Passport Corner

UPDATED February 26, 2024

Passport program workers at Service Canada have been stressed and stretched to their max. As the Union representing these workers, UNE has created this corner for questions and answers as hard-working employees navigate these difficult times.

Are you an employee working for Passport?

Passport Officer Job Description Review – Sequencing/Critical Path (Subject to change)

National Framework for Employee Overtime – Passport Program

CSB Response to Letter Regarding Passport Operations

OHS Guidance – In-Person Service Delivery Network PDF

Right to Refuse Dangerous Work
Refusal to Work Flowchart

Communiqué – Severe weather, losing system or Internet access and other adverse conditions, Guidelines on Reporting to Work during Severe Weather

Citizen Service Network Update – May 16, 2023

Request for exemptions from Treasury Board Common Hybrid Work Model (CHWM).

Updates

February 26, 2024

Email from UNE to all employees in Passport Officer occupied positions:

Subject: Passport Officer Job Description

The Union of National Employees (UNE) and Service Canada wants to ensure that the work of UNE members is accurately reflected in their job description.

A group of your Passport Officer peers, representing a relative sample of the Passport Officer community, have been selected by the UNE to take part in this important exercise.  Service Canada have been working with management to ensure that the job description reflects the work of today.

The selected group, of your Passport Officer peers, will be reviewing the job description with the following lens:

  • Does the revised job description accurately reflect the work that you do?
  • Are there aspects of the duties that are missing?
  • Are there duties that should be deleted?
  • Are there any modifications that should be made to the job description?

For those selected members, Management has agreed to provide sufficient time during regular business hours to complete the review.

The UNE will compile and review the feedback received from all its members, who are taking part in this exercise, and consolidate the input received.  The consolidated version will be forwarded to Service Canada for consideration. Service Canada has agreed to consider all feedback during the union-led consultation and may adjust the job description, as warranted.

If there are any questions, do not hesitate to contact the identified Regional Leads below:

RegionLeadEmail
  
ATLGail Budgellgail.budgell@une-sen.org
 Courtney Butt-Yetmancourtney.butt-yetman@servicecanada.gc.ca
QuebecShawn Walkershawn.walker@une-sen.org
 Nathalie Fitzbacknathalie.fitzback@servicecanada.gc.ca
OntarioStephanie Hewisstephanie.hewis@servicecanada.gc.ca
 Andria Meskauskasandria.meskauskas@servicecanada.gc.ca
WTVanny Del Biancovanny.delbianco@servicecanada.gc.ca
 Cookie Kerelcookie.kerel@servicecanada.gc.ca

We will continue to keep you informed of the job description review as it progresses.

On behalf of the UNE and Service Canada, thank you for your time, efforts, and expertise.

August 30, 2023

UNE met with the Employer on August 17, 2023. During the meeting, UNE was informed that 500 term employees would be getting notice that their term would end within 30 days. It noted that for most of the affected employees, a job offer would be forthcoming in the new Dental Plan Program.

UNE asked if the Employer anticipated Workforce Adjustment (WFA). UNE further asked for the data by region. The Employer responded that it did not anticipate WFA, and that it would also meet with employees to explain the situation and answer questions. The Employer committed to provide the data.

Following the meeting, UNE was made aware of inconsistencies in the delivery of this news and raised its concerns with the Employer. Particularly, UNE expressed concerns that members are receiving this news by email as opposed to a face-to-face meeting.   

Furthermore, UNE raised concerns from members that they are not getting any responses to their questions:

  • Job offers are made verbally and not in writing;
  • Members do not have a job description;
  • Members are not told the position level and salary;
  • Members are not told if they can telework or if the job is in person;
  • Managers are refusing to respond to any questions or concerns and members are asked to blindly accept a job offer.

As a response, the Employer confirmed that employees are being provided the information that they need before making employment decisions.  

The Employer also communicated with its teams and reinforced the importance of using the scripts that were provided to ensure consistency and accuracy of messaging, although messages are tailored to the circumstances of each employee.  

