PSAC Policy 34 Women and the PSAC: From the margins to the mainstream

Adopted in 1994 Amended April 1997

In 1980, fifty thousand federal clerks took their demand for fair wages into the streets. This was one of the largest strike actions ever launched in Canada. What was perhaps more remarkable at the time was that fully three quarters of the clerks were women.

We came from every Component of the Alliance. We were older women, younger women, francophones, anglophones, lesbians, women with disabilities, aboriginal women and women of colour. Women of all races and backgrounds struggling collectively for the first time for recognition of the worth of our work.

Until that time women had been regarded as passive members of the Alliance and of other unions. Very few of our brothers suspected that we were capable of sustaining militant action and very few women really felt themselves to be trade unionists.

Yet with the clerks’ strike, women were front and centre. Serving notice, not just on the employer but also on the union, that we were not willing to passively accept low wages and subordinate status. Women were demanding fair wages and respect, recognition at work and within their union, bread and roses.

Since the clerks’ strike in 1980 women’s activism has become a force for the revitalization of the union. Women’s unequal pay has become a major issue for the Alliance and women have increasingly taken on leadership roles.

But more than this we have challenged the vision of the Alliance, broadening it to include equity within the workplace, protection from sexual harassment and racism, and social issues such as reproductive choice, child care, and the differences in political and economic power which underlie our inequality.

In broadening the focus to include equity and social justice, women’s activism has opened up space on the union agenda for the inclusion of different experiences and sources of identity. Francophone women, aboriginal women, women with disabilities, women of colour, lesbians and others have raised the issues of difference and inclusion. Together we have struggled to build a new solidarity which recognizes and respects these differences so that those of us who remain marginalized at work, in society and in the union may take our rightful place in the mainstream.

Our efforts with the union have helped to develop the unionís commitment to the fight for equality at the workplace. Sexual harassment is on the agenda because we put it there. The importance of fighting racism is on the agenda because we put it there. The fight for employment and pay equity are key struggles for the Alliance. Violence against women, particularly violence against women of equity groups has become increasingly important in our fight for change in society, at the workplace and in the home. For example, women who have disabilities experience sexualized violence and other forms of violence at very high rates.

More can be done but women are justly proud of the efforts we have made over the past decade and a half to transform the union and make it more responsive to the membership. In doing so, we have built a stronger more democratic union which is more able to represent the rights of women workers at the workplace. Yet there continues to be resistance to change women’s equality in the union, at the workplace and in society. We call on our union to bring down its inner barriers of resistance, prejudice and racism so that instead of being an obstacle in the struggle of working women for equality and justice, itís rather a source of strength and empowerment, of inspiration and hope.

The equality we fight for should go beyond half measures or token initiatives. To create an inclusive solidarity, the union has to deepen its commitment to equity by developing new ways of doing things that help to transform the unequal distribution of power. We must ensure that we develop an inclusive solidarity that brings those at the margins into the mainstream. To do that we must:

A. Work to Reduce the High Costs of Being a Woman;

B. Transform the Systems of Power in the Workplace;

C. Build Equity Within the Alliance;

D. Unite to Confront Violence, Harassment and Discrimination;

E. Educate for Activism in Union and in the Community;

F. Renew our Sisterhood.

In order to accomplish these objectives the following action program is proposed.


Recognizing our Child and Family Care Responsibilities: Action Plan


A.1 The Alliance should require all employers to provide workplace childcare. Although the Alliance has a letter of agreement covering Treasury Board employees, in which the employer has committed to pay the start-up costs for workplace childcare centres, this must be extended to all bargaining units. In spite of this letter of agreement, Treasury Board has not allocated separate funds to pay these start-up costs, but expects them to be made up from the existing budgets of departments and agencies. The union must compel all employers to recognize their responsibility to provide separate additional funds for start-up, operation and maintenance.

A.2 The Alliance should begin to address the members’ family care problems by conducting a needs survey. The results of the needs survey should be used to design family care pilot projects. These projects could take the form of a subsidy being provided to workers, on-site or near-site family care, compensation for the costs of extra family care during periods of overtime, shifts, flexible hours or emergency, at home family care for workers whose regular daycare arrangements are temporarily interrupted or unavailable.

