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As it happened: Deal reached between feds, union for 120,000 striking public servants

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Very early Monday morning, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) announced it had reached a "tentative" agreement with the federal government for the 120,000 picketing Treasury Board workers who, since April 19, had been engaged in one of the largest strikes in Canadian history.

While a deal has been reached for the striking employees in the education and library; program and administrative; operational service; and technical service bargaining units in Canada's core public service, 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers remain on the picket line.

The agreement comes after Treasury Board President Mona Fortier put what she said was a "final" offer on the table over the weekend. As we learned more about the deal and heard reaction, CTVNews.ca provided up-to-the-minute updates from Parliament Hill. Here's a recap of those developments:

5:15 P.M.: UNION AND FEDS TALK DEAL ON POWER PLAY

In interviews on CTV News Channel's Power Play on Monday evening, both PSAC president Chris Aylward and Treasury Board President Mona Fortier commented on how the deal was reached, and what is next.

Aylward said that early on, the government started with a wage increase offer around three per cent, so where they landed is a marked improvement, helping to close the gap of inflation for these federal workers. He said the union got a much better deal because workers went on strike.

Appearing afterwards, Fortier said the last 24 hours were central to reaching this deal. She said she hopes it is now "a matter of hours" before the CRA follows suit. Fortier said the agreement around remote work is a compromise that will allow Canadians to receive services in a timely fashion, while providing workers flexibility.

2:30 P.M. ET: CANADA REVENUE AGENCY TALKS CONTINUE

In a statement to CTV News, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) confirmed that talks resumed in person with PSAC with the goal of reaching a new collective agreement for striking workers "as soon as possible."

CRA spokesperson Adam Blondin said that the federal agency is confident that the tentative agreement between PSAC and the Treasury Board "will bring us to a successful resolution."

While noting the ongoing strike is resulting in service impacts, he said the tax filing deadline has not changed, and any Canadians who owe have to pay back that balance in full by the end of the day.

"The CRA values the important role its employees from across the country play in delivering services to Canadians, recognizes their important contributions, and remains committed to reaching an agreement at the bargaining table that is fair to employees and reasonable for taxpayers," Blondin said.

2:00 P.M. ET: NDP MP PETER JULIAN REACTS

Reacting on behalf of the federal NDP, MP Peter Julian he said the New Democrats are happy that negotiations led to this agreement, rather than back-to-work legislation.

Julian said he hopes that the NDP's hard-line stance against backing the Liberals, had they advanced back-to-work legislation, contributed to a negotiated conclusion.

"Now, we call on the government to negotiate in good faith with workers, employees of Revenue Canada, and so this is something that the government needs to do. This has been two years waiting," Julian said.

1:45 P.M. ET: IMMIGRATION MINISTER ON BACKLOG

Speaking to reporters ahead of question period, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said that the strike resulted in 100,000 cases that were not processed as a result of the work stoppage.

But now that public servants are able to start processing applications again, informed by the lessons in productivity learned in tackling the pandemic backlog, Fraser said he's hopeful that they'll "be able to make up that gap" soon.

"Credit to those who remained at the bargaining table, both for the government in the union, to have people return to work," he said.

12:30 P.M. ET: 'EXCELLENT NEWS FOR EMPLOYEES' SAYS FORTIER

Reacting to the May Day deal reached, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier called the tentative agreement "excellent news for employees, and for Canadians."

"This wasn't easy. We negotiated, we compromised, and we found creative solutions. And after many long days, nights, and weekends of hard work, we've reached fair and competitive deals."

Overall, Fortier said the cost of the deal is estimated at $1.3 billion a year, or as she framed it: "less than half of the cost of the PSAC's original demands." She pointed to the federal government presenting its final offer as when "things started to shift."

Pointing to the added year secured under the agreement—keep reading for more details on this below—Fortier said it will provide "an additional year of stability" before the two sides have to go back to the bargaining table.

Speaking to the remote work provisions, Fortier said re-evaluating the telework directive for the first time since 1993 is a due step in the post-pandemic era and won't result in an influx of remote work grievances.

Fortier said negotiators remain at the table with the CRA and she's "looking forward to see how this will unfold."

The federal government plans to resume service delivery such as approving immigration and passport applications "as quickly as possible."

