Federal employees from Red Deer and Central Alberta were on the picket line in front of the Service Canada Centre at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Bargaining groups for some 155,000 federal public servants, including 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers, failed to reach an agreement with the federal government as of Tuesday evening.
“We’d rather be at our desks helping Canadians. We like what we do,” said Red Deer strike captain Kirsten Strachey outside the Red Deer Service Canada Centre, located at 101-4901 46 St., where about 65 workers walked the picket line.
“We’re hoping it’s not going to take long.”
She said workers are getting a lot of support from other unions in the area.
“They’ve been dropping off stuff or honking their horns as they pass by which is good for the morale here.”
The federal government’s website stated that in-person services through Service Canada Centres, as well as virtual support through eService Canada, would be limited to clients requiring assistance with Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and issuance of Social Insurance Numbers.
Striking workers can join any picket line. The downtown Red Deer picket line could include members of the Union of Taxation Employees, Canada Employment and Immigration Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, as well as workers at the Lacombe Research Centre and corrections officers at Bowden Institution.
Picket lines are also set up at the Lacombe Research Centre and Bowden Institution.
Strachey said for nearly two years the government has dragged its feet and refused to address issues that matter most to workers.
“Now we’re saying we won’t be taken for granted. We won’t fall further behind and we’re ready to fight for better.
“Most of our members make between $40,000 and $65,000 a year, decent wages, but not the kind that can withstand being rolled backed by inflation while still allowing us to make ends meet.”
She said it isn’t a fight to get more than workers deserve.
“This is about putting everything on the line for enough. Enough to support our families. Enough to pay the rent and cover the bills.”
Unions also want greater limits on contract work, more anti-racism training and provisions for remote work.
The Government of Canada website says the federal government is committed to negotiating collective agreements that are fair for employees and reasonable for taxpayers.
Service Canada is working to meet service standards and answer client enquiries and calls in a timely manner, but there may be some delays in processing and increased wait times in call centres.
The Passport Program has been impacted, and the delivery of passports is limited to those experiencing humanitarian or emergency situations.
— with files from The Canadian Press