Civilian staff to strike on Canadian military bases

Canadian Forces Base Kingston will be among those affected as nearly 500 civilian members working on military bases in Ontario and Quebec will begin strike actions on Monday, January 15, 2024. The Union of National Defence Employees had served strike notice earlier this week.

“Negotiations took place in Ottawa this week, but no progress was made on any of the key issues that the union has been working towards, including fair wages, a national pay grid, and better job security for [Non-public Funds] workers who are some of the lowest paid workers in the federal public service,” the union said in a press release announcing the strike action.

“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 Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “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.”

While NPF workers are federal public service workers, they do not belong to the core public service, and are paid significantly less than workers doing similar jobs in the federal government, according to the union.

“For example, Staff of the Non-Public Funds shipping and receiving clerks at CFB Petawawa make $17.19/hour. That’s less than $1 above the federal minimum wage, and 54% less than public service workers doing comparable work in the core public service,” the union explained.

“Fitness and sport instructors at CFB Bagotville make 62% less than comparable jobs at Treasury Board, while Accounting Clerks at CFB Valcartier make one-third less than comparable jobs,” the union continued.

The union is also seeing a national pay grid at Non-Public Funds, saying the employer “has wildly inconsistent wages for the same positions at military bases across the country.”

“Moving to a national pay grid is a critical step to improve wages for NPF members at all bases, and to ensure workers get equal pay for equal work,” the union said.

A financial services assistant at CBF Valcartier, for example, makes almost $10 less per hour – a 31 per cent wage disparity – than a Financial Services Assistant working for NPF in Ottawa, according to the union.

The union also alleges that NPF has threatened to halt employee benefits and rescind maternity leave top-ups for employees on maternity leave. The union called this “a scare tactic” and said this was “a blatant attempt to break the solidarity of striking workers and discourage workers from exercising their legal right to withdraw their labour during a strike.”

“Leaving the most marginalized workers out in the cold by cutting their benefits smacks of hypocrisy from a government that prides itself on being feminist,” said June Winger, UNDE National President. “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. Clearly National Defence still has a long way to go in their efforts to create a safer more diverse and inclusive workplace.”

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