As an inclusive organization, the USJE urges all members to participate in the life of their union, from the Local to the National level!
USJE Locals are the true heart of our union. Volunteer Local executive members fight the daily workplace fight to represent and advance the interests of their coworkers. Most Local Executives comprise a President, one or more Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a number of Stewards (and, in larger Locals, a Chief Steward).
The USJE’s National Triennial Convention is the supreme governing body of our union. Delegates are democratically elected by Local Union members to represent the breadth of our membership. Their responsibilities include: adopting and amending the USJE’s Bylaws and Regulations; passing policy resolutions; electing a National Executive; determining the budget which sets USJE dues; and electing delegates to the PSAC’s own Triennial Convention.
The National Executive is our union’s governing body between conventions. It is structured to provide regional leadership and representation right across Canada. The Executive consists of a full-time National President and a number of Regional Vice-Presidents (RVPs). During the convention, delegates elect one of the RVPs to serve in the role of National Vice-President.
Overview of the USJE
The Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE) unites public service workers across Canada’s federal justice system.
While the Government of Canada is the common employer, our more than 16,000 members work for various Departments and Agencies under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Public Safety Canada, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada. These include:
- Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada;
- Canadian Human Rights Commission;
- Canadian Human Rights Tribunal;
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service;
- Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police;
- Commissioner of Canada Elections;
- Correctional Service of Canada;
- Courts Administrative Service;
- Department of Justice;
- Parole Board of Canada;
- Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs;
- Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada;
- Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada;
- Public Safety Canada;
- Public Prosecution Service of Canada;
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and
- Supreme Court of Canada.
The USJE provides a vehicle for our members to address shared issues, problems and working conditions from a position of solidarity and strength. United in one union, USJE members have the advantage of superior service and resources, without sacrificing their occupational identity. There are no second class members within the USJE. All are respected. All are valued.
USJE members are grouped together in approximately 140 Locals and Sections across Canada, based on such shared characteristics as employer and geography.
The greatest number of USJE members work as CSC employees within federal minimum-, medium- and maximum-security penitentiaries and in parole offices across Canada. RCMP public service employees are the next largest USJE membership grouping.
Our members also belong to a wide variety of federal public service classification groups found in the following Collective Agreements:
- Program and Administrative Services Group:
- AS, CM, CR, DA, IS, OE, PM, ST, WP
- Operational Services Group:
- FR, HP, HS, GL, GS, LI, SC, PR-S
- Technical Services Group:
- DD, EG, GT, PI, PY, TI
- Education and Library Science Group:
- ED, EU, LS
- Canadian Security and Intelligence Service
As federal public service classifications are generally common across all departments, the USJE is also a Component Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The PSAC is the umbrella bargaining agent for USJE members and most other federal government workers.
Together, the USJE and PSAC are able to provide a much higher level of service, technical expertise and financial support than if our membership was divided into smaller unions or bargaining agents. This point has long been recognized. Organizations similar to the USJE were in place to unite justice system employees decades before federal government workers first gained the right to a “real union” and free collective bargaining in the mid-1960s.
In fact, the USJE was created by the coming together of two employee associations that saw the benefits of joining a larger union. In November 1966, the Department of Justice Employees’ Association of Canada and the Civil Service Association of Canada merged into one strong, united union — USJE!
USJE National Executive
The USJE National Executive is comprised of the National President and 16 Regional Vice-Presidents (RVPs), one of whom also serves as the National Vice-President.
The National Executive is our union’s governing body between National Triennial Conventions. Executive officers are themselves USJE members, directly elected by grassroots delegates at Convention.
The National Vice-President is elected from amongst the RVPs and casts only one vote at National Executive meetings.
Regional Vice-Presidents represent both specific groups of USJE members and defined geographical regions of the country. They have specific responsibilities for members in their area of the country. It is the responsibility of the RVPs to ensure that concerns and problems of the membership are brought up at the national level and that decisions, answers and new developments are transmitted back to the local level.
The National Executive meets a minimum of twice a year to oversee the operation of the union and ensure it remains accountable to the membership. As required, the National President may also convene a National Executive conference call to deal with urgent or unanticipated events. More information on the authority of the National Executive can be found in Bylaw 6 of the USJE Bylaws.
USJE National Office
The USJE National Office is located in the heart of Ottawa, close to both our employers’ headquarters and the lawmakers whose actions can impinge on the workplace and community rights of our members.