A.3 We must ensure that our collective agreement provisions reflect the family (as defined in Section A.5) situation of our members by:

A.3.1 Strengthening leave without pay for the care and nurturing of pre-school age children by removing the minimum period of leave; ensuring that this leave is counted for purposes of “continuous employment” and for pay increment purposes.

A.3.2 Negotiating leave with pay for family related responsibilities of twenty-five working days per year with no limitations on the number of consecutive days. This increased entitlement to paid leave recognizes that members have the right to work in environments that are “family friendly”, encourages sharing of family-related responsibilities; enables members to also assist with elder care.

A.3.3 Negotiate benefit entitlements that include older relatives (such as drug plan coverage, dental, etc.).

A.3.4 Negotiate “top up” of UIC benefits for parental leave, and sick benefits as they relate to maternity.

A.4 Recognition of family responsibilities and family life must be extended in the workplace and in society. In conjunction with the CLC and other unions, we must reopen public discussion of the need for reduced work hours without loss of salary. The campaign for a shorter work week must be revived. We must include in our bargaining demands the need for a shorter workweek and for flexible and compressed schedules.

A.5 Make the redefinition of the family within our collective agreements a priority. The amended definition must cover and include spouse, chosen partner, whether of the opposite or the same sex, children (including step-children, foster children, common-law children), parents (including step-parents, foster parents, parents-in-law), sisters and brothers (including sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law), grandparents (including grandparents-in-law), grandchildren (including grandchildren-in-law), and other blended family members. Such a redefinition includes negotiating contractual recognition of lesbian and gay relationships, so that their child and family care responsibilities will be recognized, and the benefits they have paid for can be used to support their families.

A.6 The PSAC must continue its fight to amend Part II of the Canada Labour Code to provide workplace safety and health protection to pregnant or nursing workers. It is essential that emphasis be placed on modifying the job functions or reassigning the worker to another job that is not dangerous. In the event the job cannot be modified, or the worker cannot be reassigned, the pregnant or nursing worker must then have the right to fully paid leave until the pregnancy ends or the nursing is completed.

A.7 The PSAC must undertake to have the Canadian Human Rights Act amended to prevent discrimination in hiring, job placement, promotion and other conditions of employment based on factors related to reproductive physiology such as reproductive capacity, pregnancy, child-birth or breast-feeding.

A.8 The PSAC must have employment laws amended to entitle pregnant and nursing workers, who had to take maternity-related leave, to the same salary and benefits as in their regular jobs and to job protection during the full period of leave.

A.9 The PSAC must have health and safety laws strengthened to eliminate working conditions dangerous to pregnant and nursing workers.


A.10 The struggle for childcare cannot be limited to provisions that address the needs of Alliance members, but must concentrate on winning publicly funded, accessible, high quality non-profit, cooperatively administered childcare for all Canadians — childcare which respects regional needs and cultural diversity and the needs of children with disabilities. We urge the Alliance to commit resources to the childcare campaign, to lobby MPs, and to make childcare a priority issue in all election activities.

A.11 While the poverty of households headed by single mothers has a number of causes, the fact that non-custodial fathers are allowed to default on their child support payments is a critical factor. The Alliance must build coalitions with like-minded organizations to pressure provincial and territorial governments for agreements to enforce child support payments across provincial and territorial boundaries.

A.12 The federal government should abolish the deduction for child support and alimony payments in the Personal Income Tax. The payments should not be taxable in the hands of the recipient.


A.13 The union must clearly demonstrate that there is a place for our families in our Union. In order to be family friendly we must provide a framework that recognizes our families. This includes providing environments that allow activists to bring their families with them to Union activities, environments that do not force our children to be surrounded by alcohol, an environment where our dependants will feel at home. In addition, we must widely and broadly advertise the fact that PSAC offers reimbursement for family care costs.

