As bargaining heats up this winter for 120,000 federal public service workers, it can be easy to forget why we should pay attention to this round of negotiations. The pandemic and a snap federal election have taken a heavy toll on everyone, and many people are feeling burnt out.
But the past few months have also underscored the importance of a strong union and collective agreements that protect our working lives, improve our workplaces, and help build our labour movement.
This is our chance to build on the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic. COVID-19 changed the way we work and brought social inequalities to the surface. So, we need to negotiate remote working conditions that make sense and fight for the right to disconnect after work. We have to protect the public services that helped get Canadians through the crisis and address systemic racism in our workplaces.
At the heart of that process are the PSAC bargaining teams fighting for change.
Samantha Basha, a first-time Programs and Administration (PA) bargaining team member from St. John’s, Newfoundland, knows how important it is to reach out to as many members as she can to hear their concerns. As an openly queer woman, she understands that members don’t all share the same experiences.
“Sometimes I might not think about certain issues because they’re not applicable to my work,” Basha explained. “But when I see how important they are to other members,
it makes them worth fighting for.”
Kristina MacLean was drawn to join the Operational Services (SV) bargaining team because she wanted to address systemic racism in her workplace.
“Having experienced discrimination, I learned that the protections I often sought were provided for in my collective agreement — it’s our first line of defence,” explained MacLean. “Ensuring that members from equity-seeking groups are engaged in every part of the bargaining process is key to negotiating a strong contract.”
During this round, PSAC will also push the government to ramp up education for public service workers on Indigenous history and rights, and the responsibility of settlers to advance reconciliation, in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #57.
Together, we can negotiate collective agreements that build a stronger, more inclusive public service that can adapt to the needs of our members and improve our workplaces.
But our union is only as strong as our membership. Over the next few months, we encourage you to learn about the issues at stake, talk about bargaining with your coworkers and support our bargaining teams — loud and proud — when they need us.
That’s the only way we’ll make a real difference in our workplaces.
Contributors: Alroy Fonseca and Jeffrey Vallis