Cybersecurity workers at Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) will be holding strike votes following the collapse of bargaining talks.
The nearly 2,400 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) perform vital work protecting Canada from foreign cyber-attacks, including the recent hacking attempt on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine research.
CSE management continues to insist on a deal-breaking concession that would mean a significant financial loss for workers at the cybersecurity and foreign signals intelligence agency. PSAC members are seeking a fair collective agreement that recognizes the importance of their work.
“The threat of foreign government interference continues to grow, and Canada needs a strong and unified Communications Security Establishment to ward off cyber-attacks,” said Alex Silas, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region. “Refusing to fairly compensate employees sends the wrong message as the government tries to recruit top talent to protect our national security.”
The concession being pushed would affect members’ market allowances, which are negotiated to close wage gaps with workers doing similar work in the same industry. The proposed changes would have a significant impact on employees’ overall wages in this collective agreement and into the future.
PSAC members at CSE have been bargaining since February 2019 and participated in Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearings after talks broke down last year. In its final report, the PIC supported the union’s position on the wage increases.
“We are ready and willing to reach a settlement with CSE management and avoid a strike,” added Silas. “But the agency must come back to negotiations ready to respect the Public Interest Commission’s findings and take its concessions off the table.”
PSAC members at CSE work in diverse areas such as cryptography, applied mathematics, advanced language analysis and cybersecurity. They perform vital work including reviewing new commercial 5G communications technologies, protecting against foreign government attempts at disrupting COVID-19 vaccine research and ensuring the security of government IT systems that store sensitive personal information about Canadians.
The union will begin strike votes in January 2021.