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Big public union strike in Canada could disrupt tax season

OTTAWA, Ontario — Almost 100,000 federal workers, including 35,000 from Canada’s tax agency, went on strike Wednesday as Canada’s largest public service union and the federal government continued to negotiate amid warnings of major service disruptions.

Federal workers were hitting the picket lines across Canada during the country’s tax season after the union and the government failed to reach a deal by a Tuesday evening deadline.

Federal ministers provided an update on the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s strike action in a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, with Treasury Board President Mona Fortier confirming negotiations were continuing.

“We cannot write a blank check,” Fortier said.

The bargaining groups involve some 155,000 federal public servants, including 35,000 workers from Canada’s tax agency at time when taxes are due. Close to 50,000 workers remain at work as they are deemed essential.

Chris Aylward, the president of Public Service Alliance, said Wednesday that 97,000 workers are on strike nationwide.

Since the strike involves nearly one-third of all federal public servants, both the union and the government have warned of disruptions, including what could amount to a complete halt of the tax season. Most tax returns in Canada are due April 30.

Other concerns include disruptions to employment insurance, immigration and passport applications.

The union is calling the strike action, which officially began at 12:01 a.m. EDT Wednesday, one of the largest in Canadian history.

Federal workers arrived Wednesday morning on Parliament Hill to picket, holding signs that said “fair deal for workers.”

The union is pushing for annual wage raises of 4.5% over the next three years. It says the increases are necessary to keep pace with inflation and the cost of living. The Treasury Board said it has offered the union a 9% raise over three years.


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