Approximately 155,000 public sector union workers continue to strike in Ottawa
Picketers march around the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council as approximately 155,000 public sector union workers with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) continue to strike, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada April 24, 2023. Reuters

Canada's government struck an agreement with 120,000 federal workers on Monday, effectively ending the country's largest public sector strike in history, which had crippled services from passport renewals to immigration.

While most strikers are set to return to work after almost two weeks of deadlock, more than 35,000 revenue agency workers who also went on strike on April 19 are still negotiating, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union said.

That will continue to slow down the processing of annual tax returns.

"This agreement delivers important gains for our members that will set the bar for all workers in Canada," PSAC President Chris Aylward said in a statement.

PSAC said it had secured a total wage increase of 12.6% over four years, having turned down an offer of 9% over three years when it called the strike. The deal includes a one-off payment of C$2,500 ($1,845).

PSAC fell short of getting work from home enshrined in the collective bargaining agreement as the Treasury Board - the federal employer - refused. But there is an deal to address remote work requests individually and in writing, which opens up the government to the employee grievance process.

This is the first new contract to be negotiated since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which forced millions to work remotely.

The deal "will have a ripple effect, quite frankly, for the rest of Canada," said Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske told Reuters before the agreement had been finalized.

"All large private sector employers and all the other provincial and territorial governments" are going to take note of the details of the deal, Bruske said.

On remote work, the Treasury Board said that up to three days a week from home would be allowed - as was the case already - and that departmental panels would be created to address employee concerns.

"These deals are fair, competitive, and reasonable, and bring stability to public servants and Canadians," Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said in a statement.

PSAC had been in collective bargaining for a new contract since 2021, causing delays and disruptions in services such as immigration and passport renewals.

($1 = 1.3547 Canadian dollars)