More self-described members of public sector unions — 47 per cent to 41 per cent — support the federal plan to return to the office three days a week in September, a new Angus Reid Institute survey shows.

The poll does not say what unions the surveyed bureaucrats belong to, or whether they work for federal or provincial governments.

Generally, the results from the survey indicate that a sizeable majority of Canadians — three in five — back the new policy on hybrid work. Breaking down the numbers further, the poll found that among working Canadians 54 per cent support the federal plan, while 32 per cent oppose and, among all union members, support was at 52 per cent.

Retired Canadians were the most likely to support in-office work with 79 per cent of 445 retirees in favour. 

Earlier in May, the federal government confirmed plans requiring that public sector employees work in-person three days a week, with executives working four days a week in-person no later than Sept. 9.

The Reid survey polled 1,751 Canadians including full and part-time workers, retired workers, those in unions, not in unions and those in public sector unions. 

Broken down by age, most Canadians of all ages surveyed supported these policies with one exception: younger women. Of female respondents aged 18-34, 47 per cent said they opposed mandated return to office policies. Men aged 55 and older were the most likely to support these policies, with 79 per cent in favour.

Driving the support for return policies is the belief from three quarters of respondents that federal workers have better working conditions than others. This sentiment is upheld across voter bases, with at least seven in 10 of CPC, Liberal, NDP and Bloc voters agreeing federal employees have favourable working conditions. 

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest union in Canada’s public sector, has promised a “summer of discontent” in response to the new changes. PSAC president Chris Aylward said that PSAC would file legal labour challenges and complaints. 

Attitudes toward the policy changed somewhat if there is protracted labour confrontation. About 45 per cent of those in a public sector union believe the changes should be reversed to avoid union discontent and potential service disruptions, while 36 per cent believe the government should stay the course. 

Prior to the announcement of mandated return, Ontario Premier Doud Ford had called on federal workers to return to offices to stimulate the local economy.

An additional survey sample of 156 working age Ottawa residents found that 57 per cent opposed the new mandate, while 33 per cent supported it. 

In all, 81 per cent of Ottawa-based respondents agreed or strongly agreed it is not up to federal workers to revitalize downtown Ottawa.