PSAC members protest the Phoenix pay system on Laurier Ave in Ottawa Thursday, Feb 28, 2019.
Tony Caldwell / Postmedia
Federal public servants have become disaffected with the Liberal government, says the leader of their biggest union, and they will be “actively” involved in October’s election.“Back in October, 2015, Justin Trudeau sent a letter to every federal public sector worker saying that he respects the work that they do on behalf of Canadians,” Chris Aylward said in an interview. He is national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.At first the mood was good, he recalls, especially as the Conservatives had made cuts to the public service. It was a time when federal scientist Tony Turner was suspended for performing his satirical song “Harperman.” Then the Liberals won the election.“It was a positive, for sure,” Aylward said. “Back then in the fall of 2015 there was a positive mood in the public service … Certainly the morale was up. But then, just a few months after (the election), Phoenix happened. And everything then fell right off the edge of the table.”Aylward said Trudeau “has done nothing to really show his respect to public sector workers.” After four years of Phoenix, the offer regarding Phoenix damages was “absolutely insulting,” he said.The government offered affected workers 1.25 days of leave per year for four years as compensation. PSAC rejected this.As well, six of PSAC’s eight bargaining units have declared an impasse in contract talks. Aylward said the government has offered a 1.5 per cent salary increase per year for four years, which the union rejects. Aylward said the union wants “something around the cost of living.” The union has 140,000 members.He said the union was eager to wrap up a deal before the fall election “before you don’t know who is going to form the next government.”“We are going to be very active during the campaign. We will make sure that our candidates know where all of the candidates stand in respect to public service work and public servants in general.“And we will be going directly to candidates saying: Do you support our position on the Phoenix damages, and on respect for collective agreements?”But PSAC will not endorse any party or candidate.PSAC is blaming the Liberals for Phoenix even though it was the previous Conservative government that created the plan, he said.“I would say (to the Liberals): You guys were the ones who decided to run with it, and who pressed the Go button in February of 2016.”He accused the government of “a lack of understanding of the impact that Phoenix has had.”Phoenix, more than the current round of bargaining, is the big reason for the rift with the Liberals, he said. “It has been absolutely horrendous and they don’t get that, obviously.“When you work for the federal government you shouldn’t have to worry every payday whether you are going to get paid correctly or not, or whether you are going to get paid at all.”PSAC cannot go on strike before early 2020, no matter how talks go, because there is a required series of steps and waiting periods that must happen first. So the election period will be strike-free.Within the overall institution of government he says PSAC’s main complaint is with the Liberal cabinet.“I have requested several meetings with the prime minister. I have yet to be granted a meeting, which is very unfortunate. It’s basically (that) the buck stops there. We know that as much as Treasury Board is responsible for negotiations, they have to get their mandate from the finance minister.”firstname.lastname@example.org/TomSpears1