'A sham': Union withdraws from federal telework meetings

Says attempts to engage with Treasury Board in 'meaningful consultation… met with resistance'

'A sham': Union withdraws from federal telework meetings

One of the largest workers’ unions in Canada has decided to withdraw from the federal government’s meetings on back-to-the-office mandates.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) claims the federal government does not want to collaborate with the union.

“This entire process has been a sham and has exposed Treasury Board's disinterest in collaborative discussion,” said Sharon DeSousa, PSAC national president. “Their actions not only violate our agreement on telework but also show a disregard for our members' concerns.” 

At the start of May, Ottawa released its Direction on prescribed presence in the workplace, noting that public service workers should be working in the office at least three times a week, starting in the fall.

The federal government is making the move to attain the following objectives, it said:

  • Deliver services to Canadians and strengthen their confidence in the public service.
  • Establish a consistent approach to hybrid work to ensure fairness across the public service.
  • Continue to encourage hiring the best talent across Canada.
  • Align with and support our diversity, inclusion, and accessibility objectives.  It is imperative that our workplaces are barrier-free and inclusive.
  • Continue to build an evolving public service culture of excellence and modernize our business models.

However, the Direction on prescribed presence in the workplace complicates the fair implementation of the Directive on Telework, said the PSAC.

The union also claimed that it had tried multiple times to engage with the government on the issue of telework.

“The union attempted to engage with Treasury Board in meaningful consultation on the issue of telework, but we were met with resistance at every step. Each time PSAC asked the employer if changes were being planned to the Direction, we were misled,” said PSAC.

“When the federal government announced its misguided mandate to force federal public workers into ill-equipped workspaces, it failed to consult with unions first. Once the mandate was announced, we insisted that the flawed Direction be paused and reviewed but the request was ignored.”

PSAC said it remains “committed to securing fair telework rights that promote a flexible, inclusive, and respectful workplace,” and that it is open to rejoining meetings “when the employer demonstrates a sincere commitment to addressing our concerns.

PSAC also said it is currently working on creating joint panels in each federal department to review telework complaints. PSAC represents nearly 240,000 workers in every province and territory in Canada and in locations around the world.

In 2023, more than 155,000 PSAC members working for Treasury Board and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) held a strike after the Treasury Board required workers in core public administration to be on site at least two to three days each week, or 40% to 60% of their regular schedule.

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