PSAC remains committed to ending Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Today, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) recommits itself to fighting against the oppression, discrimination and harassment faced by the LGBTQ2+ community.

This year’s theme is ‘BREAKING THE SILENCE’; to speak up, speak out and take up space, because the voices, stories and lived realities of the LGBTQ2+ communities matter!

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary and two-spirit people continue to face discrimination, violence and harassment at work, in the community and in their daily lives. This is exacerbated for members of the LGBTQ2+ from further marginalized communities such as black, racialized, immigrant, living with disabilities and Indigenous.  PSAC stands in solidarity with our LGBTQ2+ workers in creating workplaces that are free from homophobia, transphobia and biphobia and work towards policies and initiatives that address:

PSAC remains committed to:

  • Fighting for the inclusion of HIV prevention medication and gender-affirming hormone therapies in extended health plans
  • Advocating for gender inclusive washrooms in workplaces
  • Providing education and raising awareness on being an ally to our LGBTQ2+ siblings (Take a look at our guide on Building Trans-Inclusive Workplaces)
  • Advocating for the recognition and inclusion of the LGBTQ2+ community in the Employment Equity Act
  • Bringing issues affecting LGBTQ2+ workers to the bargaining table

We all have a role to play to ensure LGBTQ2+ people feel safe and can participate fully as they are in society and in their workplaces. PSAC will continue to work towards breaking down barriers and making equity and equality a reality, because LGBTQ2+ rights are human rights!

Mental Health Week

This year for #MentalHealthWeek, more than ever, it is very important to be mindful of your mental wellness. Whether you are a critical worker or teleworking, make sure you take care of yourself mentally.

There are many resources that you can find online on how to maintain and improve your mental health. Check out the Canadian Mental Health Association’s website on tips on mental wellness.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has compiled information under Healthy Minds at Work and also created useful health and safety fact sheets (OSH answers).

Together, we will get through this!

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the Asian community

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, dedicated to celebrating the contributions of Canadians of Asian ancestry. But this year, it is an opportunity to understand some of the challenges faced by racialized people of Asian descent in the context of the global pandemic.

East Asians face a new wave of racist incidents

Racism in Canada has reared its ugly head once again with the COVID-19 pandemic—understood to have first emerged in China—serving as a catalyst.

Similar to what happened during the 2003 SARS outbreak, anti-Asian racism has been on the rise all across Canada since this current pandemic first emerged. Reports from people of Asian heritage living across the country have revealed various kinds of harassment as they go about their lives in their communities and workplaces — from experiencing racial tirades to physical assaults to front-line health care workers experiencing racism even as they try to save lives.

poll in Canadas’ three largest cities found that 1 in 5 people felt unsafe sitting next to an Asian person on a bus. In Quebec, the rise of harassment incidents directed at people of Asian background has led the province’s Human Rights Commission to warn that “the pandemic must not be a justification for any form of discrimination.”

More recently, anti-Asian racism was shown by a federal Conservative leadership contender, MP Derek Sloan, who publicly questioned whether the country’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who is of Asian descent, is “working for China” rather than Canada and calling for her dismissal to keep Canada “sovereign.” Although the Prime Minister was quick to condemn the remarks as racist, the Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer, and other contenders for the party’s leadership all refused to condemn them.

To address anti-Asian racism, the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice was forced to launch its Stop the Spread campaign to counter rampant misinformation found across the internet. A similar campaign has also been launched by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

PSAC calls on the federal government to urgently increase support, including through new public funding, for anti-Asian racism initiatives and to swiftly condemn incidents of anti-Asian racism. 

South Asians at higher health and financial risk from COVID-19

South Asian people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because they have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which puts them at higher risk for health complications. Moreover, many Asians, including South Asians, live in multi-generational households, meaning elderly members are at higher risk of exposure to the virus.

Asian people, like other racialized people, also tend to be over-represented in precarious employment in the health, transport and service industries, which involve coming into close contact with the public during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, to date there has been no disaggregated race-based data (i.e., data with subcategories of race, such as South Asian) collected in Canada on those who test positive for COVID-19 or those who die from it, and health authorities have shown little interest in starting to collect and publish such information. In Ontario, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health dismissed calls to do so despite pressure from various public health associations. Yet, preliminary research from the United Kingdom reveals that South Asians—along with other minority groups—are dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate.

