Cybersecurity workers at Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) have voted to strike after management continues insisting on a deal-breaking concession and declined the union’s recent offer to send the dispute to third-party binding arbitration. The concession being pushed by management would result in CSE workers receiving lower wage increases than those negotiated by other federal public sector workers.
The nearly 2,400 members of 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.
The majority vote in favour of a strike comes after management continued to push for a deal-breaking concession that would affect workers’ Market Allowance, which is negotiated to close wage gaps with workers doing similar work elsewhere in the public service as well as the private sector.
For many workers, the Market Allowance amounts to as much as 10 per cent of annual income and foregoing economic increases on it would mean a significant monetary loss. In tangible terms, these workers would receive wage increases on only 90 per cent of their salaries, translating to raises of approximately 5.8 per cent over three years versus the nearly 6.5 per cent negotiated by other federal public sector workers for the same period.
“PSAC members at CSE are some of the best minds in their fields and it’s baffling that management has chosen to let things get to this point,” said Alex Silas, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region. “The cost of applying wage increases to the Market Allowance portion of these members’ salaries is equal to roughly 0.8 per cent of payroll at CSE. That’s all it would take to avoid a strike.”
PSAC members at CSE have been bargaining since February 2019 and participated in Public Interest Commission hearings after talks broke down last year. In its final report, the PIC supported the union’s position.
“It takes courage to vote to strike in these challenging times and I want to assure these members that the union will deploy its full resources in the coming days and weeks to support their struggle for a fair contract,” added Silas. “I also want to remind CSE management that it’s not too late to return to the table and respect the Public Interested Commission’s findings or agree to turn this dispute to 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.