Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Non-Public Funds workers rally across Canada as strike continues

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More than 500 Non-Public Funds workers support Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans and their families by delivering morale and welfare services, working in areas such as food service, financial planning and physical fitness.

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Non-Public Funds workers rallied at the National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday to mark their 67th day on strike.

They joined other members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and Union of National Defence Employees across Canada for a “National Day of Action.”

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Picket locations spanned from Suffield, Alta. to Goose Bay, N.L. In Ottawa, members gathered at the Department of National Defence’s Carling headquarters beginning at 7:30 a.m.

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Julie Laska, picket captain and president of Local 70682 of the UNDE, said it was “brutally cold” on Thursday, but members remained strong.

“I hope that we keep sending a message and our message today is to boycott the employer, boycott all their services, so we hope that we get the support from everyone,” Laska said.

More than 500 Non-Public Funds workers support Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans and their families by delivering morale and welfare services, working in areas such as food service, financial planning and physical fitness.

The union has argued that Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services “refuses to offer fair wages” to those workers, who are on strike in Bagotville, Kingston, Montreal/St-Jean, Petawawa, Valcartier and Ottawa, “despite generating profits from the programs and services” they provide.

As the lowest-paid workers in the federal public service, according to PSAC, members are asking for better wages, job security and a national pay grid for workers across Canada.

Without a contract since 2022 and on strike since Jan. 15, NPF workers are seeking raises totalling at least 13.75 per cent over three years, as recommended by the Public Interest Commission.

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Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services has offered 12 per cent in increases.

UNDE’s national vice-president, Cathy O’Kane, previously said that, on the management side, employees received raises in line with the cost of living: 6.8. per cent last year and around 3.9 per cent this year.

NPF rally
Julie Laska, picket captain and president of Local 70682 of UNDE. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

The group of workers at the picket line on Thursday blocked cars from entering the Ottawa office’s parking lot while also collecting petition signatures.

UNDE national president June Winger said some people waited in their cars for an hour, with police directing traffic to avoid blocking the roadway.

“Most people were really shocked to find out how poorly these employees were being treated,” Winger said.

Winger said Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services had been hiring replacement workers and had appointed military members to do some of the union members’ work in gyms and at coffee events.

“That’s offensive on so many levels and really perplexing,” Winger said.

This newspaper has reached out to Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services for comment, but did not receive a response by print deadline.

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While on strike, members receive $75 a day, with some union locals providing additional funds. Winger said the union had enough money to “keep this going,” noting that members would stay on strike until they could get a “decent wage increase.”

PSAC has called for a “nationwide boycott” of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services and its programs

Earlier this week, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services’ CEO Ian Poulter said the agency had made “a fair and comprehensive offer” to the union.

“We believe our offers have been fair and reflective of the current economic conditions,” Poulter said, adding there were no additional funds for wage increases beyond the 12 per cent in increases that had been offered.

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