FAQ: Treasury Board bargaining & strike votes

Bargaining updates

What is the status of negotiations for Treasury Board workers?

We first began the bargaining process in December 2020 with the input call for bargaining proposals and PSAC’s bargaining input survey. In April 2021, we held the Treasury Board bargaining conference to align our priorities before we began negotiations in June 2021.

After nearly two years of negotiations with Treasury Board, we made the difficult decision to declare impasse in May 2022. At the time, we filed for conciliation with the federal labour board. While waiting for the Public Interest Commission hearings, both parties engaged in mediation, but even then, the government refused to compromise.

We continued to see no progress as we presented at Public Interest Commission — or PIC — hearings in December. Under the law that governs contract negotiations in the federal public service, a PIC is established to help the parties reach an agreement once impasse is declared at the bargaining table.

We have since received the PIC report for the TC group and it provides us with no guidance or recommendations, other than to continue to negotiate. This will clearly not move the needle with the employer on any of our core bargaining demands: fair wages, flexible work, and inclusive workplaces We expect to receive PIC reports for the EB, SV, and PA tables in February outlining the panel’s non-binding recommendations.

In the meantime, PSAC has launched both in-person and virtual strike training for members across the country to ramp up the pressure on the government to bargain fairly.

What are the outstanding issues at the table?

During the past year of negotiations, this government has failed to address any of our key bargaining issues — not the least of which is fair wages that protect workers from skyrocketing inflation. Instead, they tabled serious concessions that impact our rights by weakening job security and access to leave to care for our families.

Treasury Board’s insulting wage offer — averaging 2.06% per year from 2021–2025 — is completely out of touch with the soaring cost of living across Canada and asks workers to take a big pay cut when they need a raise most.

As Canada’s largest employer, the federal government needs to lead by example and show they’ll be here for Canadians by setting the bar with wages and working conditions that don’t leave workers behind.

Other key issues include:

  • Job security: We’re seeking improvements to the Workforce Adjustment Appendix that would ensure a fair and transparent process. But Treasury Board is proposing concessions that would make it harder for laid off or surplus workers to find other work in the federal public service.
  • Remote work: Remote work has become a part of everyday life for many workers. Our experience during this pandemic has shown that the public service workers can be as effective working remotely as they are in the office. Now it’s time to look to the future by enshrining remote work protections into our collective agreements. Unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of our members’ employment and imposing a mandatory return to offices is an egregious violation of workers’ collective bargaining rights.
  • Systemic racism in the workplace: Fighting racism and building a more diverse public service is supposed to be a top priority for this government. They should work with us to remove barriers and dismantle the structures that sustain racism in our workplaces.
  • Work-life balance: PSAC is fighting for the right to disconnect to ensure workers aren’t tethered to their work by having to check their emails and work phones after hours.
  • Contracting out and privatization: When public money goes into private pockets, Canadians lose out with higher costs, more risk, and reduced quality of services. Just look at the tragic public health outcomes at private nursing homes when COVID-19 hit. 
What is a Public Interest Commission?

Under the law that governs contract negotiations in the federal public service, Public Interest Commission (PIC) is established to help the parties reach an agreement once impasse is declared at the bargaining table.

The PIC is a panel of three people — a chairperson appointed by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board and nominees appointed by the union and the employer. Each side presents briefs to explain their positions on the outstanding issues at a hearing and the PIC issues a report with non-binding recommendations for reaching a settlement.

A strike cannot be called until the PIC report is received.

Is my existing collective agreement still in effect during the bargaining process?

The current collective agreements expired on the following dates:

  • PA: June 20, 2021
  • TC: June 21, 2021
  • SV: August 4, 2021
  • EB: June 30, 2021

However, the terms of these collective agreements continue to apply after they expire and until a new collective agreement is signed.

What bargaining unit am I in?

Treasury board members belong to one of four bargaining units:

The Common Issues group also meets with the employer to negotiate gains for workers at all Treasury Board tables. Together, these groups represent more than 120,000 federal public service workers.

Strike vote sessions

What does a strike vote mean?

Calling a strike vote is a tactic in the union’s toolbox that we can use to put additional pressure on the employer to reach a deal. A ‘yes’ vote means giving PSAC a mandate to authorize strike action as a possible escalation if the employer does not come back to the table to address our bargaining demands.

Going on strike is never our first choice and it doesn’t mean we’ll automatically call one. But securing a strong strike mandate from our membership shows we’re willing to fight and will give us the leverage we need to reach a fair and decent contract. And if we need to take job action to get the collective agreement you deserve, then that’s exactly what we’ll do.

How do I vote?

You must attend a strike vote information session to be eligible to vote. To register, you will need your voting credentials, which will be sent to your personal, non-work email or by mail to your home address if we don’t have a personal email on file.