The Future of Women’s Work


A.14 (a) The Alliance must bargain to ensure that telework is included in all collective agreements to ensure that those who choose telework are protected from employer abuse (e.g. increasing workload, extending work hours, making workers responsible for health and safety, equipment costs, etc. (see also PSAC Publication “Go Home and Stay There”).

A.14 (b) In addition, the Alliance must become involved in the issue of work re-organization by negotiating memorandum or letters of understanding before implementation, by including full union recognition, total respect of the collective agreement and adequate training for members; therefore, the access to information will result in the protection of our jobs, ensuring occupational training, eliminating contracting-out and improving our working conditions and our standard of living.

A.15 (a) Part-time, casual, seasonal, term work or job sharing must be the worker’s choice, and we must be able to return to full-time work when a vacancy occurs. We must fight for the right for part-time, casual, seasonal, term and job sharing workers to contribute to pension plans regardless of hours of work. Part-time, casual, seasonal, term and job sharing workers must be paid for statutory holidays at collective agreement rates of pay. Part-time, casual, seasonal, term and job sharing workers should get annual incremental wage increases.

A.15 (b) In order that we may deal with the negative impact of work reorganization in our workplace, we must: be equals in the work reorganization process and/or pilot projects, include the aspects of women’s work life conditions and equity conditions in dealing with the issue of work reorganization, become involved in our workplace at the very beginning of the process, from the planning phase to that of the implementation of new processes; negotiate employer-paid union leave to allow for full participation in the whole process of work reorganization, have access to all relevant information, denounce any infringement on the representation of union presence, develop a union expertise through training and information, ensure that the employer provides occupational training so as to enable us to deal with the technological challenges, protect classification and job descriptions, ensure that the employer provides a safe and non-violent workplace environment, eliminate contracting-out and negotiate the inclusion of a complete definition of technological change, of an advance notice including a report of all effects on the staff, and training and development for all members affected by technological change, as well as clauses on health and safety.


A.16 The Alliance must continue its leadership role in educating members on all aspects of telework and work reorganization, including alllimitations and difficulties.

A.17 The Alliance, through RWCs, has to build coalitions with other groups to combat the impact of expansion and integration of markets on women as well as the impact of changes in the economic structure.

Addressing Unequal Pay: Action Plan


A.18 Fair implementation of any new classification system requires that all Alliance members, their managers and supervisors must be educated to deal with any reclassification issues including the issue of gender neutrality and the history of gender-bias in job classification. The course should be developed and delivered jointly by union and management within a specified timeframe. The course should be mandatory, paid for by the employer and scheduled during working hours. Successful completion of the course should be made a prerequisite for the occupation of a supervisory position.

A.19 This education should be undertaken immediately with all affected groups prior to the conversion to any new occupational group structure.

A.20 All employers must be required to budget for pay equity.


A.21 The Alliance shall resolve the pay equity issue regardless of the costs. Resources shall be committed to:

1. negotiating pay equity;

2. winning the legal battle;

3. mounting a political action campaign to pressure governments to end pay inequity;

4. educating the public and the members through a nation-wide campaign.

A.22 A) The Alliance must demand that pay equity be achieved and implemented retroactively before any new classification systems are put in place.

B) Where classification plans are negotiable, the Alliance shall negotiate pay equity as part of the plan.

C) Pay equity adjustments must be integrated and included within the basic salary.

A.23 The Alliance must commit the necessary resources to sustain the battle for pay equity in the Tribunals of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.



B.1 The Alliance must monitor the impact of downsizing, hiring freezes, teleworking and restructuring on equity groups. Through negotiations with the Alliance, employers must undertake a comprehensive employment equity review of practices associated with recruitment, selection, hiring, training, promotion and terminations.

B.2 The Alliance must be an equal partner in all employment equity plans so that problems of high turnover; hostile workplace climates; segregation into job ghettos; inaccessibility; (physical and communicational), unjustified physical requirements; ineffective procedures for dealing with sexual, racial, personal, psychological and other forms of harassment; and training priorities shall be examined and changed as required.

B.3 Joint union-management employment equity committees must be established at all the national, regional and local levels. National and regional committees must be given the responsibility of identifying short and long-term remedial measures. Committees must assume responsibility for monitoring their implementation. All joint committees should be employer funded at all levels, i.e. the same as health and safety committees.

