"This pandemic has changed the way people look at those who work on the front-lines. Community service workers are now getting some of the recognition and respect they should have been receiving all along. And we should appreciate the work they do every day. But on top of that, what is really needed, what will really change lives is adequate, stable, and targeted funding for these services." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (06 Nov. 2020) — Every year, we celebrate and recognize the valuable contribution made by Community Service Workers across the country. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has marked November 6 as Community Service Workers' Appreciation Day.
Community Service Workers are some of the lowest paid in Canada
These workers are part of the "caring" sector working with the most vulnerable in our communities. They can be addictions counselors, housing advocates, mental health workers or personal support workers. The sheer number of roles they play is difficult to even count!
"Community service workers are an integral part of our social and health services structure, but their value is often overlooked," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. "These workers are the lowest paid, forced to work multiple jobs, and for those who are not unionized, often have no access to sick time."
Community service workers have been on the front-lines of this pandemic, despite the risks to their health and workload, ensuring that those who are struggling have as much support as they require. Since March, NUPGE has been highlighting to governments areas that have been left out of the pandemic planning. This is especially true for the people experiencing homelessness and for those who work with that community. Without access to benefits, adequate health and safety measures and equipment, people are being put at a greater risk of infection and difficult recoveries. When a community is at risk, so are the workers who serve them.
In May, Larry Brown, NUPGE President, wrote to the Prime Minster detailing the problems within homeless communities. He provided short- and long-term recommendations that would help keep people safer. These included finding ways to ensure people could access financial benefits and also providing a massive increase in government funding.
Community services need stable, targeted funding
Prior to this pandemic, NUPGE had also put out an action plan to increase funding for community services in general. Often, funding for community services is combined with funding for health care, and often these sectors can be pitted against each other. Because these services have been underfunded and undervalued, they can be the first on the chopping block when governments implement austerity measures.
But NUPGE is hoping that the last 8 months have disrupted that way of thinking.
"This pandemic has changed the way people look at those who work on the front-line," said Brown. "Community service workers are now getting some of the recognition and and respect they should have been receiving all along. And we should appreciate the work they do every day. But on top of that, what is really needed, what will really change lives is adequate, stable, targeted funding for these services."
"So, on this Community Service Workers' Appreciation Day, we salute those who have chosen to make helping others their life's work not only for their dedication and commitment, but for the way they walk into difficult situations trying to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Thank you for everything you do," said Brown.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE