Chants of “what do we want?” “Respect” cried out near Greater Victoria’s naval base on Wednesday as unions representing federal employees rallied against what they called insulting wage offers by the federal government.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) says the Treasury Board of Canada’s recent offer of an annual 1.75-per-cent wage increase is out of touch given current cost of living challenges.
“If they think we’re going to accept that, they’re absolutely crazy,” PSAC national president Chris Aylward said at the rally. “What that equates to is basically a pay cut.”
He said their thousands of local members at the base include those in administrative positions, trades workers, firefighters and more.
The most recent offer came in June following more than a year of negotiations that Aylward said have reached a deadlock. Similar rallies like the one outside CFB Esquimalt have been going on across the country ahead of possible rotating strikes among federal workers if the two sides can’t come to an agreement.
PSAC hasn’t budged from seeking a 4.5-per-cent annual pay bump for its public sector employees – which Aylward said is well deserved after workers rolled out essential services and programs through the tough pandemic years.
“We were there for Canadians during the pandemic and we’re asking this government to be there for us, but what we’ve seen so far at the bargaining table has been nothing but disrespect.”
The alliance added the government’s offer also rejected mandatory training on systemic racism and discrimination. Black Press Media has asked for comment from the Treasury Board but had not received a response by publication time.
While most of the flack was directed at the federal Liberals, all parties drew criticism. Speaking in solidarity at the event, Victoria Labour Council president Darlene Gallant told the assembled crowd to hold the Trudeau government accountable on delivering a fair deal for workers, but also called out local NDP MPs for not pushing hard enough.
But the strongest words were hurled by Aylward at Conservative Party leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre for looking to take the party further right. Workers’ and union rights would be among the first things Poilievre would attack, Aylward said, should he and the Conservatives gain power. Black Press Media has asked the Poilievre campaign for comment.
“But our focus now has to be on this federal Liberal government in Ottawa and we’ve got to make sure that they get the message from coast to coast to coast that PSAC members are not willing to accept the garbage anymore.”
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