Canada Federal Workers Mull Sept General Strike

By Julie Remy, Reuters, Wednesday 29 August 2001, 3:30 PM EST

TORONTO (Reuters)—Thousands of federal government workers who staged a series of one-day strikes this month were threatening on Wednesday to launch a general strike in the fall if their demands for higher wages were not met.

More than 30,000 workers picketed airports, jails, harbors and government buildings from coast to coast on Wednesday to back demands for 5 percent annual wage increases over three years, she said.

If tomorrow morning the federal government doesn't put the offer we are expecting on the table, we could break the negotiations, said Nycole Turmel, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents about 77,000 federal workers.

A general strike is not excluded, and we talked about mid-September, but it's not finalized yet, she said, mentioning that rotating strikes and one-day strikes were also being considered.

In the last three one-day strikes, called workless Wednesdays, walkouts paralyzed a range of services.

The government's final offer is for an increase of 8.5 percent over three years.

We think it's a fair offer to employees and fair to Canadians in terms of our fiscal responsibility to them, Edison Stewart, a spokesman for the Treasury Board of Canada, told Reuters while some 700 workers demonstrated outside his building.

He said the offer was above the average increase in the public and private sectors for the second quarter of 2001. But Turmel said the offer was less than the 9.5 percent increase recommended by government-appointed conciliation boards.

Although disagreements remain between the two parties, the negotiations are set to resume on Thursday.

The federal workers have been without a contract since June 2000, and in May voted 64 percent in favor of giving their union a strike mandate.