The Employer confirmed that discussions are currently underway to gauge interest in a new opportunities and then followed up with job offers and associated letters of offer.  Each member will be provided with details on the group and level and salary of the position being offered; in most cases, the job offer would be at the same group and level and salary as the position in which they were working in the passport program or their substantive level.

Meetings to provide specific job offers accompanied by letters of offer have already begun. Some areas have invited employees to information sessions about the new program and the expected work and have provided opportunities to respond to questions. This activity will be ongoing over the next few weeks. Work descriptions will be made available to employees by the hiring branch.

The ability to telework will be determined by the position that is being offered and should be discussed with the hiring manager at the time of the meeting.

Finally, the Employer is compiling a summary of the number of employees identified for realignment and will include the regional breakdown requested by UNE. Once the data is available, it will be shared with members.

May 17, 2023

Update to Unions on PDS

On May 10, 2023, The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), and The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, unveiled the new Canadian passport. 

The Government of Canada also announced that, starting later this fall, Canadians will be able to renew their passport online, including the ability to pay their fees and upload their photograph securely and conveniently. As we move toward the first wave of 10-year renewals, expected to start summer 2023, the implementation of the Passport Digital Service (PDS) will offer a new channel of service for Canadians. This project aligns with the Government of Canada’s digital strategy, and its commitment to improve service offerings across the country in a digital age.  

This project is led by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in collaboration with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). IRCC is leading the development of the application and its integration within GCMS, while ESDC is working on the operationalization of this new digital channel. A phased-in approach will be used to introduce the online channel, to facilitate a smooth deployment; the online channel will be offered to a limited number of applicants at the beginning of the initiative. More information will be shared as we get closer to entering this next phase. The transition to digital intake is not being underestimated. A Change Management Strategy and Communications Plan strategy have been developed and will be implemented. Staff will be supported throughout the transition including with procedures.

Our last Union meeting occurred in January 2023. We will continue to brief the unions regularly on PDS as we move forward. Currently, the next meeting is being planned for early June 2023 to discuss project updates.

For more information about the May 10 announcement, visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2023/05/canada-unveils-new-passport-design-with-state-of-the-art-security-features.html 

March 23, 2023

UNE met with the Employer on March 23, 2023. Christoper Little-Gagné, Assistant Deputy-Trustee, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Passport Status Checker

The employer made a presentation on the new status checker, which is an online self-serve client-facing tool.  The employer noted that the tool should be reverting traffic through the web instead of the call center. The UNE asked if data will be collected the measure the usage of the tool. The Employer responded that it will be collecting data and analyzing it to make a correlation between the usage of the tool and status updates made through the call center.

Employer Update

The Employer provided an update with respect to hiring and training. The Employer noted that a significant number of new employees were onboarded in the past year. (825 PO and 225 CSO).

Additionally, it was noted that the virtual backlog has been fully eliminated and service standard is consistently being met.

In terms of next Fiscal Year, IRCC reported on it the passport forecast: 4.3-4.9 million applications, 45% of which would be 10-year renewals.

The UNE asked if client service standard (coming into a passport office) will also be addressed since there is still many more urban centres that still have long wait times.  The Employer noted it continues to optimize the wait times through line triaging. 

With respect to training, the employer noted that it provided a combination of PO and CSO module training. 425-430 employees completed the PO training.

The UNE asked if the budget restrictions within ESDC would impact training and staffing within the Passport Program. The Employer responded that since the passport program comes from the revolving fund, the Employer is maintaining its investments and capacity that was achieved in 2022-2023.

Incident of violence being reported

The UNE raised a concern with respect to incidents of violence that have occurred recently. Although this is a Health and Safety concern, the Union noted that there are signs in the workplace advising that member should not be subjected to violence and harassment. The Employer responded that there is a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of violence and harassment and that existing guidelines which include a reporting mechanism exists. These signs are there for a reason and they should be enforced.

Transition to SUMCC

Because this ad hoc committee was created for the purpose of having ongoing discussions during the crisis and the backlog has been cleared, the committee will revert to its regular scheduled meetings. The UNE highlighted the commitment and dedication of its members, and they should be commended for their service. Finally, the UNE thanked the employer for providing a space where both the employer and the Union could discuss issues on a regular and ongoing basis and find solutions.

