It was day eight of the nationwide strike for members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) on Wednesday. Members of PSAC have been out on the picket lines in Weyburn at the Service Canada building from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. since last Wednesday.
Their union representatives are negotiating with the Treasury Board for higher wages and to work remotely, among other things.
Kelly MacDonald, part of Local Canada Employment Immigration Union (CEIU) 40811 in Regina, said that starting the strike during the snowstorm last week on Wednesday was a bit exhausting.
"Lots of snow unexpectedly in Saskatchewan, but our members bravely came out, and we still did our picket as we would any other time if it was nice, or rain or more snow as we get in Saskatchewan."
MacDonald said that they did make the unfortunate decision on the first three days of the strike to cancel coming out on the picketing line physically in person, due to the weather and the roads.
"But behind the scenes we were doing virtual picketing, contacting news media, MP's, and helping behind the scenes with some other administration throughout our other locals that were able to strike without the snowstorm."
Day eight of the PSAC strike. (Photo taken by Mallory Cawthra).
Angie Conklin, President of Local Canada Employment Immigration Union (CEIU) 40808, said that they have members coming from CEIU, The Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE), Union of Taxation Employees (UTE), and Agriculture to picket in Weyburn.
"We have members from many different components and a lot are driving in. So we have people coming from Radville, Lang, Estevan, Oxbow, Redvers, Carlyle and Fillmore."
MacDonald said the member representation out on the picket line in Weyburn includes people who work at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachments, Employment Insurance (EI), some Canada Pension Plan (CPP) call centre representation, Agriculture Canada, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
"Not just Service Canada that we're standing in front of," Conklin added.
There have been more people than they expected out at the picket line, especially with Weyburn being out rural and not in Regina at the bigger picket lines. "We've been really pleased with the amount of people that we've had out," Conklin said.
MacDonald said that they've been without a contract for over two years now, and unfortunately the negotiations with the federal government have not gone very well.
"We're looking at the main issues that are still outstanding: the wages, the return to the office, and seniority for layoffs. Yes, the government provided us a 9% increase over three years, as Mona [Treasury Board President Mona Fortier] pointed out that was $6300 a year for members. Not sure where she's getting that math, because most of our members make between $40,000 to $65,000 a year. At 3% per year, that works out to about $1200 to $1800 a year increase."
MacDonald said that during the pandemic, their members came to work at Service Canada to provide service to Canadians day in and day out. "We did it throughout the pandemic, and we feel we deserve a little bit more than that to keep up with inflation."
Conklin said that they will be out picketing as long as they need. "Everyday when we end, we are hoping that today is our last day. So each night we're hoping to hear that we got a collective agreement, but if we don't, we will be back again tomorrow."
Conklin said that there was talk online that they were still getting their paycheques as normal today. "Yes we are, because that is for work we did two weeks ago, because we are paid in arrears. So yes, we are still getting our pay, but it's for work that we have already completed."
They added that they wanted to thank all of the people that have been by and are so supportive. "We appreciate it." As well, they said that people are welcome to join them on the picket line.
"We have Unifor here today on their lunch break. We've had members of the public drop off coffee and donuts, so it's been great to see the public support for this."
Photo taken by Mallory Cawthra