Today, the federal government announced it will lift the vaccination policy for all workers in federally regulated workplaces as of June 20, and allow workers who’ve been put on leave without pay because of their vaccination status to return to work without restrictions.
Treasury Board has also asked Crown corporations and agencies to suspend their vaccination requirements, and contractors accessing federal workplaces will no longer have vaccination requirements.
“There’s no doubt we continue to support vaccinations as an important tool to protect workers and our communities from COVID-19,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. “But as public health guidelines have been lifted across the country, we’ve been urging the government to review and update their vaccination policy for federal workers.”
Unfortunately, the federal government did not consult with PSAC before making its decision to lift its vaccination policy. Unions should always be consulted on policies that have a major impact on the terms and conditions of employment of our members to protect their health and safety and their rights in the workplace.
Policy grievances for workers on leave without pay
In March, PSAC filed policy grievances on behalf of our members who continued to be on leave without pay (LWOP) because of their vaccination status. We argued that continuing this measure was unnecessarily punitive.
Earlier this year, PSAC also launched policy grievances arguing the government’s policy placing full-time remote workers on leave without pay constituted an abuse of management authority because they posed no threat to the health and safety of their workplaces.
“Now that the government has lifted its vaccination policy, we expect members who were unfairly impacted to be compensated,” said Aylward.
In honour of Pride Month, in recognition of the hard-fought victories of the LGBTQ2+ communities, and in support of the continuing fight against discrimination, the Customs and Immigration Union will be flying the Pride Flag for the duration of the month of June 2022.
For the first time in our union’s history, the Pride Flag is displayed prominently outside the CIU National Office, in Ottawa, serving both as a reminder of what has been won over the years, and of what remains to be done to end homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia across the country. Members of the LGBTQ2+ communities continue to face harassment and discrimination of all sorts, including in the workplace, and CIU is committed to fight for a safer, more inclusive work environment.
To our members who are facing a difficult situation at work due to discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation: Your union is here for you. Please contact us if you’re in need of assistance.
Recently, the Canada Border Services Agency announced its Summer Action Plan (SAP) for 2022, seeking to mitigate anticipated summertime operational pressures on border operations. The Plan makes it clear that the Agency is well aware of the mounting challenges around issues such as an increase in the volume of travellers, higher border wait times, and improper staffing levels, all of which have a direct impact on a wide range of border operations across the country.
Unfortunately, far from offering long-term sustainable solutions to the very real issues affecting CBSA personnel and travellers from coast to coast, the CBSA’s SAP is an exercise in rushed and ill-conceived measures that only risks further damaging the already frayed trust between management and officers.
As per CBSA, the SAP is intended as an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ endeavour with the goal of ‘maximizing primary inspection line capacity’ until mid-September. Unfortunately, this will not be achieved through any real bolstering of actual staffing levels, but rather through measures such as mandatory overtime, mandatory shift changes, lengthier Primary Inspection Line assignments, and even the threat of reducing or outright denying discretionary leave.
For years, CIU has called upon the employer to increase the number of trained frontline officers instead of simply relying on a variety of technological measures to address issues at the border. Of course, we know that these measures — including automated Primary Inspection Kiosks, Remote Traveler Processing and, as we have seen in recent months, ArriveCan — often have the effect of making the border noticeably less efficient by lengthening processing times while also contributing to a decrease in border security.
Simply put, the CBSA’s Summer Action Plan is both a testament to the Agency’s lack of vision and a prime example of its complete disregard for the well-being of its officers. Over the last few years, Border Officers have worked continuously to serve their fellow Canadians and ensure the integrity and safety of our border, despite serious understaffing affecting ports of entry across Canada. This new Action Plan is a slap in the face to our members: By continuing to stretch an already thinned-out workforce, the Agency makes clear its willingness to endlessly sap the mental and physical health of its officers.
We cannot and will not let the Agency proceed unimpeded. At this time, even though the employer has already started implementing the Plan in parts of the country, we understand that not all officers will have been briefed by management. We are also aware that the measures proposed under the SAP will be concerning to many of our members, and we are currently exploring all avenues to defend their rights and protect their health and safety. Further communication will follow in the coming weeks.
Asian Canadian Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Asian labour activism to Canada. PSAC is proud to share some of the moments that have shaped Asian Canadian labour history.
Racialized Asian labour part of Canada’s first colonial trade settlements
In 1788, the first Asian workers in Canada were brought to Nuu-chah-nulth territory in British Columbia as forced labourers to build some of the first colonial British trade settlements in present day British Columbia.
Canada’s national railway built with exploited racialized labour
In the early 1880s, 15,000 to 17,000 Chinese workers built Canada’s national railway. Given dangerous work in unsafe conditions, many Chinese labourers did not return home. It is estimated that three workers died for every mile of track laid. Over the railway’s construction from 1880 to 1885, nearly 2,000 workers died from horrible accidents, an absence of proper food, and a lack of medical aid.