February 27, 2023

Communiqué – Severe weather, losing system or Internet access and other adverse conditions, Guidelines on Reporting to Work during Severe Weather

February 13, 2023

UNE met with the Employer on February 9, 2023. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

e-Passport Next Generation Project (EPNG)

The Employer shared the EPNG plan with the bargaining agents. The project will deploy a new solution for Canadian travel documents which will include:

  • A new secure book design for the entire suite of travel documents
  • A new web-based personalization software solution
  • New personalization equipment
  • New printers
  • New travel document readers
  • New and improved maintenance and support

The Employer further explained what the changes in printers would mean:

Low Volume Printers: the printing capacity from 160-200 booklets per day or 50 booklets per hour to 200 booklets per hour.

High Volume Printers: the printing capacity from 200 booklets per hour to between 500-1000 booklets per hour.

Increased printing capacity by adding new printing sites including a new Print Centre (PDOC) in Surrey. There will also be 6 new sites that will have printing capacity, thus offering express and urgent 24-hour service. UNE asked for a list of the 6 sites.

The employer noted that this launch of the new generation of technology is important to ensure they don’t run out of booklets.

The new book will be unveiled in March.

Passport Modernization

The Employer noted that it has asked all pilot sites to revert to IRIS. A new version release introduced in January caused serious technical issues and passports were stuck in a queue and creating additional issues with service standards and integrity. IRCC is working on a fix along with ESDC employee testing. There will be additional discussions with the governance to ensure the fix is working properly. At this time, the employer noted that, the deployment date in April is still in the plans.

Other Updates

The Employer noted it is currently working on a “Status Checker” online tool to improve the service to clients. This tool will help clients seek other means to check on the passport application status so they would not have to use the call centre service or visit a passport centre in person.

UNE asked for data concerning status check requests, both for the call centre and in-person and projected data expected with the use of the tool. The employer agreed to provide data. UNE further asked for a demonstration of the tool. Finally, the employer advised that the Minister will announce this tool soon.

Service Standard for passport application walk-ins

UNE raised concerns that there are still pockets where in-person wait times are longer the service standard. The employer responded that it is continuing its efforts in switching strategies to triage the lines when there is a long wait time. The employer noted that when it is offering other methods of intake, such as Saturday service, the client usually refuses to take it. UNE noted that due to the crisis of the past few months, it is understandable that a client would want to ensure they see an officer because of the lack of trust in the program.

February 8, 2023

We have added the following update on the job description review:

Passport Officer Job Description Review – Sequencing/Critical Path (Subject to change)

January 31, 2023

UNE met with the Employer on January 26, 2023. Chris Little-Gagné, Deputy-Trustee, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Update on the Job Description review

The employer provided an update with respect to the Job Description review. The employer stated it is currently in the process of reconfirming the operating model role. Once this is completed, they will proceed to establish an employer consultation committee both in the Regions and HQ to review the job descriptions. It will then engage UNE and establish a consultation committee. UNE and the Employer met to discuss the consultation method and how UNE wishes to consult with its members. UNE asked the employer for timelines and the Employer advised that it will provide an update including the critical steps and targets.

Backlog Update

The employer noted the Minister’s announcement with respect to the backlog being virtually eliminated and shared there are about 6,000 files left. Management took the opportunity to  acknowledge the hard work and dedication to our members that are responsible for this success. The employer further expressed how impressed it is by everyone’s dedication and contributions. UNE agreed with the employer.

Future approach of the bi-weekly meeting

The employer raised the issue of future meetings and advised that with the “crisis situation” being behind us, that it would recommend we revert back to regular UMCC forums. UNE commented that it could be done with caution. UNE wants to ensure Local and Regional UMCC’s are functional. As such, UNE recommended, and the Employer agreed, to meeting once a month until the end of fiscal year as a transition period before the groups return to less frequently scheduled UMCC’s.