B.4 Ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of employment equity programs rests squarely on the shoulders of Ministers, Deputy Ministers or upper and intermediate level managers. Performance appraisals of upper and intermediate level managers must include their successful and unsuccessful attempts in meeting the established goals.

B.5 To address the problems of high turnover among equity groups, the Alliance must also be a part of an effective exit interview process. A process for investigating low retention rates in particular departments and workplaces must be part of the mandate of joint union-management committees. Of course, effective procedures for dealing with sexual, racial, personal, psychological and other forms of harassment are critical.

B.6 Employment equity programs must take note of segregation into job ghettos by developing effective bridging programs that would allow us to move from administrative support positions into professional and technical positions. We need, as well, to examine the merit principle and its subjective nature in order to identify any cultural, gender or ability bias.

B.7 Workplace accessibility must be assessed and the physical/communicational requirements attached to specific jobs must be analyzed to accommodate specific needs. Such investigations are needed to ensure that the extremely low representation rates for women with disabilities will improve. Recommended solutions shall be immediately implemented.

B.7.1 The Alliance will develop a policy on safety aspects, needs and requirements for members with disabilities.

B.8 Alliance members will determine equity group designations. The groups to be designated under the employment equity plan must be determined through negotiations between the Alliance and its respective employers. Measures to achieve equity for other groups including lesbians, gay men and older workers need to be considered, through their designation as equity groups.


B.9 We must recognize that there still exists a resistance to employment equity programs. We believe that this stems from a lack of understanding or insufficient information on this issue. We must educate our membership on employment equity programs and actively explain and promote equity issues, as well as showing leadership by an ongoing review of our own internal employment systems and enforcing our own employment equity policy.

B.10 The PSAC must lobby for changes in legislation to provide for enforcement of employment equity programs.



C.1 The total lack of equity group members at all levels of the union’s structure is an even more pronounced and noticeable fact. While many regional offices have no female officers on staff, the vast majority have no equity group representation at all. The Alliance cannot hope to respond to the needs of a growing proportion of its members given these conditions. The Alliance must rectify this situation.

C.2 Women members who are racially visible or aboriginal have been significantly underrepresented throughout the PSAC, particularly in the policy-making bodies of our union. It is important that these membersí concerns, perspectives and priorities contribute to the shaping of the PSAC and its policies. We know that racism, whether intended or unintended, has been and is a significant barrier in PSAC policies and practices. As an example, women are demanding recognition of the significance of slavery as an exploitive labour system as well as the cultural genocide and abuse inflicted on Aboriginal People. As a partial remedy to this, the PSAC must implement an action-oriented anti-racism policy before the next Triennial Womenís Conference. The anti-racism policy must reflect that women of colour and aboriginal women face racism which is often sexualized and sexism which is often racialized. This policy must also address the violence which women of colour and aboriginal women experience in society, in the workplace and in the home.



D.1 Employers must make every effort to ensure that workers are not exposed to violent attacks. Women, particularly women from equity groups, are especially subject to workplace attacks. In particular, if cutbacks in staff levels or poorly-designed workplaces are putting women at risk, the onus is squarely placed on the employer to secure the workplace rather than transferring women or limiting their opportunities for employment.

D.2 Joint union-management seminars on harassment and discrimination on employer time must be included as a priority demand in negotiations. There must be mandatory attendance for both employees and managers at these seminars and training must be provided on a continuous basis.

D.3 The Alliance shall negotiate in all collective agreements: effective “no discrimination” clauses which are enforceable and contain penalties and/or compensation; effective mechanisms of redress with time limits for response and resolution stipulated; the right to refuse work if a member is being harassed; 100 percent coverage for counselling and therapy and leave provisions for victims of violence and harassment. Members should have input into the choice of assistance provided.

D.4 Special attention must be paid to redressing the damages that both direct and indirect victims of harassment or discrimination have suffered; ensuring that aggressors are appropriately dealt with and that poisoned work environments receive the assistance that is required. In a poisoned environment mandatory training must be repeated. Also, employees must have input in defining what makes a poisoned environment and into the assistance they receive.

