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Hundreds descend on Sudbury's tax centre to rally with striking PSAC workers

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It was a massive scene down at Sudbury's Taxation Centre on Friday as nearly 2,000 people descended on the facility to either walk the picket line or support those on strike.

A late-morning rally was held by members of the Sudbury & District Labour Council to support the Public Service Alliance of Canada members (PSAC).

"I think federal public service workers need to see the type of support that they have in the community," said president D'Arcy Gauthier.

"These 3,500-4,000 workers, they are us, they are fighting for what we deserve and I don't think we're going to let the government tell us that we're not deserving of respect."

Also in attendance was Brian Keith, president of CUPE local 4705, one of the largest unions representing workers in Greater Sudbury.

They're heading into bargaining next month.

"We're always fighting the employer and in this case, it's the government,” Keith said.

“They have the support of not only the members of 4705 being the city, but also the province and coast to coast -- 715,000 plus members. We're going to be on the line with them because at the end of the day, fair wages is what we need and it's time to get back to the table and get a fair contract.”

He said 4705’s contract technically expired April 1 but negotiation start May 4.

“Two and a half straight weeks of negotiations and see what comes out,” Keith said.

“This might be us in a little over a month."

Absent from the rally were area Liberal MPs and Mayor Paul Lefebvre, a former Liberal MP.

Gauthier told the crowd invitations had been extended to all three, which led to a chorus of shame coming from the crowd.

"It's absolutely unconscionable that after two years you don't have a contract yet," said Carol Hughes, NDP MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.

“I can tell you that we've been raising your plight in the House of Commons over and over again.”

It was a massive scene down at Sudbury's Taxation Centre on Friday as nearly 2,000 people descended on the facility to either walk the picket line or support those on strike. (Ian Campbell/CTV News)

"You know you're standing for your family, you know you're standing for each other, you know that you are not being unreasonable, you deserve a fair deal," said Sudbury NDP MPP Jamie West.

There was a huge cheer from the crowd as members of Steelworkers Local 6500 walked over to join their ranks.

"Inflation has hit us all hard and to expect us not to get raises and get us to where we need to be is just ridiculous," treasurer Eric Delparte told the crowd through a bullhorn.

Labour expert Bruce Curran with the University of Manitoba told CTV News once a resolution is reached, it will likely be precedent-setting for other labour contracts.

"It is going to have an impact on private-sector non-unionized employers and potentially their terms and conditions they can offer," said Curran.

DEAL COULD COME SOON

The labour professor said he wouldn't be surprised if there is a deal at some point next week, adding the union has the advantage right now.

"PSAC though also has its own constraints because if this goes on too long there could be some public ire and there is only a limited tolerance with the public,” Curran said.

“The perception, fair or not, (is) that the workers did fairly well for themselves during the pandemic in not having to worry about job security conditions, whereas many other people did have to worry about it and potentially lost their jobs.”

Curran said both sides have incentive to find a solution. He's optimistic there could be some wiggle room if the parties both agree to binding arbitration. He said it would give the government a political out for a problem that has to be solved. 

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