December 15, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on December 15, 2022. Chris Little-Gagné, Deputy-Trustee,  Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Updates from Management

The Employer invited IRCC to provide an update on the Service Fees Act (SFA) and the extension on remission to January 15, 2023.

Updates from the Union

UNE raised concerns about managers assuming that employees will stay past 4:30pm . For example, this has happened several times recently where, instead of asking clients to come back, the manager, at 3:45pm or later, tells the commissionaires to admit all clients waiting outside.  With the cold weather coming, we fear this will become common practice. The employer has repeatedly assured the union that overtime is not mandatory, however this is an example that this is not the case since this is forcing overtime.

UNE has raised several issues in the past with respect to overtime conditions which resulted in the creation of the national framework on working overtime. However, there is still work to be done. For instance, UNE was made aware that some managers created a condition where for OT to be available to the Passport staff, they must commit to working in the office for 1 hour and then they can work virtually from home for up to 2 hrs for a 3 hr total. They are not allowed to simply work from home on virtual files unless they also work in the office. However, there are numerous staff working elsewhere who have no such restrictions. These inconsistencies in how the OT must be worked creates a lot of frustration and inequalities across workplaces. We are asking for the employer to review its practices.

Finally, although UNE understands operational requirements, we were made aware that many staff including PM5 who work on virtual passport files every weekend and being paid the overtime accordingly. What is concerning is that some employees have not updated their training in many years on top of the OT rate the employer is paying. The UNE would also like to refer the employer to the collective agreement where the employer should endeavor to allocate the OT at the same group and level. Again, this is in line with the employer not equitably allocating overtime since some employees are being refused OT because they cannot work the additional hour in the office, but would be readily available to do the work from home.

The Employer took note of our concerns and will follow up with the Regions.

Mental Health

UNE, over the past several months raised serious concerns with respect to mental health, stress, overtime, employee morale and overall fatigue.  Employees are even more tired at this time of the year and are looking forward to some well-deserved family time. However, there was a communication sent with respect to clear the backlog that sits at around 135k files and to have it all cleared in 3 weeks.

To note, members have cleared about 200k files in 3 months… and now they are being asked to do 135k in 3 weeks. (I was just advised that the backlog is now under 100K).

Not only is this asking for something that is not possible but most files that are left to do are complex files which can only be done by a qualified PO. This type of message and request from the employer is adding undue stress and pressure to exhausted employees and it is a big concern that the employer is more interested in trying to deliver on numbers than actual people.

The employer responded that since December is a slower month, this is a window of opportunity to lower the workload in anticipation to busy days. However, they noted that the way they communicated the message was to be encouraging and it did not have the desired effect.

December 6, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on December 1, 2022. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Updates from Management

The employer noted that as of today, the backlog was down to  142,740 files. The employer wanted to take the opportunity to thank the employees for their dedication and hard work.  

Updates from the Union

COP-15 summit

Although there have been discussions with the Local H&S committee about the COP 15 summit, there are serious concerns that the UNE wants to address and hopefully the employer will address without delay.

UNE raised concerns with respect to the contingency plan. While UNE understands that this is not an item  generally addressed in this type of forum, it noted that the events of the summer have led to members expecting the worst.  As such, UNE wants to ensure the employer is doing everything to really appease the employees.  Again, UNE wants to highlight that employees are entitled to a safe workplace and they have the right to refuse dangerous work.

The Employer confirmed that they have an evacuation plan in place and have ongoing  discussions with security/police. The Employer reassured the union that they have a robust contingency plan to minimize client traffic.

Acting pay

UNE raised concerns  with respect to acting pay and the inconsistency of the application of the collective agreement. Acting assignments have been offered but then stopped when the member goes on leave, citing operational requirements (example annual leave). Then when the member returns, they are offered the acting positions again. All this is being used as a tactic by the employer not to pay the member the acting rate during the period of leave and the member has to start the step again. UNE is asking that the employer be consistent with acting and that these kinds of practices stop. When acting situations occur, the proper letter of acting should be issued. The employer noted the concerns.

