Four years have passed since the last national convention and my election as National President.
We tackled the priorities decided by the convention delegates; we worked tirelessly to correct the never-ending Phoenix pay mistakes and pressured the federal government for a fair settlement; we mobilized to win improvements in each collective agreement that came open for renewal; we organized thousands of workers into PSAC and negotiated their first collective agreements. We strengthened our fight against racism and our support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We established a national Gender Equity Task Force and were key partners in the national fight for affordable childcare.
Like much of the world, our plans dramatically changed in March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down entire sectors of the economy, throwing many out of work, forcing many to work from home, and others to provide front-line essential services in dangerous conditions.
Overnight, we had to adapt to completely changed circumstances. We acted fast to keep our members safe. We pushed fervently to get proper personal protective equipment and health and safety protocols in place for those on the frontlines, and relentlessly pressured employers to get those working from home the necessary supports. We also fought for 699 leave and COVID-related leave to support members with family responsibilities during lockdowns and school closures.
We learned quickly — often through trial and error — to do union work virtually: negotiations, representation, education, mobilization, financial administration, union meetings, ratification votes, conferences, conventions and so much more. It was very difficult for everyone — our leaders, staff, activists, and members — and I thank all of you, profoundly, for the sacrifices you made to carry on while dealing with the impact of the pandemic on your personal lives. I also want to acknowledge that the impact of the pandemic was not equitable — some of you suffered much more because of the systemic inequities in all spheres of work and life, including in our union.
The pandemic has been horrific and illuminating. For one, it exposed the pervasive, systemic discrimination that exists in our country and around the globe, particularly the intersectional and layered dimensions of social, economic, gender, racial and colonial inequity. Also, importantly, the pandemic confirmed the central role governments play in determining safety and security.
Never has it been so clear that only governments have the fiscal and organizational capacity to ensure people’s needs are met. Now, no one can dispute that only government spending and policy can ensure that comprehensive healthcare, child care, education, food security and transportation, and other critical services are available and affordable. Only governments have the means to ensure people have jobs with proper income, and to provide income supports for those who can’t work or are retired.
Our union must use these truths, confirmed by the pandemic, to demand more and better of all governments.
This report shows that our union keeps growing in strength and numbers — we are now almost 230,000 strong. The credit for all the reported successes belongs to all of us, and so too does the responsibility for continuing to make real change, equitable gains, and true justice.
PSAC National President