The National Office is responsible to the National Executive between conventions. National Office staff carry out the day-to-day functions of our union, working with the National President, Regional Vice- Presidents, Locals and individual members.
Some major services provided by the USJE National Office include:
- direct representation on final level grievances;
- membership communications;
- consultation with the employer, including participation on National Labour Management Consultation Committees;
- component collective bargaining committee co-ordination;
- advisory services to Locals on such issues as health and safety and human rights;
- media and public relations;
- political action, campaigns, lobbying and presentations to Parliament;
- education; and
- membership organization and accounting.
In accordance with Bylaw 13, Section 9, A series of five regional conferences shall be held during the year prior to the year in which the Convention is held.
USJE Regional Conferences are organized across the country to:
a) improve communication within USJE;
b) promote participation of the membership in the union;
c) provide education; and
d) discuss matters of particular interest to members in the region.
Educational and skills-building sessions are also featured as part of the Conference agenda. Regional Vice-Presidents and the USJE National Office participate in developing and presenting agenda issues.
These Regional Conferences provide yet another opportunity for USJE activists to participate in the work of their union. Delegate entitlement is based on membership population. However, each Local is entitled to send at least one delegate to its particular conference.
USJE National Office assumes all costs associated with our Regional Conferences. Therefore, every Local has the opportunity to participate.
Regional Collective Bargaining Committee Meetings
The USJE also offers Regional Collective Bargaining Committee Meetings commonly referred to as Regional Collective Bargaining Conferences. These meetings provide participants with the opportunity to review and revise local bargaining proposals. Participants prioritize those proposals and select USJE representatives to the PSAC Regional Bargaining Conferences.
These conferences provide participants with a greater familiarity with the bargaining process and enable members to write effective bargaining proposals. They also provide members an opportunity to seek participation in the PSAC Regional and/or National Bargaining Conferences or become part of a Negotiating Team.
National Local Presidents’ Meeting
In accordance with Bylaw 13, Section 8, a National Local Presidents’ Meeting takes place in Ottawa in the year following the year in which the USJE Triennial National Convention is held.
This Meeting is a networking opportunity and a chance to exchange views, share experiences and develop new representational skills. There is a high educational content, with time given over to workshops and seminars.
The National President, Regional Vice-Presidents and Presidents of Locals and Sections are all eligible to attend the National Local Presidents’ Meeting.
The USJE and the PSAC: an Unbeatable Team
USJE members are automatically also members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. One of Canada’s largest unions, the PSAC is an umbrella union for 17 Component Unions like the USJE, which are largely organized along Departmental lines.
Simply speaking, the USJE is the expert when it comes to dealing with our members’ workplace issues. We know the culture and the players within the Departments of Public Safety Canada and Justice Canada — including all of its agencies and associated bodies.
USJE Local Officers, the National Executive and National Office staff provide direct workplace assistance on such matters as grievances, health and safety, labour-management consultation and local administration.
The PSAC, on the other hand, is the expert when it comes to dealing with our ultimate employer — the Government of Canada. The PSAC is recognized by the government as the bargaining agent for USJE members. It stickhandles such demanding, expensive and time-consuming issues as job security, pensions and pay equity.
The PSAC provides the USJE with both strength-in-numbers and resources we could never hope to develop as a stand-alone union. Of course, as members of both unions, many USJE members are active participants in PSAC-led activities — from special conferences to bargaining teams, from political action to organizing.
The USJE and the PSAC are an unbeatable team. Each has a critical and necessary role to play. Together, they are stronger than the sum of their individual strengths.
As members of USJE and PSAC, we truly have the best of both worlds. The USJE provides the specific knowledge and familiarity needed to deal with the particular government departments and agencies that employ you. The PSAC has the resources and expertise to take on the larger federal public service issues that impact all USJE members, regardless of their specific job or workplace.
Respective roles of USJE and PSAC
The Public Service Alliance of Canada is the certified bargaining agent for all our members in the USJE. As such, it is the PSAC that officially negotiates and signs collective agreements, amendments to agreements, letters of understanding, et cetera.
The USJE does, however, have an important role to play in this process. We are very much involved in the effort to wrest better working conditions, improved benefits, job security and increased pay for our members.
