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Government clerks strike in Canada

OTTAWA -- Canada's 50,000 government clerks walked of the job Monday in a wage dispute that affected nearly all federal operations except the Post Office.

In another nationwide labor dispute, a Transport Canada official said air traffic controllers probably will lose two days' pay for staging a wildcat walkout Sunday that grounded most commercial air traffic in Canada for eight hours.

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Air traffic returned to normal Monday and a final decision on disciplining the controllers was to be announced Tuesday.

The strike stemmed from a one-day pay suspension of 36 Toronto controllers who took part in a work-to-rule campaign earlier this month to demand improved salaries, benefits and transfer rights.

In the clerks dispute, the Public Service Alliance of Canada is demanding a cost-of-living allowance, a 20 percent wage increase during the two-year contract and a shorter work week.

Contract negotiations between the PSAC and the Treasury Board broke off Friday when the union turned down the government's final offer. The clerks, whose average salary is $12,800, voted 75 percent in favor of staging their first nationwide strike.

Picket lines were set up oustide government buildings in Ottawa and other parts of the country.

Among the operations affected was custom clearances at the Canadian-U.S. border.

'The morale is very high, feelings are good,' a PSAC official said. 'Everything is well organized and we are ready to fight.'

Treasury Board President Donald Johnston said the government's latest offer included a $1,500 lump sum payment and wage increases that would amount to a 20-percent hike during the two-year contract.

He said union demands amounted to a 40-percent wage increase and charged PSAC President Andrew Stewart had not told his membership the details of the government's offer.

But the PSAC official said, 'We didn't think there was a big enough difference of money in this last offer to call anther vote.'

Under a pact between postal union leaders and the PSAC, striking clerks were to withdraw their picket lines at postal terminals during shift changes in order to allow postal workers to report to work.

Johnston said he hoped basic government services, including the distribution of pension, family and veterans allowance checks, would be maintained by using the 10,000 'essential' workers who do not have the right to strike.

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