PSAC remote work agreement a ‘watershed moment’ for workers’ rights in Canada

chris aylward and sharon desousa on the picket line in Ottawa

Together, more than 155,000 PSAC members led the fight for better remote work protections during this round of negotiations – and we won. You held the line during one of the most significant national strikes in Canada’s history, and the gains you made by taking strike action will benefit not just PSAC members but all workers in Canada.  

Now, you will be protected from arbitrary decisions about remote work by the government and will have access to a grievance process to review remote work arrangements and prevent “one-size-fits-all” mandates in the federal public service.

Ratification votes end June 16 at noon ET.

Labour experts agree this is one of the most historic wins for workers’ rights in recent memory, and it’s already impacting negotiations with other federal unions and private sector employers.  

Here’s what the experts are saying about PSAC’s victory on remote work: 

How the Big Strike Advanced Working from Home

“It’s a watershed moment for labour relations in the public sector and in the federal government,” said Shelagh Campbell, a professor at the University of Regina. “I think this is going to signal a lot of things for labour relations across Canada as we move forward.” 

Opinion: With remote work, the genie is out of the bottle

“The deal negotiated between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the federal government over remote work may very well be one of the most significant advances in workers’ rights in recent memory.” 

PSAC deal: What the tentative agreement says about remote work

“The most important part of this agreement is the idea that we are returning to a model where individual teams, individual managers, individual departments will be able to have specific agreements rather than a single one-size-fits-all policy across the government,” said Alexandra Samuel, a digital workplace expert. 

This does raise hopes of a more equitable and fairer approach and increased transparency around who’s getting remote work opportunities and why.  

Samuel said the panel on telework may provide a “hugely useful template for other organizations who want to bring employees back to the office.” 

PSAC strike signals shifting perception of remote work

“The remote-work protections in the tentative agreement between Canada’s largest public sector union and the federal government could ripple into the private sector, one expert says. 

“This is going to be a lasting change in the way in which work is going to be perceived and enacted, not only in the public sector but I believe more broadly in Canada,” said Matthias Spitzmuller, associate professor of Organization Behaviour at Smith School of Business.

Public employees’ remote work agreement just the beginning: labour expert

“This is … an important step toward making hybrid work a normalized part of the work environment and setting up reasonable balanced procedures to make all of those decisions,” said Jim Stanford, economist and director at the Centre for Future Work. 

What the federal workers’ deal means for the future of remote work

“History suggests advances made by public-sector employees do trickle down,” said Jean-Nicolas Reyt, an assistant professor at McGill University who has studied the merits of remote work. 

“I think all of these changes, they start with the federal government negotiating with their own employees, but if you look over the past 100 years that always permeates the entire economy like a few years later,” citing past advances in equal pay and parental leave. 

Is The Future of Work Flexible — Or Not? Governments Are Making Moves to End The Debate Once and For All.

“This progressive approach to remote work signals a significant shift that could impact the private sector. Companies looking to stay competitive should pay close attention to these developments, as the federal government’s policies often serve as a bellwether for the broader labor market,” said Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts and author of ‘Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams’. 

Adapt or lose. Why private companies need to embrace flexible and remote work

“It’s clear that flexibility is more important than ever, and private companies would do well to take notice and implement a data-driven, employee-centric approach to hybrid work. 

The negotiations between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Canadian federal government emphasized the importance of remote work. The government agreed to review remote work arrangements on a case-by-case basis, moving away from a “one-size-fits-all” policy. This outcome demonstrates a commitment to tailoring work arrangements to the needs of individual employees.” 

This article first appeared at on June 6, 2023.

It was adapted and tailored to UCTE members.

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