If you haven't received your voting credentials from PSAC via your personal, non-work email or mail, you may need to update your contact information before you can register to vote.

Where do I vote if the information session I want is full?

If in-person sessions are full, we recommend registering for a virtual session. All virtual sessions are national votes, so you may register for any virtual session. PSAC will increase the capacity of virtual sessions, if necessary, to accommodate demand.

Can I attend a virtual strike vote information session?

Every PSAC member working for Treasury Board has access to virtual sessions. Within PSAC’s voting platform, under “type”, members can choose in-person or virtual to filter their choice. All virtual sessions are national votes, so you may register for any virtual session.

When can I cast my vote?

Members can vote at any point, from February 22 at 8:30 a.m. EST until April 11 at 12 p.m. EDT, once they have attended an information session either in-person or virtually. Votes can be cast online and accommodations are available if required.

If you’re attending a virtual session, you must join the session on your own, rather than as a group watching together in an office, to ensure your participation is tracked accurately and you are eligible to vote after.

Can I vote as a casual employee?

Casual employees are not part of the bargaining unit, so they cannot vote.

I am currently on leave. Am I eligible to vote?

All employees in the bargaining unit are eligible to vote in strike votes, even if they are currently on leave with or without pay. This includes parental leave, long-term disability leave and sick leave.

About strike action

When could PSAC potentially call a strike?

PSAC can seek a strike mandate from its membership at any point, but we won’t be in a position to call strike action until after the Public Interest Commission has released its report for each bargaining unit.

Even if a majority of PSAC members vote in favour of a strike, it doesn’t mean we immediately walk off the job. The actual timing of any strike action is established by union leadership and must be ultimately authorized by the PSAC national president.

What would a potential strike look like?

Once a majority of a bargaining unit votes in favour of a strike mandate, PSAC’s national president can call a strike. Being in a strike position doesn’t necessarily mean everyone in the bargaining unit walks out for a full-blown general strike right away. We can also take strike action in a lot of different ways, including:

  • Strategic strike: A work stoppage by 10 per cent of the bargaining unit at several key locations that will have the greatest impact. 
  • Rotating strike: A series of surprise, one-day walkouts at strategic locations, worksites, work units, departments, etc. 
  • General strike: A cessation of work by all PSAC members in a particular bargaining unit. (General strike pay provisions apply.) 
  • Work to rule: When workers obey all the laws and rules applying to their work but perform their work more slowly or follow “the letter of the law” to stall productivity.
How soon could we go on strike?

If we are unable to reach an agreement with Treasury Board, the earliest PSAC members could go on strike would be the spring of 2023.

Here’s what’s likely to happen over the next few months:

  • Continue to ramp up our workplace action to pressure the government to offer a fair deal;
  • Members attend information sessions and participate in strike votes, which may take six-to-eight weeks to complete;
  • Receive the PIC reports in early 2023;
  • Because of regulations governing the federal public service, we can only go on strike seven days after the release of the Public Interest Commission report and must call a strike within 60 days of a favourable strike vote.
What do we have to gain by going on strike?

While there has not been a large federal public service strike since 2001, strikes by PSAC members in the past brought about major improvements that members enjoy today.

  • In 1980, tens of thousands of PSAC members launched a strike against Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals leading to groundbreaking maternity leave benefits and, soon after, the 93 per cent top-up.
  • In 1991, PSAC members walked off the job in the largest strike in Canadian history up to that point and brought about major gains in job security through what is known today as the Workforce Adjustment Directive. 
  • In 2001, the ‘Workless Wednesdays’ strike against Jean Chrétien’s Liberals led to the current Treasury Board policy requiring the conversion of term employees to indeterminate status after three years. It also led to the creation of the Joint Learning Program, which has resulted in major improvements in combating discrimination and harassment and addressing mental health in the workplace.
  • In 2021, FB members held a work-to-rule strike which lasted one day, and won workers an 8 per cent wage increase, better protections against excessive discipline in the workplace, leave improvements and paid meal compensation for uniformed officers
  • In 2022, 170 members at the Office of the Auditor General went on strike for 128 days – a long, difficult strike that put an incredible strain on their employer and ultimately won members a revamp of their pay grid and paid domestic violence leave, among other achievements.

Pay during a strike

What will happen to my pay?

Interruptions in pay would be unlikely. If we did take strike action, past practice shows that the employer would likely recover wages for struck work after a settlement is reached.

Will I receive strike pay?

Strike pay for both regular and strategic strikes are governed by Regulation 6 in PSAC’s Constitution. Members are expected to provide a minimum of four hours of work per day in support of the strike to qualify for strike pay.

