What you need to know about strike votes

When and where exactly will strike votes be held?  

The strike votes information sessions will be held virtually:  

October 26th from noon to 1pm : English Session 
October 27th from noon to 1pm: French Session  

Each voting session will also include an information session where all questions can be addressed.  

What constitutes a successful strike vote?  

A successful strike vote means that a simple majority (50% + 1) of members in your bargaining unit who cast a ballot voted in favour of strike action.  

Will we have strike preparation courses? If so, when and where?   

PSAC is committed to ensuring members are informed about and prepared for a possible strike. Strike Preparation courses will be provided, and your local union and regional office will be in touch with you with dates.  

When would we actually go on strike?  

A successful strike vote does not necessarily mean we will automatically go on strike.  

The employer won’t budge unless we apply organized pressure. That’s why PSAC National President Chris Aylward has authorized a strike vote.  

A strike mandate will give the bargaining teams the leverage they need to undertake strike action if necessary. A strong strike mandate is the best way to reach a settlement quickly, and without having to take strike action.  

In the meantime, we can do a variety of workplace actions, including: 

  • Encouraging our colleagues to wear ‘Strike Alert’ stickers and display other mobilization materials such as PSAC virtual backgrounds, email signature blocks, and more! 
  • Holding virtual membership meetings to inform and organize such as lunch and learns, coffee breaks, and talk to your coworkers during breaks about bargaining  
  • Putting strike information sessions and strike trainings in your workplace calendar (except don’t put in your credentials to attend, just put in the block of time so the employer might see it) 
  • Organizing lunchtime rallies just outside the workplace.  

What is “strike action” and how long would a strike last?  

If members vote for a strike and an agreement with the employer still can’t be reached at the bargaining table, the PSAC National President can authorize a strike. 

A strike can involve a range of actions—for example, targeted activities in specific workplaces or a full walking off the job at sites across the country. The Regional Strike Coordinating Committee will develop a plan and determine when, where and for how long strike actions will happen.  

Some examples of strike action include: 

  1. Work-to-rule

    Work-to-rule is job action in which employees do their jobs exactly as outlined by the rules of their contract or job description, and precisely follow all safety or other regulations and manuals which may cause a slowdown or decrease in productivity as they are no longer working during breaks or during unpaid extended hours and weekends (checking email, for instance). Your pay by the employer should not be interrupted.
  2. General strike

    A PSAC general strike is a work stoppage by all PSAC members in a particular bargaining unit. (General strike pay provisions apply.) 
  3. Rotating strike

    A series of surprise, one-day walkouts at strategic locations.  (General strike pay provisions apply.)
  4. Strategic strike

    A strategic strike is a work stoppage by a limited number of members of a bargaining unit at a limited number of locations. The strategic strike includes up to 10 per cent of the members of a bargaining unit. Strategic strikes are designed to have the greatest impact on the employer’s operation. Strategic strikes are approved by the leadership of the union based on strategic plans of action. (Strategic strike pay provisions apply.) 

Will the employer stop my pay during a strike?

According to current Treasury Board policy, pay should not be interrupted for striking employees. Instead, they would recover the pay from employees after the strike. The employer, however, could change this policy at any time. 

PSAC would address how this is done in the ‘return to work’ protocol that is always negotiated as part of the settlement when it is achieved.

Will I receive strike pay?

Strike pay for both regular and strategic strikes are governed by Regulation 6 in the PSAC 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 Per day For a maximum per calendar week of 
Elsewhere in Canada $75.00 $375.00 

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

Members who work in Per day For a maximum per calendar week of 
Elsewhere in Canada $53.00 $265.00 

In the case of a ‘strategic strike’ — that is, a targeted strike involving no more than 10 per cent of the bargaining unit and lasting no longer than two weeks — strike pay will be 60 per cent of a member’s gross salary.  
Some PSAC locals may choose to top up members’ strike pay.

Is strike pay taxable?

Strike pay is non-taxable. 

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

If the government chooses to change its policy and stop pay during a strike, your union has a lot of support systems in place to make sure you never go without pay while on strike.  
During a general strike, every member will receive strike pay of a minimum of $75 per day.  
You can also apply for PSAC’s Hardship Fund if you run into a difficult financial situation during a strike or lockout. The fund offers emergency financial assistance to workers in financial distress. A hardship fund is run by committees in each region that handle requests for assistance.  
Lastly, because of the strong impact any strike action by our members would have on OAG, a strike is unlikely to last long.  

Will I have access to dental and other benefits coverage when on strike?

Yes. Based on current Treasury Board policy, employees on strike will continue to receive coverage under the Public Service Group Benefit Plans. However, Treasury Board is entitled to change this approach. 

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

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

What if I’m already on leave when strike action begins?

