When COVID-19 effectively shut down Canada last March, many of us thought the new and bizarre situation would be temporary. Almost a year later, it is clear there is no going back to the way things were. To address the extensive damage done by the pandemic, especially the suffering endured by those already vulnerable to harm because of deep pre-existing structural inequities, major reconstruction is what we need, not a repair job.
PSAC wants governments to put in place building blocks for a better, fairer, safer and healthier future: Canada-wide universal child care so mothers with young children can get back to work; national pharmacare so everyone can get medication; an end to profiteering in long-term care so that we never again experience the tragedies of the last year; and an overhaul of social programs and expansion of public services to fill the big gaps in supports. We’re also demanding governments tear down our country’s colonial structures, laws and systems, and eradicate racism in all its forms.
Our union has power and tools to push for change. We can bargain improvements to our collective agreements, raising the floor for others. In defending our members, we can win rights for those who don’t have the means to defend themselves. We can campaign for public policy shifts and score victories for entire communities—just like we’re doing when we challenge the privatization of public assets.
The pandemic makes our activism more urgent. It demands we get bolder and adapt to new conditions. Telework may be the norm for many in the future, so that means changing how we stay connected to each other. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racialized and Indigenous peoples, and on women, has pushed human rights and equity to the top of our agenda. The ongoing economic upheaval will no doubt impact our leverage in negotiations. Our union must shift to meet the challenges.
2020 was the year things fell apart; 2021 is the year to rebuild differently and better.