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Canada Lands May Day Deal to End Federal Workers’ Strike

FILE - 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.

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

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

That deadlock will continue to slow the processing of annual tax returns. The union members will vote on whether to accept the deal "in the coming days," PSAC said.

"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).

The deal 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 agreement to address remote work requests individually and in writing, which opens up the government to the employee grievance process.

PSAC had been in collective bargaining since 2021 for a new contract, which is the first to be negotiated since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing millions to work remotely.

The deal "will have a ripple effect, quite frankly, for the rest of Canada," 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.

"It’s good to see the strike come to an end," said Robin Silvester, CEO of Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency in charge of the city's port, Canada’s largest, where a shortage of grain inspectors threatened to slow exports.

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest wheat exporter. Workers picketed one of Vancouver’s seven grain terminals, delaying loading one day, but enough workers were declared essential to continue ship inspections, Silvester said.