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Central Alberta public servants steadfast on picket line

Striking workers will not slow down access to local services
Federal public workers have been on the picket line in front of the Red Deer Service Canada Centre from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Canadians are sympathetic to many of the demands of striking federal workers, but fewer citizens feel the workers are underpaid, according to a new Angus Reid Institute poll.

Results show that 36 per cent of Canadian surveyed feel the public servants are fairly paid, 28 per cent say they are overly compensated, and 17 per cent feel workers are underpaid.

Red Deer strike captain Kirsten Strachey said it only takes a few years for workers to reach the top of the salary grid.

“After five years, there are no more raises unless there’s a new contract,” said Strachey at the picket line in front of the Red Deer Service Canada Centre, located at 101-4901 46 St.

She said there might be some confusion for the public about workers wages, but most are making $40,000 to $65,000 a year.

“We appreciate that when the public has questions that they come and talk to us. We’ve had a lot of great conversations.”

Some 155,000 federal public servants, including 35,000 Canada Revenue Agency workers, have been on strike since April 19. They are calling for higher wages that address inflation, enshrined work-from-home measures and other provisions.

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 workers at Bowden Institution.

Strachey said walking four hours a day in all weather conditions has been challenging for some on the picket line, but spirits remain high.

“The community is still supporting us. The amount of people honking, waving flags as they go by, bringing us treats, is wonderful.”

Other unionized workers have also come out to show support.

Eleven workers remain on the job at the local Canada Service office to help people with pensions, Employment Insurance, and Social Insurance numbers.

She said striking workers in Red Deer won’t be slowing down access to services and there are currently no plans to move the picket line, which is happening elsewhere in Canada.

For now, negotiations seem to have reached a stalemate.

Hundreds of public servants piled onto Parliament Hill for a rally in the rain Wednesday, as the government warned the job action was resulting in backlogs for immigration and passport applications, as well as massive Canada Revenue Agency slowdowns at the height of tax season.

— with files from The Canadian Press