2016 Young Workers Symposium Report


PSAC Atlantic recently held a Young Worker’s Symposium in Port Blandford, Newfoundland & Labrador. We had the opportunity to attend and we wanted to share this great experience and information obtained with those who could not attend. The weekend was spent listening to youth from the four Atlantic provinces share their experiences, knowledge and concerns about the issues the youth face.  We learned the facts about some issues young workers are facing from experienced PSAC employees and activists. Many relationships were built, and the weekend was very valuable for new members who have not had the opportunity to get involved in their local, as it really showed the value of PSAC and the reason that unions are needed in the workplace.  

PSAC Structure: Facilitators – Sean Glavine & Anna Goguen, PSAC Atlantic Regional Representatives

What is PSAC?

PSAC stands for Public Service Alliance of Canada. The PSAC is one of Canada’s largest national labour unions with 175 000 members across the country. The majority of their members work within federal public service departments and agencies.

PSAC is a large umbrella organization which has 17 Components across Canada, and within these components are locals. Locals handle the day to day issues for members and seek guidance and advice as required from both the Component and PSAC. Some locals within PSAC are Directly Chartered Locals and therefore do not belong to a component. PSAC has 7 distinguished regions, and here in the Atlantic, we have a Regional PSAC office in all four Atlantic Provinces. Within their locals, members receive guidance about grievances, health and safety issues, their collective agreements, workers’ compensation claims, short and long term disability insurance claims, duty to accommodate situations and return to work protocols.

Membership engagement, decision making, working together—including working with other unions—are key factors to consider when lobbying political parties and in order to gain their support to resolve issues we face today. We send a stronger message with numbers. We work with various components, other unions, and other activists including the Newfoundland Federation of Labour and Canadian Labour Congress, which helps us move forward and makes changes to resolve issues we face today. 

Presentation: Speaker- Kelly Roche, Canadian Labour Congress

During the Young Worker’s Symposium Kelly Roche presented us with a Labour Congress Presentation about young workers. High cost of living has created a stressful situation for young workers globally. Canadians are some of the most highly educated, but they have high averages for student debt. The average student debt in 2010, by certification was as follows:

College Diplomas -$14900

Bachelor’s Degrees -$26300

Master’s Degrees – $26600

Doctorate – $41100

Students are graduating and not finding sufficient employment to support themselves in their fields of study. Forty-eight percent of young workers work part time, and 20% do so involuntarily. Almost one third of young workers are in temporary jobs. Ontario alone has an estimated 300,000 unpaid interns. The youth unemployment rate is double that of the core-age population. In 2015, the unemployment rate for workers aged 15 to 24 was 13.2 %, 25 to 29 was 7.4%, 30 to 34 was 5.7%, total labour force was 6.9%, and core-age (25 to 54 years) was 5.8%.

Stuck with high debt and precarious work, young workers live with their parents longer. Young adults living in parental homes in 2011 included 63% of men aged 20-24, 55% of women aged 20-24, 30% of men aged 25-29, and 21% of women aged 25-29. Young people are also holding off on having families due to the high cost of living, education and housing. The average age of a first-time mother in Canada is now 30 years or older.

Presentation – Speakers: Allyson Garrison, Atlantic Young Workers Director; Leanne Moss, SJYWC Chair; Terry Sacrey, Communication Officer; Shad Rahman, Secretary (PSAC St. John’s Young Workers Committee)

The 2015 PSAC National Convention changed the definition of a young worker to include those aged 30 to 35. PSAC young worker committees across Canada, represent young workers, educate members about labour movement, seek, recruit and communicate with young workers, and raise awareness on a series of issues that young workers face today.

The St. John’s young workers committee is currently the only committee in the Atlantic region and they are looking for other young workers to form committees in their areas. If you wish to get involved with young workers opportunities in your area we encourage you to seek support from your local in forming a young workers committee and pass a motion to demonstrate this. Once this is completed, send a letter to the REVP – Atlantic, outlining the support and attach the local meeting minutes that capture the approved motion as a reference document in support of your letter.

PSAC young workers committee members must be 35 years of age or younger and be a PSAC member in good standing. Committees generally have executive members with distinct roles and operate as described in their terms of reference or bylaws. Some examples of executive positions include a chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer and communications officer. There are many benefits of being involved in a young workers committee. Some examples include being educated, interacting with other young workers, building relationships, networking, sharing/comparing experiences, exploring issues young workers are facing, proposing solutions. The union can help build skills and abilities which can be developed to help you develop in grow in your career. During educational training and conferences travel may be required to allow you to take participate in these educational opportunities.

If you are interested or want to know more about forming a young workers committee you can contact Allyson Garrison, PSAC Atlantic Director at allyson.garrison@hotmail.com.

Affordable Childcare for All: Facilitators – Sean Glavine & Anna Goguen, PSAC Atlantic Regional Representatives

In Canada, child care is the second highest expense after rent/mortgage and if you have more than one child, it’s often the highest expense with fees as high as $1,800 a month for a one year old in major cities, such as Toronto and Ottawa. The reality is that the costs are so high right now that many women have no choice but to leave the work force until their kids are in school.

Todays’ young workers are the least likely to have access to benefits (eg. life and disability plans, medical and dental insurance). Employers are increasingly proposing two-tier plans in bargaining, where recent negotiations between Unifor & GM eliminates defined-benefit pension plans for new hires, replacing them with defined contribution schemes. A two-tier system is a type of payroll or benefit system in which one group of workers receives lower wages or benefits than another. Target pension plan, unlike a defined benefit plan, is where the retirees know how much they can expect when they retire, but the amount you receive under a target benefit plan is just that—a target—but there’s no guarantee. This shifts the financial risk from the employer to employees and pensioners.

In Solidarity,

Leanne Moss
UNE 99242
St. John’s, NL

Terry Sacrey
AGR 90076
Corner Brook, NL

Alison Short
UEW 60067
Fredericton, NB

Kevin Walker
UNE 80017
Cheticamp, NS