Members who usually work 20 hours or more each week will receive the strike pay below

  • Members who work in Yukon: $103.20 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $516.00
  • Members who work in Northwest Territories: $117.35 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $586.75
  • Members who work in Nunavut: $141.00 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $705.00
  • Members who work in elsewhere in Canada: $75.00 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $375.00

PSAC members who usually work less than 20 works per week will receive the strike pay below.

  • Members who work in Yukon: $72.24 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $361.20
  • Members who work in Northwest Territories: $82.15 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $410.75
  • Members who work in Nunavut: $98.70 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $493.50
  • Members who work in elsewhere in Canada: $53.00 per day, for a maximum per calendar week of $265.00

In the case of a ‘strategic strike’—that is, a targeted strike involving no more than 10% of the bargaining unit and lasting no longer than two weeks—strike pay will be 60% of a member’s gross salary.

Some PSAC component and locals may choose to top-up members’ strike pay.

Is strike pay taxable?

Strike pay is not considered taxable income by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Will I be affected by Phoenix if we go on strike?

Based on past precedents and expert advice, we don't anticipate Phoenix complications. Members will likely continue to receive pay from the employer while on strike and have pay deducted only after the strike concludes and leave without pay requests are submitted and processed. These leave requests are no more likely to be affected by Phoenix than any other leave submission throughout the year.

It's important to remember the Pay Centre is staffed by PSAC members who will be well prepared for the influx of leave submissions in the event of strike action. Members will enter any time missed due to job action in their departmental PeopleSoft upon return to office, and these requests may even be given special attention. Additionally, members will receive strike pay from PSAC if they meet minimum participation requirements during the strike period, which are not processed through the Phoenix system. Some components and locals also offer strike pay top ups.

What if I can’t afford to go on strike?

Don’t worry. Your union has a lot of support systems in place to make sure you never go without pay while you’re on strike.

Leading up to a potential strike, we encourage members to create a financial plan. This could involve contacting your financial institution to discuss consolidating or renegotiating loans and to request interest relief for loans and mortgages during the period of the strike. This plan could also include building up emergency savings, buying food in bulk ahead of time and exploring other sources of income on a short-term basis.

Because of the strong impact any strike action by our members would have on the federal government, a strike is unlikely to last long.


Can my already approved leave be cancelled once strike action is called?  

The employer may choose to cancel your leave even if it has already been approved, because during a strike no collective agreement is in force.   

What if I am already on leave when strike action begins?

Based on the employer’s current policy, employees in the striking bargaining unit who are on leave when the strike begins may be allowed to continue on leave, but additional leave is not likely to be approved.  

What about sick leave and "other leave with or without pay" ?   

Employees in the striking bargaining unit who are on sick leave or "other leave with or without pay" before the start of the strike should be permitted to continue on leave, subject to continuing satisfactory proof that they meet the conditions for the granting of the leave. 

If my bargaining unit is on strike and I am presently on maternity and/or parental leave, am I still entitled to this leave?  What happens to my top-up?

Your entitlement to maternity or parental leave is established by legislation and therefore continues during the period of a strike.  Your entitlement to the salary top-up is established under the collective agreement and during the period of a strike, no collective agreement is in existence. The employer could therefore choose not to pay the top-up, however the employer’s own policy states that employees on “other leave with or without pay” prior to the start of the strike should be permitted to continue on leave. 

Acting positions

What if I'm on an acting assignment in a different bargaining unit?

If you are on an acting assignment in another bargaining unit, you are not eligible to participate in the strike vote or take strike action.

Essential employees

What is an Essential Services Agreement?

An essential services agreement (ESA) is a process where the union and the employer identify if positions in a bargaining unit have essential duties and/or responsibilities. This would mean they could potentially not participate fully during a strike because the removal of their essential duties could endanger the safety or security of the public. Some examples include certain functions performed by border services officers, firefighters, and members who process pay for Canadians.

While the employer decides which functions should be deemed essential, the union can make arguments against how many members are required and what exact duties they will perform while working. Ultimately, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board will rule on these differences. You will be notified if your position is deemed essential once we reach a strike position. 

If I'm deemed essential, can I still take part in strike activities? 

Definitely! While you can’t walk off the job or fail to perform your duties, you can support your colleagues in other ways. You can wear buttons in the workplace, take part in picket lines when you aren’t working, volunteer for phone banks, and any other mobilization activity that doesn’t impact your work schedule.

Term employees

What if I am a term employee during a strike?

A strike does not constitute a break in service and will not impact your contract. 

Next steps

Will we have strike preparation courses?

PSAC is committed to ensuring members are informed about and prepared for a possible strike. We’ve launched strike training for all members so that we’re ready for any possible outcome. Contact your nearest PSAC regional office or visit your PSAC regional website for more information about the in-person, introductory strike training.

