Striking union workers on the picket line in Kingston, Ontario.
Striking union workers on the picket line in Kingston, Ontario. Credit: OFL / X Credit: OFL / X

Civilian workers on military bases in Ontario and Quebec have started strike action this week. 

Picket lines formed on Monday, January 15 after negotiations broke down between workers  and their employer, Non-public Funds (NPF). NPF workers have been without a collective agreement since 2022, which has left many workers in a precarious position for more than a year. 

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Union of  National Defence Employees (UNDE), which represent NPF workers, said that one of the core issues on the table is fair pay. 

“While NPF workers are federal public service workers, they do not belong to the core public service, and are paid significantly less than workers doing similar jobs in the federal government,” PSAC wrote in a statement. 

The union noted disparities between compensation for NPF workers and those in similar positions in the core public service. Sport instructors at a military base in Bagotville make 62 per cent less than comparable jobs at Treasury Board, while Accounting Clerks at a base in Valcartier make one-third less than comparable jobs. The union said that NPF shipping and receiving clerks make $17.19 an hour, which is 54 per cent less than workers in comparable positions in the core public service. 

One solution the union has proposed has been to introduce a national pay grid. A national pay grid would not only close wage gaps between NPF and non-NPF workers, it would also ensure that pay remains consistent in military bases across Ontario and Quebec. 

PSAC said that there has been “no movement” from NPF towards a national pay grid. 

As NPF workers strike for equal pay, the employer has taken some actions that the PSAC and the UNDE have called “scare tactics.”

Before the strike began on Monday,  PSAC had secured an alternate benefits provider for striking workers because the employer said they would be halting members’ benefits and rescinding maternity leave top-ups for people on maternity leave.

As well, PSAC reported that they have been made aware of managers approaching workers on the lines to discuss bargaining issues. 

“NPF is not only refusing to pay its workers fairly – predominantly women supporting Canada’s Armed Forces – but is now actively working to harm them as they exercise their legal right to strike, especially new mothers and people with disabilities,” said June Winger, national president of the UNDE. “Clearly National Defence still has a long way to go in their efforts to create a safer, more diverse and inclusive workplace. ” 

As strike action presses on, bargaining dates for units in Trenton, Suffield, Gagetown, and Goose Bay have been cancelled. 

“NPF workers play a pivotal role supporting Canadian military members and their families,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC National President, “but many of them barely make minimum wage, and are working two jobs just to make ends meet.” 

Gabriela Calugay-Casuga

Gabriela “Gabby” Calugay-Casuga (she/they) is a writer and activist based in so-called “Ottawa.” They began writing for Migrante Ottawa’s radio show, Talakayang Bayan, in 2017. Since then, she...