Public Servants Walk Off The Job, How will the National Strike Affect You?

Approximately 159,000 public servants began national strike action this week, on April 19. It’s one of the largest strikes in the Canada’s history, with nearly a third of country’s federal workers walking off the job.

These include employees from CRA, Canada Revenue Agency and Service Canada and Immigration, as well as Refugees and Citizenship Canada, who facilitate the arrival of immigrants, provides protection to refugees, offers programming to help newcomers settle in Canada, and grants citizenship and issues travel documents (such as passports) to Canadians. 

How will the public service worker strike effect my Canadian visa or foreign worker application?

Services deemed essential will remain available, but delays can be expected. After counting out essential workers, more than 120,000 of the employees can participate in the strike.

Some online and mail-in application processes are still available from IRCC services, although at a significantly reduced capacity. The government has advised the public “should expect serious delays in processing applications across all of our immigration streams”. 

The system was already backlogged and under pressure, with an estimated 2 million applicants in the backlog, according to guests on this CBC, The Current, episode

The action is expected to wipe out most of the gains made in catching up on the backlog over the past 18 months.   

Some services offered by non-governmental bodies will still be available. These include settlement services offered through partner organizations and visa application centres that are located outside of Canada.

According to the Service Canada website, “The Passport Program is impacted by the current labour disruption, and the delivery of passports is limited to clients experiencing humanitarian or emergency situations”.

Officials have said that people with existing immigration appointments will be contacted to cancel or reschedule, and foreign jobseekers and those with applications in progress are advised to keep informed and try contacting Service Canada about their files.

Although most IRCC services will be impacted, many of the services are offered digitally, so people can still apply online (and mail in applications). People can also use their online accounts and access some emergency services.

How will the public servant strike affect my Employment Insurance benefits?

As posted on the official Government of Canada Employment Insurance website, “during the current labour disruption, Employment Insurance is deemed an essential service and is maintained – this includes the Work-Sharing Program. Payments would continue to be issued to clients.

While we expect there may be some processing delays and increased wait times in call centres, Service Canada is working to minimize impacts to service standards and answer client enquiries and calls in a timely manner.

In-person services at Service Canada Centres is limited to clients requiring assistance with Employment Insurance, Social Insurance Numbers, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement. Offices remain open, however, days and hours of operation may vary.”

Why are Government Workers on strike?

Sources cite two main reasons that lead to the strike action.

Wage increases for PSAC member workers

The PSAC union is arguing that the current wages are not being increased enough to keep up with Canada’s higher than usual inflation rate, which averaged 6.9% in 2022, according to

This is the highest inflation that Canada has experienced in over 30 years. The Canadian inflation rate averages closer to 2% over the past three decades. By comparison, Canada’a rate of inflation was in line with the USA at 7.7% and Mexico at 8.4% which are also experiencing higher than normal inflation rates. On a global level, these rates are still much lower than many countries around the world are experiencing. For example, in 2022, Argentina and Turkey reported inflation rates of 88% (yes, that’s eighty-eight percent). The UK, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, and Colombia were all about 11% to 12.2%. 

It’s being reported that PSAC wants a 13.5 per cent raise over three years (or 4.5 per cent annually) for its 120,000 members. The Union of Taxation Employees at CRA is demanding an even higher increase: a total of around 30 per cent over three years.

Remote work for government employees

PSAC is calling for ‘fair’ remote work policies. Since the pandemic started in early 2020, the majority of public employees have been working remotely from their homes. Over the past year, management has been working with employees to move them to hybrid work situations (working some days from home and reporting to their government offices other days). The union argues that government services have been and continue to be provided at the same or higher level as before the pandemic. 

In December, a statement from Chris Aylward, PSAC national president, mentioned that Remote work is a critical issue at the bargaining table and an imminent announcement that would mandate all federal public service workers to return to workplaces a minimum of 2-3 days per week was deeply concerning and has serious implications for more than 165,000 PSAC members. The uncertainty about remote and hybrid work and how it’s being unevenly applied across the federal public service is a major source of anxiety and frustration for workers.

The Certified Immigration Consultants we contacted concurred that the already strained and backlogged system will be delayed even further. One consultant commented that, “RCIC’s communications [and processing] will just become a deeper and darker black hole”. 


April 19, 2023: Thousands of PSAC members go on strike; Canadian farming is facing a crisis — could immigration be the answer?,per%20cent%20over%20three%20years