Cybersecurity workers begin strike votes as CSE rejects arbitration

Cybersecurity workers at Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) are participating in strike votes after the collapse of bargaining talks and as their request for binding arbitration was rejected by management. Voting will close on February 24.

The nearly 2,400 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) perform vital work protecting Canada from foreign cyberattacks, including the hacking attempt on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine research and the recent ‘SolarWinds hack’ of servers run by major companies. They are seeking a fair collective agreement that recognizes the importance of their work.

On January 26, to overcome the current impasse and reach an agreement that avoids disrupting CSE’s critical cybersecurity operations, PSAC requested that the contract dispute be transferred to binding arbitration by an independent third party. Regrettably, however, CSE management rejected the request.

“We strongly oppose the unfair concessions management is pushing on our members but are willing to turn to a third-party arbitrator to help resolve this," said Alex Silas, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region. “We’re ready to respect the outcome of that process so what’s CSE management afraid of? Why won’t they agree to arbitration?”

CSE management continues to insist on a deal-breaking concession that will affect workers’ market allowances, which are negotiated to close wage gaps with workers doing similar work elsewhere in the public service as well as the private sector. Its formula would effectively mean that a majority of workers would receive wage increases on only 90% of their salaries. This translates to raises of approximately 5.8% over three years versus the nearly 6.5% negotiated by other federal public sector workers for the same period.

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.

“Even though our demands are fair and reasonable, we are being flexible to avoid a strike,” added Silas. “The ball is in management's court: In order to avoid job action, they can either get back to the table ready to respect the Public Interest Commission’s findings and stop pushing for concessions, or they can reverse their decision and accept binding arbitration.”

About PSAC members at CSE

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.


February 18, 2021