In accordance with a timetable established by the PSAC, it will advise the USJE of the input call for the next round of negotiations for a particular group or number of bargaining groups. At that time, the USJE requests that all its Locals establish a Bargaining Proposal Committee, if one does not already exist. This committee has the critical role of soliciting membership input as to issues which they feel should be included in the next round of negotiations for their group.
Ideally each local would have a Standing Bargaining Proposal Committee so that work is being done continuously instead of rushing to put something together between the PSAC input call and its deadline. Ideally the Chief Shop Steward and/or Local Grievance Coordinator would/should form part of the committee so that they can provide recommendations for language changes to articles that result in frequent grievances.
While we all have our axes to grind, responsible and realistic bargaining proposals will have the greatest chance of ultimate success. Loading up a wish list of demands simply takes our collective eye off the major issues.
The Local collective bargaining committee also ensures that only one demand is submitted for each article of the collective agreement, be it pay, hours of work, annual leave and so forth. This vetting avoids confusion and contradictory proposals. Only proposals with a complete rationale and justification are considered.
All Local Officers should be aware of USJE Regulation 7 and PSAC Regulation 15. Regulation 15A covers Treasury Board Unit members within USJE while Regulation 15B covers our members at CSIS. USJE Regulation 7 outlines procedures for USJE Regional Bargaining Committees and the USJE National Bargaining Committee.
The USJE & the Greater Community
The Canadian labour movement has been a pioneer in almost every major social, political and economic advance in this country. Major gains won by unions like the USJE and the PSAC are shared today by all Canadians. Often, the role of organized labour has been taken for granted or quite simply ignored in our standard history books.
Furthermore, powerful and privileged interests that control the media give the labour movement consistently bad press, day in and day out. Yet, we have played a key role in the following matters: reduced work hours, the five-day workweek and a minimum wage. A century ago, we fought for and won these advances through the same time-honoured means still necessary for today’s unions — collective bargaining and political action.
Gains made at the bargaining table were sooner or later passed into law by governments faced with pressure from workers lacking these benefits. Unions that negotiated these breakthroughs in the first place also added their voice to those demanding a fairer deal for all working Canadians.
Labour in Canada has always had a strong social conscience. While wages and working conditions were and will always remain key concerns, unions have also gone beyond the workplace into the community to better the environment in which we live. Many of the universal social programs that Canadians now enjoy were fought for and won first by organized labour. A partial list of labour’s victories would have to include:
- workers’ compensation;
- old age pensions;
- maternity and parental leave;
- equal pay for work of equal value;
- unemployment insurance; and
- human rights legislation.
Union activists know that these and other breakthroughs haven’t come without a lot of commitment, effort and sacrifice.
Labour’s thirst for positive change can also be seen in the many battles for a fairer and more progressive Canada. The increasing role and influence played by women in the labour movement has assured that gender equality will continue to be a major preoccupation for Canadian unions.
Internally, labour has done much to sensitize our male members to the problems faced by their union sisters. Unions are also pressing employers and governments for action on pay equity, affirmative action and child care.
In the same vein, the labour movement places a high value on the issues facing Canadian seniors. We have called for increased recognition of the role of seniors in our society, as well as for income support and pension plans that will allow them to lead a full and active life.
Long before the environment became a major public issue, the labour movement had been working with conservation groups to help ensure that economic progress was not made at the expense of the environment. This commitment grew out of years of struggle to have employers and governments recognize the rights of workers to a safe and secure working environment.
Labour mounted a successful push in the 1970s for legislation to address the health and safety of Canadian workers in the workplace. In the 1980s, unions opened a number of worker-controlled occupational health and safety clinics. Special training courses have graduated hundreds of local union experts in health and safety matters.
Likewise, while politicians regard childcare as a minor concern, the labour movement has brought together unions, teachers, social planners and child care workers into a vast coalition to take our message to the public and politicians.
Workers first turned to unions because of the discrimination they themselves faced in the workplace. However, we still confront unacceptable and deplorable examples of subtle and not-so-subtle racism. Again, at a time when many governments preferred to duck this explosive issue, the labour movement devoted time, energy and money to fighting this social scourge with internal and public education.
The labour movement is involved in the life of the community because USJE and PSAC members are part of that community! Unions will continue to stand in the forefront of the struggle for economic justice and social dignity for all Canadians. For that is what we are all about.