Hundreds of Civilian Workers on Strike at Military Bases in Ontario, Quebec

Hundreds of Civilian Workers on Strike at Military Bases in Ontario, Quebec
The Canadian flag flies at half mast at the entrance of CFB Valcartier, Que., on Nov. 17, 2007. (The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot)
Matthew Horwood

Nearly 500 civilians working on military bases in Ontario and Quebec went on strike Jan. 15, citing wage and job security concerns.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE) say members were picketing as of early Monday morning.

“Our members provided their bargaining teams with the mandate to take job action to get the collective agreement they deserve, and that’s exactly what we will do,” said PSAC national president Chris Aylward in a statement.

The strike affects Quebec bases in Bagotville, Montreal, and Valcartier, as well as Ontario bases in Kingston, Ottawa, and Petawawa and will impact retail and food services as well as physical fitness and reaction services at all locations. It will also impact financial planning and insurance for CAF members, which is provided through Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS).

Mr. Aylward said the employer, Non-Public Funds (NPF), has failed to address any of the outstanding issues at the negotiating table following the strike notice served by PSAC and UNDE.

“NPF workers play a pivotal role supporting Canadian military members and their families, but many of them barely make minimum wage, and are working two jobs just to make ends meet,” he added.

PSAC says that employees in the NPF agency—who deliver food, recreation, community and financial planning services to military members and veterans—earn significantly less pay than workers doing similar jobs in the core federal public service. The NFP agency is distinct from the Department of National Defence (DND).

PSAC noted that receiving clerks at CFB Petawawa make $17.19 per hour, less than one dollar above federal minimum wage, and 54 percent less than public service workers doing similar work in the core public service. Meanwhile, fitness and sports instructors at CFB Bagotville make 62 percent less than comparable jobs at the federal Treasury Board.

PSAC also accused the NPF of using “scare tactics” by threatening to cut member’s benefits and rescind maternity leave top-ups for those currently on maternity leave.

PSAC said it has responded by securing an alternative benefits provider for striking NPF members, adding that it would support members “experiencing hardships.”

UNDE National President June Winger said the move to cut benefits “smacks of hypocrisy” from a government that “prides itself on being feminist.”

“NPF is not only refusing to pay its workers fairly, predominantly women supporting Canada’s Armed Forces, but is now actively working to harm them as they exercise their legal right to strike, especially new mothers and people with disabilities,” Ms. Winger said. “Clearly National Defence still has a long way to go in their efforts to create a safer more diverse and inclusive workplace.”

The DND did not respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment before publication time.

In a statement provided to CBC News, the CEO for CFMWS Ian Poulter said Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services remains open to further negotiations with PSAC and UNDE and is “committed to a swift and positive outcome for all parties involved.”

“We are steadfast in our commitment to our Canadian Armed Forces communities and hope to mitigate any disruptions to services as much as possible,” he added.