Thankfully, Toronto Public Health has initiated its own data collection during the pandemic, which will include race-based data. As stated by Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy, “It’s absolutely essential, as it has always been, that we have comprehensive data to fully understand and in turn respond to COVID-19. In the absence of appropriate disaggregated race-based data, we cannot properly respond.”

Moreover, with jobs vanishing quickly, many South Asians are now facing economic crisis. For instance, an April 2020 national survey by the Association for Canadian Studies revealed that South Asians are among the mostly likely to be financially affected by the pandemic—experiencing income loss and difficulties with paying bills and making rent.

PSAC calls on all Canadian governments to urgently begin the collection of disaggregated race-based data to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on racialized communities and ensured adequate interventions are made available. 

Speak up and support one another 

PSAC reminds all members, including those of Asian descent, that they can count on their union to fully support them if they experience racism in their workplace. Moreover, PSAC encourages all members to be vigilant at work and speak out against racist views and actions.

The origin of Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated in many communities across Canada since the 1990s. In December 2001, Senator Vivienne Poy, an accomplished Canadian of Asian heritage, proposed a motion that was adopted by the Senate of Canada, designating May as Asian Heritage Month nationally. In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.

 

Source: http://psacunion.ca/understanding-impact-covid-19-asian-community

SV Bargaining: Public Interest Commission report says union proposals are fair and reasonable

The Public Interest Commission (PIC) has released a report recommending the government move on several important issues raised by PSAC’s Treasury Board Operational Services (SV) bargaining team. The report identifies several of the union’s key concerns—such as closing wage gaps and increasing allowances—as areas where the government can improve its offer.

Though the PIC does not recommend moving forward on everything in our proposals, its support of key issues demonstrates the union’s demands have been fair and reasonable. There are, however, some glaring omissions, specifically the absence of any specific recommendation in relation to the HP (Heating & Power) classification. The report also contains a recommendation of the government’s concessionary Inmate Training Differential (ITD) proposal.

Moreover, similar to the PA and TC group PIC reports, this report recognizes that a fair Phoenix deal must be part of an overall contract settlement.

Economic increases

The PIC panel acknowledges that the government needs to address wage rates if a settlement is to be reached. In particular, the 1% special adjustment offered by the government may need to be increased.

Wage Adjustments

The PIC singles out the following specific classifications/sub-groups for favourable commentary on our proposed wage adjustments:

  • Firefighter (FR)
  • General Labour & Trades Group (GL)
  • Machine Driving-Operating Sub-group (GL–MDO)
  • Electrical Installing and Maintaining Sub-group (GL-EIM)
  • Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Maintaining Sub-group (GL-VHE)
  • Ships’ Crews (SC)

Allowances

The PIC report also comments on our proposals to adjust and increase a number of allowances:

  • Firefighter (FR): Convert Long Service Pay from a flat rate to a percentage (in line with the practice in municipal fire services)
  • General Labour & Trades – Machinery Maintaining sub-group (GL-MAM): The report notes that expanding the allowance “would appear to be an area of potentially fruitful discussion.”
  • Ships’ Crews (SC): Increases to the various allowances.
  • Lightkeepers (LI): Despite the union advancing a suite of proposals to address both long-standing low wages and unique working conditions of the LI group, the report only mentions an increase to the Supplemental Allowance.
  • Heating & Power (HP): Despite the need to address the clear wag gap and other HP group-specific proposals, the PIC report fails to include any steps to address them.

Inmate Training Differential concession

The PIC recommends that the government’s concessionary Inmate Training Differential (ITD) proposal be adopted for the GL, GS and HP groups, leading to the Commission’s union nominee to issue an addendum on the matter. Adoption of such a concession completely disregards the fact that the existing variations in rates is attributed to the number of offenders a worker is responsible for training in their trade, variation in the associated responsibilities, and the particular contribution of SV members in correctional institutions. Such an approach undervalues the teaching responsibilities that workers take on in addition to their regular duties.

