NUPGE Annual Report: 2020 in Review is a look back on what NUPGE accomplished in 2020.
Ottawa (17 Dec. 2020) — On top of fighting against austerity budgets, and fighting for workers and for justice and equality for all, this year, unions around the world found themselves grappling with an entirely new entity: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Workers were told to start working from home, where many found themselves without reliable access to technology or OH&S protections. Many workers were laid off, or lost their jobs entirely. Critical workers who could not work from home found themselves without adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or training on how to protect themselves, their co-workers, and the public from the virus. For some, mental health deteriorated as we were forced to change our entire way of living and limit physical contact with loved ones. It felt like new information (and misinformation) were coming out every hour in the first months of the pandemic in Canada.
But though COVID-19 was being described as being the great equalizer, it was clear to us early on that this was simply not true. Precarious workers (who are predominantly BIPOC workers, women workers, and/or workers from other equity-seeking groups) were hit harder than other workers in several ways. For the first time, precarious workers such as grocery store clerks, personal support workers, cleaners, etc. found themselves labeled as essential workers, or those our society cannot do without. Though their role was finally seen for its true value, they also found themselves at high risk for contracting COVID-19, as they work in public-facing jobs with little to no PPE.
In addition to concerns over health, the pandemic also brought with it concerns over personal finance, as some Canadians found themselves laid off weeks before the federal government announced emergency stimulus measures. Canadians who were already in debt before the pandemic were hit hardest. The annual BDO Canada Affordability Index found that, in 2019, over half (53%) of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque, and 27% don’t have enough for their daily needs. Horrifyingly, though not unexpectedly, Canadians for Tax Fairness revealed that the wealth of Canada’s richest billionaires grew by more than $50 billion between April and October 2020.
Finance continues to be an area of concern, both personal finances and government finances, as some provincial governments have begun to carry out austerity budget reforms. Alberta in particular is an egregious example of cuts and privatization that bring harm to Canadians, particularly those who are already in precarious situations. In the coming months, as vaccines are rolled out and restrictions begin to ease, we cannot allow the “new normal” to accommodate inequality of any kind.
But we’re still going
But through it all, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) continued to work. With a relatively small staff, in 2020, NUPGE
- published 180 web stories;
- held 70 videoconferences and conference calls (including multi-sector meetings and meetings for 25 different sectors);
- wrote 47 letters of solidarity for workers, organizations, issues, or movements in Canada and internationally;
- published 12 new research papers.
This is far from a complete list of what the 15 staff and 2 elected officers completed this year, but the NUPGE Annual Report: 2020 in Review documents the major projects NUPGE staff worked on this year. The work was not easy, and in most areas the fight continues. But we put in the work, and will continue putting in the work gladly for the 390,000 members represented by NUPGE.
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