Punjabi sawmill workers
First arriving in 1903, thousands of Sikh immigrant workers built British Columbia’s lumber and sawmilling industries. Generations of Sikh families who found work in sawmills faced racial discrimination. The legacy of sawmill workers can be seen in the Cowichan Valley town of Paldi, named after the home of many workers in the Punjab region of India.
Chinese Laundry Workers’ Union
In 1906 the Chinese Laundry Workers’ Union demanded higher wages, a two-hour lunch break, and no work on Sundays. These leaders inspired the formation of more Chinese workers to form their own unions: Chinese Railroad Workers, the Chinese Canadian Labour Union, the Chinese Cooks’ Union, and the Chinese Restaurant Workers Union. The Chinese Labour Association was formed in 1916.
The first Japanese-Canadian union
Exclusion from unions was one outcome of rampant racism. In 1919, about 200 Japanese-Canadian workers at the Swanson Bay Mill went on strike to gain equal pay with white workers. This led to the Japanese Camp and Mill Workers Union, the first Japanese-Canadian labour union.
In the 1940s, Joe Miyazawa helped to organize the Kamloops sawmill where he and other Japanese-Canadians worked. Following World War II, Joe became an organizer with the International Woodworkers of America, later becoming associate director of research.
A leader within Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community, Roy Mah recognized harmful impacts of divisions based on race and sought to unite workers. He became an organizer in 1944, and through his organizing, brought as many as 2,500 Chinese-Canadian workers into the union. Mah also wrote and edited a Cantonese edition of the union newsletter, believed to be the first such publication in North America.
Darshan Singh Canadian
(Darshan Singh Sangha)
Darshan Singh Sangha came to Canada in 1937 when he was 19 years old. Finding work in a sawmill and joining a Sikh community of Punjabi immigrants, Darshan saw firsthand the extremely poor and unequal conditions that he and other Asian workers faced. Darshan later served as the International Woodworkers of America’s Secretary General and led a worker’s march to Victoria in 1946. He led a strike for 37 days that resulted in legal rights to an eight-hour work day, increased pay, and better working conditions.
Asian Canadian Labour Alliance
Formed in 2000, the ACLA is a grassroots collective of community and labour activists aiming to develop an Asian Canadian labour identity. These activists have made many contributions to the labour movement and advocated for the working rights of not only people of Asian descent but of all racialized and marginalized communities. With more than 20 years of experience coalition-building among Asian workers, the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance continues to push for solutions and justice for workers and communities.
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Canada’s largest coalition of self-organized migrant workers, community groups, and unions, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change was formed in 2008 after care workers spoke out about exploitative working conditions. They were met with severe backlash from the media. This was the deciding factor in forming an alliance to fight for better working conditions for careworkers, seasonal agricultural workers, and temporary foreign workers.
Across Canada, Filipino activists have formed community organizations to advocate for the protection of temporary foreign workers. Many of these organizations exist under the banner of Migrante Canada. Formed in 2010, organizers work for changes to end harmful exploitation and systemic vulnerability of migrant workers, strengthen unity among the Filipino diaspora and uphold workers’ rights, fair wages, and due recognition.
Recently re-elected in 2021, Danielle is the first woman of Asian descent elected as the Canadian Labour Congress Vice President for Workers of Colour, first elected in 2011. She has been an active member of PSAC and our component, the Customs and Immigration Union, for almost 30 years. Through organizing and education, Danielle has worked to ensure that human rights, equity, and the fight against all forms of racism are top priorities within the labour movement.
Hassan emigrated from Guyana and became the first racialized president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) of South Asian descent from 2014 to 2021. In 1988, he joined the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) and within a year was elected Chairman of Local 252. He later became the CAW’s national staff representative and first director of human rights. In 1999, he became the CLC’s first racialized person to be elected to the executive as vice president and was then elected secretary-treasurer in 2002. With the CLC, he received the 2021 Canadian Freedom of Association Award for collaboration in Canada’s 2017 ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 98, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention. In 2021, Hassan was appointed to the Senate of Canada.
Sharon DeSousa is the first racialized woman to be PSAC national executive vice-president. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Sharon came to Canada when she was five years old. Sharon began her career in the public service when she joined Human Resources Development Canada in 1998. While working as a benefits officer with Service Canada, she was elected as vice-president of equity for her local, Canadian Employment and Immigration Union Local 00648. She was the first racialized regional executive vice-president for Ontario in PSAC’s history in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014 and 2017.
Lily Chang is the first worker of East Asian descent to be elected to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) as secretary-treasurer in 2021. As Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79, Lily solidified the organization’s fiscal strength and acquired a building in downtown Toronto. She has also served as executive board member of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council as chair of the Municipal Committee.