Next steps

Although National President Chris Aylward has authorized strike votes for the SV bargaining unit, all strike votes are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this, PSAC is committed to reaching new a collective agreement and calls on the government to return to the table as soon as possible to negotiate a fair deal for SV members.

We will be updating our national and regional websites, social media, as well as sending information by email as the situation develops. We encourage all our members to check these resources regularly and subscribe to our mailing list.

Source: http://psacunion.ca/sv-bargaining-public-interest-commission-report

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre: On the frontlines of a small service agency during COVID-19

Lois Ross, President, Local 70400

For close to four years, I have worked part-time as the Community Relations Coordinator for Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre, a feminist collective, that is unionized with PSAC and UNE, which is a component of PSAC, under Local 70040.

I also work part-time as a freelance writer and editor and belong the Canadian Freelance Union.

In some ways my work has changed a lot since the announcement of the shutdown, and in others not so much. As a freelancer, I am accustomed to working remotely. These days my home office is getting much more use though, since I am also using it to work remotely for Amethyst. Much of my work revolves around communications and publications of one sort or another, including web, social media, etc. It is a busy time now, as everyone strives to accomplish online, what was once done in person.

But that’s enough about my work…. what I really want to tell you about is how Amethyst, a small independent non-profit health agency, is punching above its weight.

Amethyst Women’s Addiction Centre was founded more than 40 years ago by a group of concerned women who understood that women’s experience of substance use and addiction stemmed from a different place than that experienced by men. Those who founded Amethyst knew that many women needed a place where they felt safe, in an environment they could trust. And so Amethyst was born.

Amethyst’s years of longevity are testimony to its resilience with a small half dozen staff and a volunteer board of directors. COVID-19 is showing once again Amethyst’s agility and dedication to its clients and to providing free counselling services to as many women as possible.

As of mid-March, Amethyst like many other organizations, has been working over-time to rearrange the way in which we engage with our clients and our community. Amethyst has managed to remain open — virtually. Not easy for a small agency with limited resources to do.

Because the work of counsellors is confidential there are many new processes that had to be put in place in order to ensure our clients receive remote counselling sessions (by phone and online) that are supportive and secure. Amethyst is adapting to the reality of COVID-19 and for the last few weeks has been offering remote counselling sessions, by phone and online.

Amethyst has secured a confidential online platform as well as private telephone lines. Working remotely meant that our small team of IT contractors were kept busy bringing counsellors up to speed on how to locate files in the ‘Cloud’, and how to engage on a ‘zoom-like’ online platform, but one that we believe is more secure. We also had to quickly engage with current clients and reach them by telephone when possible, email, via our website, or Facebook, to let them know that our offices were physically closed, but that Amethyst was working remotely to provide much-needed counselling support.

There have been and continue to be many practical and ethical challenges.

While things were shutting down quickly, Amethyst staff ramped up at what felt like lightning speed to begin working remotely and offer support to our clients.

Transitioning from in-person counselling services to virtual is particularly difficult when counselling those who suffer from trauma. Amethyst clients are already dealing with marginalization and isolation in many cases, and now, because of the pandemic, they are only able to connect with counsellors virtually — and from self-isolation.

The pandemic has triggered additional difficult reactions and fears from clients because of requirements to isolate even further. Providing effective counselling services is all about human connection — so counselling remotely demands new ways of reaching out, new ‘tools’ and increased efforts to provide meaningful and effective support. Some aspects of counselling are just not possible virtually. That said, all of us at Amethyst are learning how to stretch our support virtually in ways that we had not anticipated.

For example, Amethyst has a wait list of clients, clients who were supported through in-person group sessions while waiting for individual counselling. Those group sessions are not physically possible right now. Will they even be possible virtually? Time will tell. Amethyst is working to see if online group sessions are a ‘thing’.

And what of clients who do not have access to the technology — to the smart phones, computers, internet, or data plans required to receive remote counselling sessions. How many of these clients are falling through the cracks? Access to technology is not equal in our society — and so working remotely is not a one-size fits all. That is a huge gap that we will need to consider going forward.

