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PSAC head says picket lines could move to increase disruption to government.

Talks continued over the weekend despite rhetorical spat Saturday.

The union representing tens of thousands of striking federal workers said that starting Monday it would move picket lines to "strategic locations" meant to cause greater disruption to the government.


Chris Aylward, national president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), made the comments in an interview with CBC News on the fifth day of a national strike involving more than 155,000 federal public servants who are members of PSAC.



Over the course of the strike, which began at 12:01 a.m. ET on Wednesday, picket lines formed across the country while some government services — affecting income tax, passports and immigration — were disrupted.


Aylward said the union was making efforts to be as non-disruptive to the general public as possible. He didn't elaborate on what specific locations might be involved, saying pickets might target "strategic locations that are going to have an impact on the government and in particular on revenue streams as well."


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Talks continued over the weekend between the union and Treasury Board, which is the formal employer of the public servants and is headed up by Treasury Board President Mona Fortier.


On Sunday night, the union said the strike was closer to a resolution, with progress made on remote work and wage increases for Treasury Board employees.


The strike is scheduled to continue for now amid ongoing talks about a deal for revenue agency workers, PSAC said in a statement.


"At Treasury Board we made some headway on remote work language, and both sides have moved in order to get closer to a resolution on wage increases," Aylward said.


The talks with the government about wages increases for revenue agency workers have not made progress, he added.


Earlier in the weekend, the two sides engaged in a rhetorical spat Saturday, accusing each other of delaying progress. While the rhetoric was toned down Sunday, Aylward said the government was still showing inflexibility, while Fortier said she wouldn't be "distracted by kicking and screaming."


"Yesterday I think that it wasn't necessary to have that type of behaviour. I think the better behaviour is to go to the table and and work as hard as we can of course to get to a deal," Fortier said.


On Saturday, Aylward accused the government of incompetence because of what he saw as a gratuitous delay on the part of the Treasury Board responding to a "comprehensive" proposal delivered Thursday.


Asked whether she was concerned about picket lines moving, Fortier said the government would be watching to make sure the picket lines were lawful and emphasized that the dispute should be resolved at the negotiating table.


"For me, the news that is good is that we're still at the negotiating table," she said.


Both sides of the dispute agreed there was still distance between them on the three main concerns that have animated the negotiations thus far: wages, remote work and the issue of seniority during layoffs.


"I believe there is a good deal on the table and I believe it's time to close that deal," Fortier said, though she did not elaborate on specifics.


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"We want to get back to work and we want to end the strike as soon as possible. But it's up to the government," said Aylward. "The government has got to come to the table. They've got to discuss these three issues seriously and in a meaningful way."


PSAC members are receiving $75 a day in strike pay, and Aylward has been firm that the union has the money to continue the strike for as long as necessary.


"We have access to over $200 million, so, again, strike pay is not an issue," he said Sunday.


Asked about the situation during an event in British Columbia on Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated his support for PSAC and called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to become involved.


"My call is for the prime minister, for Justin Trudeau, to get back down to negotiating — to get involved personally. It seems like he's not taking this seriously. You've got the largest strike on our hands in the country and the prime minister is not taking this seriously."


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