12:05 P.M. ET: PSAC VP ALEX SILAS ON CRA STRIKE

In an interview on The Vassy Kapelos Show on iHeartRadio, Alex Silas, the regional executive vice-president for PSAC in the National Capital Region, called the tentative deal something public servants can be proud of.

"Those gains and the advancements on wages would not have been possible without members taking action," he said, speaking from a picket line for CRA workers whose representatives are now engaged in a negotiation "blitz" to try to secure a deal for those 35,000 striking workers as May 1 marks the tax filing deadline.

"We would have hoped that along with setting a new mandate to conclude fair deals at the four Treasury Board tables, that the federal government would have also produced a new mandate for the CRA table. Unfortunately, they failed to do that last night," he said. The CRA has different demands on the table from what Treasury Board was after.

According to Silas, seeing the 120,000 core public service workers secure a deal was after "a lot of back and forth over the weekend" and more willingness to reach a deal.

"This contract will take us until 2025, but we'll be prepared to get back to the table to continue making advancements and gains on the gains that we've already made in this round," he said. 

8:45 A.M. ET: TREASURY BOARD CONFIRMS DEAL

Confirming the tentative agreement, the Treasury Board of Canada said, once ratified, finding satisfactory common ground at the bargaining table was many long hours in the making.

The federal government said the agreed-to wage offer was 11.5 per cent over four years, retroactive to 2021. This wage offer is a departure from the nine per cent over three years that the government left on the table for most of the strike, and not as high as the 13.5 per cent wage demand PSAC came to the table with.

Treasury Board said that they will also offer these workers a "group-specific allowance of 0.5 per cent" in the third year of the deal, as well as a one-time payment of $2,500.

"These agreements address all key priorities put forward by the PSAC. In addition, they include improved provisions, around leave with pay for family-related responsibilities for example. They also include measures to further support employment equity, diversity, and inclusion, such as a new benefit for Indigenous employees who will now have access to paid leave to participate in traditional practices," reads the government's release.

As for remote work, the federal government says it remains committed to a hybrid model that will see public servants coming into the office at least a few times a week, but outside of the collective agreements they have "reached a tentative settlement on telework to the satisfaction of both parties."

The deal seems to be that the federal government will review its telework directive and set up departmental panels to advise senior management on employee concerns.

Saying she was "pleased" to reach this outcome, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said she appreciated Canadians' patience over the past two weeks as workers exercised their right to strike.

"We are deeply grateful for public servants who work hard across the country to serve Canadians and look forward to welcoming them back. These deals are fair, competitive, and reasonable, and bring stability to public servants and Canadians," Fortier said.

You can read the federal government's full statement, here.

1:30 A.M. ET: PSAC SAYS TENTATIVE AGREEMENT REACHED

In the very early hours of May 1, PSAC issued a statement announcing that, after nearly two years of bargaining, a tentative agreement had been reached for the 120,000 core public servants who were on strike.

With the strike over, workers had to be back on the job as of 9 a.m. ET, or their next scheduled shift.

PSAC said the agreement "secured a fair contract for members that exceeds the employers original offer" and "significant new protections around remote work."

"During a period of record-high inflation and soaring corporate profits, workers were told to accept less – but our members came together and fought for better," said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president in Monday's statement. "This agreement delivers important gains for our members that will set the bar for all workers in Canada."

Here is some additional information and figures put out by the union about the tentative deal:

  • Wage increases totalling 12.6 per cent "compounded" over the life of the agreement from 2021-2024;
  • A pensionable $2,500 one-time lump sum payment that represents an additional 3.7 per cent of salary for the average PSAC member;
  • Negotiated language that requires managers to assess remote work requests individually, and provide written responses for accountability;
  • Negotiated language to ensure that, in the event of layoffs, PSAC members will not lose their job if they can perform the duties of an already-employed contractor;
  • Creation of joint union-employer departmental panels to address issues related to the application of the remote work directive; and
  • Creation of a joint committee to review the existing training courses related to employment equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The union says it'll be providing members a "full explanation" of the new deal and concrete language "in the coming days," before the 120,000 affected public servants will be invited to participate in ratification votes.

You can read the union's full statement, here. 

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