So, there is much that is new for us working at Amethyst, no matter what our responsibilities might be. Our administrator is doing an amazing job trying to prepare year-end financials and having books audited virtually. It takes much longer to scan, and email, and review questions because the auditor cannot visit Amethyst to go through files.

And then there is the impact on staff working both remotely and with technology constantly. There are few breaks from the computer, as counsellors undertake their sessions online or on the phone. Meetings are held via Zoom or Teams and always online. Eyestrain, repetitive motions on the keyboard, and constantly being at a desk, can even take a toll on those who are accustomed to working remotely, and even more so on those who are accustomed to providing face-to-face counselling sessions. But that is the work we do for our clients.

So, while we endeavor to work remotely, Amethyst staff, like so many others working in the health sector, have personal concerns generated by COVID-19 and its impact on the health of their family, elderly parents, close personal friends, and co-workers. The pandemic is affecting us all as workers, but also as individuals.

We check-in, try to share and support each other during online staff meetings. We know, that while things could be better, they could also be far worse, and that we still have much to be grateful for. We are working, we have a job, and we have the benefits that come with being unionized (and a feminist collective!).

We will get through this. Our clients are depending on us. We are depending on each other.

Statement by UNE National President on the National Day of Mourning

Today we honour and remember all the people who died or were hurt from work related illness and injuries on National Day of Mourning.

Every worker has the right to return home safe after a day of work. We must continue to put pressure on the federal government to replace the current definition of danger in the Canada Labour Code, amended in 2014, with the pre-existing one.

We demand employers in federal and other jurisdictions to respect the rules on workplace health and safety committees and urge them to collaborate more with those committee members to ensure safe workplaces.

In 2019, over 1000 workers died in workplace related accidents in Canada, a similar statistic as in 2018, which is about 3 workers a day, 3 workers a day too many.

I encourage all UNE members to remember those workers and invite you to attend virtual events that will be held on Tuesday, April 28 across the country to commemorate and honour them or to observe a moment of silence.

Respectfully and in Solidarity,

Kevin King
UNE National President

PSAC to government: Keep public services stable, head back to the bargaining table

Statement from PSAC National President Chris Aylward: 

Over the last two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, PSAC members have been on the frontlines battling the virus and delivering emergency financial support to millions of Canadians. They continue to provide these critical services, they do so without a new contract, and many have not seen wage increases for up to four years.

It’s time for the federal government to fix this by heading back to the bargaining table and reaching a settlement for over 140,000 public service workers.

PSAC members  are putting Canadians first during this unprecedented crisis. They work around the clock to deliver benefits, and they face the virus head-on every day at our borders, in our federal penitentiaries, in meat packing plants as they inspect our food, and the list goes on. Thousands have also stepped forward to do completely new jobs wherever there has been a need to support the government’s relief efforts. They want to keep working but they also want a fair contract.

Elsewhere in Canada, the need to provide stability and fair compensation to public service workers during this pandemic has been recognized. The government of Ontario bargained and settled with its teachers’ unions in the first weeks of the crisis, and the Quebec government is at the bargaining table with unions representing over 500,000 public sector workers. Even large federal employers like Canada Post reached a tentative agreement with PSAC members just days ago.

And in response to the pandemic the government implemented massive changes at lightning speed across the public service (with the help of PSAC members), yet they have refused to move forward on the comparably modest task of settling a round of bargaining.

There is no reason for the federal government to delay. Canadians need a stable public service that is well supported during this difficult time, and our members certainly deserve to have their basic right to a fair contract respected.

We should also keep in mind that these are the same workers who continue to experience four years of Phoenix pay nightmares and have yet to be compensated for their hardships.

We are urging the federal government to get their negotiators back to the table with a mandate to reach a fair settlement to the benefit of PSAC members and all Canadians.

April 17 – Equality Day in Canada

Every human being is entitled to the same fundamental human rights: the right to live free from torture, the right to live free from slavery, the right to own property, the right to equality and dignity, and to live free from all forms of discrimination etc. just to name few among others.

If all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, why are we still fighting against discrimination, racism, inequal pay and gender inequality? Why are we still fighting against social and economic inequalities deep rooted in some communities in this country?