Additionally, you can attend the online strike preparation course that you can complete at your own pace. You’ll also find on our website our bargaining toolkit with conversation starters, a lobby kit, virtual backgrounds, and more. You’ll find the link to all of this in the chat.

Can we take part in job action before we’re in a strike position?

We’re already organizing activities to show the government that we’re serious about getting a fair deal. Activities may start small but grow to bigger, high-visibility actions. Check your union bulletin board or sign up for news from PSAC to find out what’s being organized in your region.

Some examples of workplace action include:

  • Encouraging members to wear ‘Strike Alert’ stickers and display other mobilization materials in the workplace;
  • Heavily advertising strike training in and around the office (or digital workspace);
  • Holding workplace membership meetings to inform and organize;
  • Organizing large lunchtime rallies just outside the workplace or online.
How can I get involved and support our bargaining teams?
Getting involved and taking action are key as we push for a fair contract. Be prepared, get mobilized, stay engaged, and be ready to take action:
  • Read our Treasury Board bargaining toolkit 
  • Attend PSAC national and regional events
  • Participate in actions, information sessions, lunch and learns, and workshops
  • Get in touch with your regional office to get involved
  • Keep your contact information up to date to receive all the latest bargaining updates.

Essential Services

What is an Essential Services Agreement (ESA)?

An ESA is a written agreement between the PSAC and the employer that certain work duties are essential to the safety and security of the public and must continue during a strike. ESAs are required by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA).

How is this different from Designations?

Under the law that was in effect before 2017, the process was different and what we called “designations”.  In 2013, Bill C-4, the Economic Action Plan 2013, was introduced in Parliament. The bill modified the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA), the former FPSLRA. The employer had “the exclusive right to determine the service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada is essential because it is or will be necessary for the safety and security of the public or a segment of the public”.

Since another change to the legislation in 2017, ESAs are about essential services and duties.  Once we have an ESA in place, it will be effective for future rounds of bargaining, although the employer may propose new positions or administrative changes (e.g., if there are new incumbents in a position).

Why was I designated essential in the last round of bargaining but not this round?

As mentioned above, in 2013, Bill C-4 gave the employer the exclusive right to make the designations. The law was changed in 2017, and now ESAs are negotiated between the union and the employer.

What is an Essential Service?

The Federal Public Service Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA) defines an essential service as a “service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety and security of the public or a segment of the public.”

What is meant by is the “public”?

The term public is to be given a broad meaning. It includes the general public as well as fellow employees and inmates.

How will I know if my position is essential?

Your Department or Agency is responsible for notifying members who are in essential service positions in writing. Notification will be provided by the employer. If you do not receive a letter by the time a strike is declared, it is safe to assume that you have not been designated essential.

What do I do if, during a strike, my supervisor orders me to perform non-essential duties or to handle striking workers’ duties?

Work now and file a grievance later. If your supervisor orders you to perform non-essential duties, write down the date, time, manager’s name and the duties requested/performed and provide this to your local union representative immediately.  If your supervisor asks you to perform the duties of an employee who is on strike, say NO.  If you are ordered, follow the steps above and grieve.

How does the employer identify essential services?

The employer must:

  • identify the service, facility or activity they believe is necessary
  • identify the level of essential service that must be provided. This cannot be disputed but it can be the topic of discussions between union and management.
  • establish how they will maintain that level of essential service with the LEAST amount of people
  • review the organization and all positions involved in supporting that activity to determine which duties are essential
  • identify the specific positions that are essential and assign the minimum number of workers needed to maintain the required level of essential services necessary.

The employer must comply with each of these requirements by working with designated union representatives prior to any work stoppage.

What do the Essential Service codes mean?

Codes are used to describe and categorize the types of essential services jobs. Factors considered are the work conditions, environmental circumstances, probability, or even the possibility, that human life or public safety would suffer if a work stoppage interrupted the duties of these employees.

Code Category Description
1 Full time Essential services are required on a daily basis. Employees will report to work and perform only those duties which have been identified as essential
2 Alternate A position whose incumbent would serve as an alternate to a full-time essential services position
3 Conditional Essential services are to be performed when specific conditions are met and agreed to by the parties (e.g., essential at certain times / circumstances).


How can essential service employees participate in strike action?

Code 2 and 3 employees may participate in any and all strike activities unless called in to perform essential services by the employer.

Essential service employees should attend regular membership meetings where the Strike Captain will explain how they can support the strike (unless held during working hours).

Essential service employees must identify themselves with the picket captain and follow their instructions before going to and from work.

How can essential service employees support their colleagues on strike?

Support and participate in outside strike activities before and/or after your regular work time. Check in with the picket captain for more information.

Sign up for PSAC strike information.

January 23, 2023