NUPGE Issues Forum—Caring in Action: Building a More Just Future 

January 3 2024

In early November, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) held its second-ever Issues Forum, a format that blends conference-style plenary sessions with individual working group meetings. This forum brought together NUPGE members who work in the care and social services sector. The theme was Caring in Action: Building a More Just Future. 

Working in solidarity   

Chief R. Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, opened the forum with smudging, a territories acknowledgment, and thoughtful remarks and poetry. He discussed the importance of finding common ground and working in solidarity, noting the shared goals between Indigenous communities and unions. 

NUPGE President Bert Blundon provided opening remarks where he, too, stressed the importance of solidarity, and how we can’t stand idly by when injustice is happening, whether it is globally or in our own backyard. He highlighted that the forum’s participants are often on the front lines in times of crisis, but are also on the front line of building a better future. 

Tackling today’s challenges and towards a more just future 

Ricardo Tranjan of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) led a workshop on housing, including a discussion of his book, The Tenant Class. He tackled myths surrounding housing and facilitated discussion on how labour can and is supporting political struggles around housing. 

Rabia Khedr of Disability Without Poverty spoke about her organization’s work to tackle the high rates of poverty amongst people with disabilities, particularly through a Canada Disability Benefit. She also shared her personal experiences and stories regarding accessibility, inclusion, and disability rights.  

Morna Ballantyne of Child Care Now spoke about the movement for child care for all in Canada. She discussed where we are at in Canada, the progress that’s been made in recent years, and the work left to do.  

In all 3 sessions, the speakers emphasized the importance of collaborative action to tackle these collective, societal challenges and to bring about a fairer, more just, and more equitable future for all. In this, workers and unions can play an important role. 

Valuing care 

Participants also met in sectoral working groups, where they discussed common challenges and shared their experiences and ideas. Across the care and social services sector, there are chronic problems of staffing shortages, heavy workloads, burnout, and violence in the workplace. These conditions were made worse by the pandemic. 

Also common is a feeling of a lack of appreciation and respect—not just from employers, but from broader society, too. These members do incredibly important work, yet are often unrecognized and undervalued.  

These workers deserve wages and working conditions that are fair and recognize the value of the work they do. NUPGE and its Components continue to push for this.