Well! Should we say Equality or Inequality Day instead? Well, let’s see, shall we?

Tomorrow will be Equality Day in Canada. We celebrate Equality Day every April 17 to mark the coming into force of the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter was signed on April 17, 1982. However, Section 15 of the Charter on Equality Rights and Freedoms for all without discrimination, was implemented on April 17, 1985, three years later. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is here to protect all Canadian’s fundamental rights. Well, easy said than done!

The reality is, many decades later after this great breakthrough, we are still talking in this country about gender inequality: Canadian women still face major income inequality – gender pay gap between women and men. For example, in 2017, on average, women earned between 64 cents and 79 cents for every $1 that men earned. The pay gap is even wider for racialized women, immigrant and migrant workers, indigenous women, women with disabilities and LGBTQ2+ people.

Research also shows that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada. Nonetheless, 35 years later, we are still fighting to address gender-based violence towards girls and women, fighting for equal opportunity in our workplaces and fighting against all forms of discrimination and racist behaviors! In addition, and surprisingly some communities are still fighting to have their basic needs met such as clean water, medical accessibility etc.

Yes, the implementation of the section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the rights for equality was a touchstone in Canadian history. It is one of our country’s greatest accomplishments and widely admired around the globe! As Canadian, this is one of the things I proudly brag about. However, have we reached the rights to equality and dignity goals? No! It is work in progress! Let’s admit it, there is still much work that needs to be done at home before reaching full equality rights in all areas in our society, workplaces and community at large.

Brothers, Sisters and fellow activists, today, April 17, is Equality Day in Canada. Let’s celebrate! However, every day should be Equality Day because every day we need to fight against the systemic inequality we experience or witness. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We don’t need a special day to promote or to defend our rights for equality. Let’s reflect today on the right to equality, its role in our society, and what we can do to promote and protect those rights. In conclusion, calling April 17, Equality or Inequality day in Canada, is up to you and me. Happy reading!

Céline Ahodekon
UNE Steward of Local 20278 & PSAC-BC Secretary for the Lower Mainland Human Rights Committee

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

UNE Convention Deadlines Extended

Greetings,

The UNE’s National Executive met last night by teleconference and has made some decisions with respect to the UNE Triennial Convention 2020.

The following motion was moved, and seconded with the unanimous consent of the National Executive, on March 24th, 2020:

    • UNE will suspend any timelines contained in Local and UNE Bylaws regarding on time conformance, on time election of delegates, and on time resolution deadlines to the UNE Triennial Convention until May 22, 2020, and should this resolution require an extension, such extension will be made by majority vote of the National Executive of UNE.

These actions are interpreted as an extension of the existing timelines for on time locals, on time delegates and on time resolutions until Friday May 22nd, 2020.

Should a further extension be required, as stated above, it will require a 2/3 majority vote by the National Executive of UNE.

In solidarity,

Kevin King
National President
Unionof National Employees

Support Rideau-Carleton Casino Workers During Shutdown

PSAC, UNE, and supporters, urge the employer to take immediate action to support workers at the Rideau Carleton Casino in these exceptional circumstances related to COVID-19. We are asking the employer to lead by example, as in Quebec, where all casino workers will receive their full wages despite closures.

Click here to sign the letter!

Other private employers across Canada have also decided to pay their staff while in shutdown such as the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, Canadian Tire, Ikea Canada, Home Depot, Under Armour, Sports Check, Atmosphere, Best Buy and more. As of March 19, Casinos Regina and Moose Jaw will cover employee salaries for the next two weeks with the provision that the employer will re-evaluate the situation for workers after this time.

PSAC proposed that the Employer of workers at the Rideau Carleton Casino, a division of Hard Rock International (in Florida), immediately grant Special Paid Leave to workers for a period of time. If in response to the pandemic there is an ongoing requirement to remain closed, then the Union has proposed that the Employer shift to providing a special top up to E.I. benefits. This was also denied. As news of supportive measures by other Employers in this sector and beyond became known, the PSAC asked yet another time to support employees with no response.

Click here to sign the letter!