"We're just fed up": Canada's tax workers threaten to strike over return to office mandate

Jan 13 2023, 11:15 pm

The pandemic saw many people pivot to working from home instead of the office, and Canada’s tax workers were no exception.

However, remote work is one of the reasons the union representing Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees says it walked away from the bargaining table with its employer, the Government of Canada, and is set to put a strike vote on the table.

More than 35,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Union of Taxation Employees will vote starting on January 31, following more than two years of broken-down talks between the two sides over remote work and wages.

Marc Brière, the national president of the Union of Taxation Employees, says things reached a breaking point when the government wanted to mandate a return to office plan last month, saying that employees who need to be in the office are in the office but those who are working from home effectively should not be mandated to return.

“We have 9,000 call centre employees, they have a headset and laptop, and they’re sitting at home. The CRA doesn’t have the space to have all these people because we grew a lot… We can’t even bring them back to the office,” Brière told Daily Hive.

He says it’s unfortunate that it’s reached this point.

“Enough is enough… We are at that point that we are absolutely fed up with all their games of waiting,” he said. “If they don’t take us seriously, unfortunately, we will have no choice but to shut down the CRA on the first occasion, including the tax season.”

“It’s very unfortunate, but it will be on them,” he said.

However, the vote won’t come down until April, around the time of a pretty important deadline.

Canadians can begin filing their income taxes for the 2022 year on February 20, 2023, and the deadline is April 30, 2023.

In the meantime, the Government of Canada is not pulling punches.

On Friday, the feds filed a complaint with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board against the Public Service Alliance of Canada for “breaching its duty to bargain in good faith.”

“It is clear that the PSAC is seeking to precipitate a strike without making every reasonable effort to enter into a collective agreement,” a release on the Government of Canada’s website reads in part.

However, the PSAC says the government is dragging its feet on several agreements and wants to see an end to the so-called stalling.

“There’s no doubt the best way to reach a fair contract is at the negotiating table – but it’s becoming clearer every day: the way to reach an agreement with this government that supports workers is a strong strike mandate from our members. That’s why we’ve already announced strike votes for our 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers, and why we’re moving towards potential job action for federal public service workers at Treasury Board, who make up another 120,000 of our members,” Chris Aylward, PSAC national president, said in a statement to Daily Hive.

Claire FentonClaire Fenton

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