D.5 We must also insist that aggressors rather than their victims be reassigned and closely monitored in their new workplace. Repeat offenders must be subject to automatic dismissal on a second offence. The workplace which has been poisoned must be monitored and evaluated jointly by union and management to prevent further occurrences of harassment and discrimination.

D.6 Effective sanctions against harassers must act as a deterrent and must include: the requirement for an apology in writing; appropriate counselling; removal of supervisory functions as a temporary or permanent measure; transfer out of the workplace; financial penalty; letters of reprimand; and/or other disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal. In determining the appropriate disciplinary action against the harasser, among other factors, the following must be taken into consideration:

1. the vulnerability of the victim;

2. the psychological impact of the harassment on the victim; and

3. the impact on the victim’s career.

D.7 Workplace representatives must know how and where women who are victims of violence can find help. Workplaces should have literature on the services available in the community, including those specifically available for women, women of colour, immigrant women, aboriginal women, women with disabilities, bisexual women and lesbians. Phone numbers for shelters and crisis lines should be clearly posted. Employer-paid training must include sensitization to the whole range of issues encompassed by violence against women. Managers’ performance review should include rating on people management and a record of harassment history. Workplace representatives must be acquainted with the most supportive and effective ways to assist women who are victims of violence, harassment, discrimination, racism, sexism and homophobia wherever it takes place. There must be union input on the selection of workplace representatives.


D.8 Policies to deal with harassment and discrimination within the union must be strengthened. The “PSAC Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedure” must be implemented and its effectiveness monitored. Investigations on complaints of harassment and discrimination must be completed within a three-month period from the date of the complaint. When dealing with cases of member to member harassment, the following should be respected:

D.8.1 The investigative committee must only be comprised of officers who will have undergone specific training on dealing with harassment and discrimination cases.

D.8.2 Any decisions by any investigative committee must be appealable, by either party, to the next level.

D.8.3 Any interviews or opportunities to speak provided in the investigative, decision or appeal procedures need to be equally provided to the alleged victim and the alleged harasser.

D.9 In recognition of the insidiousness of all forms of harassment and discrimination in our society, the union must implement a policy of zero tolerance in this area. This should include extending disciplinary action to those who are clearly protecting harassers.

D.10 Violence against women must be an ongoing Political Action Committee priority. The Alliance must develop a political campaign which pressures federal, provincial and territorial governments to commit resources to women’s shelters, rape crisis centres and sexual assault centres, and to develop substantive policies which support such community efforts to assist women.

D.11 Stewards and Executive Officers must know how and where women who are victims of violence can find help. Local officers must have literature on the services available in the community, including services specifically available to women, women of colour, immigrant women, aboriginal women, women with disabilities, bisexual women and lesbians. Phone numbers for shelters and crisis lines should be clearly posted. Training for stewards and all local executives must include sensitization to the whole range of issues encompassed by violence against women. Stewards and Executive Officers must be acquainted with the most supportive and effective ways to assist women who are victims of violence, harassment, discrimination,racism, sexism and homophobia.


D.12 The Alliance must work with community groups such as government agencies, district labour councils and social coalitions, to raise public awareness of the issues. Violence against women must be the subject of a global campaign. Alliance links with local shelters should be encouraged. Locals and RWCs can earmark United Way funds for shelter support and participate in community actions like “Take Back the Night” which attempt to raise public awareness and concern.



E.1 The Alliance should make paid union education leave a bargaining priority for all members.


E.2 One way to broaden the accessibility of union education is to make greater efforts to use the skills of members who have taken the Basic Instructor Training Program and can deliver courses at the local level and in the workplace. Women and equity group members need to be recruited into this program and encouraged to create Member Instructor Committees in their regions. In particular, recruitment into the basic course, Building Union Solidarity, should focus on these groups. Another way to broaden accessibility is to increase the frequency of Basic Instructor Training Programs. A timeframe for the implementation of this policy should be established and progress closely monitored.

