Deadlines to avoid a strike at the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) are passing fast, as the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) announced today that if contract demands weren’t met by 9pm ET on Tuesday, April 18, more than 150,000 PSAC workers will officially strike starting Wednesday.
This comes as the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) announced that 35,000 CRA employees will be in a “legal strike position” as of April 14, joining more than 124,000 PSAC workers who had already voted to take a strike posture on Wednesday, April 12. Labor disputes over contracts, wages and remote work are at the heart of the discussions, which continue after almost two years of bargaining with the Canadian government.
The CRA and PSAC are set to have a final round of negotiations from April 17 to 20 to hopefully prevent an all-out strike, which could take place at any point between now and June 2023 (under the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act, workers have a 60-day window after a vote to strike).
Bumping up against tax deadlines
The timing has understandably left many concerned about what a potential strike will mean for their tax filing, as votes to enter legal strike position brush up against the May 1 T1 filing deadline.
“There are no plans to extend the T1 tax filing deadlines, as a potential strike in no way impedes the ability of Canadians to file their taxes electronically or on paper,” a CRA spokesperson told CTV News. “Canadians should take steps to ensure their return is filed by May 1, 2023, along with payment for any balance owing.”
That said, the agency expects that should a strike come to pass, Canadians can expect longer wait times at its call centers, and processing delays for “some income tax and benefit returns, particularly those filed by paper.”
So while the situation is evolving, digital filing mechanisms (such as MyAccount) will remain active regardless of a strike.
How did we get here?
Bargaining between PSAC and the government began in June 2021 after previous contracts had lapsed, with PSAC members advocating for—among other things—higher wages in correlation with the increased cost of living being felt across Canada.
Union groups filed a Labour Relations Report in February 2023 that outlined recommendations for new contracts, including wage increases of 1.5 percent in 2021, 4.5 percent for 2022 and 3 percent for 2023.
To date, however, PSAC negotiators have not seen movement on many of their recommendations or been satisfied with the progress of negotiations. As of April 14, the government had only offered a roughly 2 percent average wage increase each year over a five-year period, while the union has pushed for annual raises of 4.5 percent.
Strike votes for the CRA tax group were held from Jan. 31 until mid April, while the union first declared an impasse on negotiations in May 2022. At this point, public servants in Canada have been without a contract for more than two years.
What to do going forward
The biggest takeaway for taxpayers is to more-or-less take a business as usual posture as it relates to their filing, and work to complete all relevant tax claims before the May 1 T1 deadline.
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