parties the ability to manage discontent among workers, in case another union secures a better deal.

“I think that the reason the federal government has decided to top up those salaries and bring them in line with the PSAC agreement is specifically designed to sort of lessen resentment in smaller federal public-service unions,” he said.

Prof. Savage said it also helps the government retain talent and avoid future strikes by smaller unions.

Members of PSAC went on strike in April for 12 days over a host of demands, including wage increases to compensate for high inflation.

Canada’s annual inflation rate peaked at 8.1 per cent last summer and has steadily declined since then. In April, the rate was 4.4 per cent.

The union ultimately secured a 11.5-per-cent wage increase over four years, with an additional 0.5 per cent group-specific allowance in the third year of the contracts, as well as one-time, pensionable lump sum payments of $2,500.

Prof. Savage said the people who seem to have benefited most from the PSAC strike are workers in smaller public-service unions, given that they’re now enjoying wage increases they would not have received otherwise.

As for the private sector, Prof. Savage said he’s unsure of the impact PSAC and other public-service unions would have on any negotiations.

“It’s not as if the PSAC settlement was Earth-shattering,” Prof. Savage said. “There have been salary settlements in the private sector where the union was able to match or exceed inflation.”

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