Based on Treasury Board’s current policy, employees in the striking bargaining unit who are on leave when the strike begins may be allowed to continue 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 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 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 Treasury Board’s policy states that employees on “other leave with or without pay” prior to the start of the strike should be permitted to continue leave.

What happens if I am receiving disability insurance before strike action was called?

Treasury Board’s manual stipulates members of any bargaining unit on strike who are on sick leave or any other paid or non-paid leave, before the beginning of a strike, should be authorized to take their leave, but must keep on providing justification for their leave.

Do those in acting positions outside the bargaining unit return to their substantive position during a strike?

No. You will continue in your acting position during the strike unless the employer decides otherwise. Furthermore, you are part of the bargaining unit in which you are acting, not the bargaining unit of your substantive position. Therefore, if you are currently acting outside of the ASG group, you would not be eligible to participate in the strike vote or to take strike action.

What does it mean to be an essential employee?

An essential employee is one who occupies a position that has been designated as providing an “essential service.”  
Employees identified as occupying essential positions are prohibited from participating in any strike. Occupying an essential position means you cannot stop work and engage in the strike, but you remain able to support your co-workers before and after work, and during lunch breaks, by joining them on the picket line.  
Unlike essential designations that apply to a whole position, the Essential Services Agreement (ESA) identifies services/duties that are necessary for the safety and security of the public.

If we receive a ‘yes’ strike mandate, you will receive a letter in the mail telling you whether your position has any duties deemed essential.

The letter will specify whether you are code 1 (full-time essential), code 2 (alternate), or code 3 (conditional). Code 1s may not participate in strike action during working hours. Code 2s may participate in strike action unless the employer calls them in as alternate to a code 1. Code 3s may participate in strike action unless the employer calls them in due to an emergency.

We understand many of you have questions about your specific position, and we suggest you wait for the letter at the end of the strike votes.   

What should essential employees do when faced with a picket line?

Employees occupying essential positions will be provided with an electronic letter by the employer notifying them of their essential status. Your Local will be provided with a list, so strike captains will know who needs to report to work. Essential employees can also show the letter to the picket captain (via tablet, smartphone, or printed copy). 
The picket line cannot impede essential workers from attending work. However, you are permitted and encouraged to join the picket line up until it is time to go into work, that includes before and after work and during lunch breaks. 
As an essential employee you are entitled to work under the frozen terms and conditions of employment in place when the notice to bargain was served.

What should I NOT do when there is a strike of my bargaining unit?

Since you are occupying an essential position, you cannot legally withdraw your services from work. But you should not perform any of the work ordinarily performed by the people who are on the picket line. 

Can remote workers strike?

Yes. Continuing to work remotely is considered crossing the picket line and is a violation of section 25(6)(n) of the PSAC Constitution. Members in this situation should join the picket line at the location they would normally work, unless advised otherwise by the union.  
If they normally work remotely because of an inability to travel to their worksite, they may reach an alternative agreement with their local union to support the strike without having to travel to their worksite.  

Can term employees strike?

If an employee’s term is for a period greater than three months, or they have been working on consecutive term appointments for longer than three months, then the answer is yes. Not only can they strike, but they should do so if a strike is declared.  
Term employees for three months or more are employees in the bargaining unit and ARE covered by the collective agreement.  

Language training

Employees on language training when a strike begins may remain on language training if they wish. Employees scheduled to commence language training should be permitted to proceed as planned.  

Pension entitlements

Periods while a member participates in a strike may not count as pensionable service. Also, the periods participating in a work stoppage cannot be “bought back.” However, these periods are not considered as “breaks” in pensionable service for the purposes of calculating a member’s “five consecutive years of highest paid service.”

The impact on the future pension for a member who participates in a strike is to push back — by the number of days on strike — the date on which he or she completes the required years of service to qualify for a pension.

There will be no impact on the average salary on which the pension will be calculated for members whose days on strike do not fall within their five consecutive years of highest salary.

Average salary for pension benefit purposes is always based on the member’s best five consecutive years of highest paid salary. Any salary lost due to a strike during the final average salary period is accounted for by extending back in time the average salary period so that five years of paid earnings are used in the calculation.

For example, if a member had been on strike for 10 days during the relevant period, average salary would be based on earnings paid during the best consecutive five years and 10 days of employment. It should be noted that average salary is based on five consecutive years of pensionable service, rather than on five continuous years of service.

When contemplating retirement, members should be encouraged to obtain a copy of their exact record of pensionable service before deciding on their retirement date, to ensure that they have the required service for the pension option on which they are counting. 

Next steps

If you have any other questions about the strike vote, please contact your Local president, your PSAC regional office, or refer to the PSAC Strike Manual. You can also participate in a strike preparation course, which will expand on many of these themes in more detail.  
We make tremendous gains when we exercise our right to strike. It’s one of our most effective tools to ensure the employer understands we deserve respect and listens to our demands. Keep these things in mind when you speak with your family, people in your community, and other union members. We are stronger together.