E.3 Regional offices should ensure that facilities used for course delivery are accessible to members with disabilities, and that special needs are identified and met. Course recruitment literature should make it clear to members with disabilities that the regional office will make every effort to provide inclusive facilities as well as appropriate and adequate material.

E.4 In their education recruitment efforts, regional offices should establish contact with equity groups organized in their areas, and consult with them about ways to use the links that these groups have developed.

E.5 Education at all levels needs to emphasize organizing skills and sensitivity to equity issues, while conveying an awareness of union structure and procedures. Equity issues shall be incorporated as part of the exercises and the examples used to illustrate course content.

E.6 Courses shall stress the serious nature of all forms of harassment and discrimination. Courses which deal with grievance procedures should include modules which stress the serious nature of harassment and discrimination, as well as providing information on the most sensitive ways of dealing with these specific problems.

E.7 Courses that specifically deal with the problems of harassment and discrimination and the difficulties encountered by equity group members shall be revised and developed in consultation with members of the PSAC Human Rights Ad-Hoc Groups.

E.8 All courses in the Alliance Education Program should focus on the goal of equity, and how it may be achieved within the union. In particular, leadership training must be oriented toward human rights issues, consensus building, and inclusive decision-making processes. Equity issues should be incorporated as part of the exercises and the examples used to illustrate course content.

E.9 Information and training sessions for members of collective bargaining teams must emphasize equity issues. Teams must be made aware of the Alliance’s commitment to equity, and be required to integrate these issues into the mainstream of collective bargaining demands and to make them priority issues at the table.

E.10 A) We must support the needs of equity groups by giving space in our publications to their issues on a regular basis.

E.10 B) Each Regional Women’s Committee should be entitled to a delegate seat on the Political Action Committee.


E.11 We must continue to work to build progressive community-based coalitions; the Union must build links with groups such as NAC, DAWN, the FÈdÈration des Femmes du QuÈbec, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Association of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals, the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada, all other community equity groups and with our sisters in other unions.

E.12 We must continue our efforts to form coalitions with progressive political organizations. A strong public sector is essential in an equitable society, and essential to the goal of economic renewal. Alliance members need to take the message into the community and support all efforts to counter a political agenda that is not in our best interests.

E.13 We have to recognize our responsibilities to non-unionized women both here and abroad. It is vital to the continued existence of the Alliance that it redouble its efforts to unionize those workers who do not yet have the benefit of union representation. We must commit resources to assisting other union activists attempting to unionize women here and in other parts of the globe.


F.1 In calling on our union to create more representative and democratic structures of power, we must recognize the meaning of this challenge for us as women. In striving to change power relationships, we must be sure to provide support and demand accountability from those we elect to represent us while at the same time we must be prepared to demonstrate encouragement.

F.2 Women also have to give greater recognition to diversity. Needs and interests differ between regions and cultures. We have to be sensitive to the different attitudes and outlook of QuÈbec women, francophone women, rural women and immigrant women, as well as the different needs of women in the equity groups.

F.3 We have to build a more inclusive and representative solidarity. Those among us who enjoy privileges or advantages whether because of skin colour, ethnicity, age, education, socio-economic status, lack of disability, sexual orientation, language, region of residence, country of birth, family or marital status, have to recognize our privileges and take responsibility for these advantages. We must always be sure to work cooperatively with those affected by this prejudice to eliminate the discrimination and gain equality for all.

F.4 In order to assume its leadership role, the Alliance must become more inclusive by finding the human and financial resources, as well as the means, to continue its work in this area. This can only happen with the participation of all levels of our union, namely the Alliance Centre, the Components and the Locals. Making our union inclusive means supporting solidarity. Supporting solidarity requires an acceptance at all levels that the costs must be shared, where possible, for every union event.

F.5 Alliance women must continue to strengthen the activism that started the women’s movement within the PSAC. We have to renew our commitment, get involved, push our union to recognize that our issues must be priority issues. More than ever we have to continue our fight for equality in the union and at the workplace. Women particularly women in equity groups, need to play a crucial role in every aspect of the PSAC. We are there, we must always be there — front and centre.