Use of Informal Conflict Management

UNE also raised concerns about the use of Informal conflict management. Typical conflict issues arise in any workplace, but levels have been escalated even more so since the beginning of the crisis situation at passport. Members are being denied time to meet with a resource and this is very concerning since UNE has always supported the program. Preventing members from getting the tools to deal with workplace issues to resolve them informally will lead to grievances. The Employer agreed and noted the concern.

Overtime

UNE also raised that the national strategy on overtime has been beneficial. However, there have been delays from managers in authorizing the hours and thus delaying the payment of overtime. The Employer will also communicate this with managers to ensure they prioritize approval of OT.

November 21, 2022

Management Update

The Employer provided an update following a pilot project held during the spring/summer with respect to the qualification grid. As a result, as of November 10, 2022, the employer has moved forward with the new qualification grid. UNE asked how this change affect the qualification of Passport officers and if the change will make it harder to qualify. As a response, the employer noted that it will not make it any harder to qualify.

Union Updates

UNE asked for an update on previously asked questions with respect to the Team Leader (TL) ratio. The Employer responded that the TL ratio varies. Accordingly, the sizing guideline is based on multiple factors such as the number of employees, classification and duties performed. However the ratio is generally between 13-17 per TL. UNE asked that the guideline be shared with the Union.

UNE also asked for Regional updates with respect to mental health, staffing, attrition and overtime.  The Employer responded that it created a wellbeing toolkit for managers. Joint Learning Program (JLP) sessions are being promoted and various training is in place to boost morale. Staffing continues and overtime is steady but the Union is concerned about employee fatigue. Finally, the employer noted that they systematically continue to have exit interviews and the main reasons for departures are either for a promotion or the position didn’t meet their expectations.

Lastly, UNE noted that, following the employer commitment to review the Passport Officer job description,  a first meeting was held November 17, 2022, to map out the consultation process. As more information is made available and the process begins, UNE will continue to share the evolution of the review.

Generic Passport Email

Finally, the passport generic email box (passporthealth@une-sen.org) was created with the intent for Locals and members to raise issues and offer suggestions during the crisis. Lately, UNE has only received emails that fell outside the spirit of its intended creation. As such, UNE will deactivate and archive the emails.  Should you have any questions or concerns with respect to Passport issues in the workplace, your Local remains your first point of contact.  Updates on bi-weekly meetings will continue to be posted.

November 7, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on November 3, 2022. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Discussion on Training

UNE raised concerns with respect to training. More particularly, skills training is lacking in areas such as experience working on computer, customer service experience, computer typing skills, situational judgement test, etc.  In addition, UNE provided some solutions and process improvement ideas, so the training could provide more opportunities to improve efficiency.

The Employer appreciated the feedback, and it was well received. The Employer noted it will allow the employer to incorporate some changes into the training.

Line Triage

UNE noted that it has received an increase in communications from members who are being asked to go outside to manage/triage the line.  UNE reminded the Employer that members that are not comfortable going out for health and safety reasons should not be forced to do so.

The Employer will recirculate the mitigation measures to management. Furthermore, the employer advised that health and safety measures be put in place to mitigate the risk such as the use of walkie-talkies, panic buttons, and teaming up in pairs.

October 24, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on October 20, 2022. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting

Update on workload management strategy

The Employer provided an update regarding its strategies to achieve the best outcome for Canadians in processing passports in a timely and efficient manner. A new workload strategy was implemented to continue the significant progress made so far. As of October 3, 2022 the goal is to ensure that all completed applications are to be processed within the published service standard. As such, there has been some stability in the overtime hours worked. There is ongoing plan to staff positions for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Regional update on overtime and staffing

Atlantic: Since April, 120 staff in Customer Service Officer (CSO) and Passport Officer (PO) positions.  Looking to staff 30 more.

Overtime is open – regular uptake of staff doing OT on a regular basis. There is no forced OT.

Quebec: POs being hired and training by module. CSOs being hired but only to do intake in Gatineau. 380 CSOs were hired. Objective is to have a hybrid approach.

Ontario: 136 new hires. Continued plans to staff 105. There is a steady stream of OT volunteers.

Western Canada/Territories: 200 new hires.  OT is on a volunteer basis and varies widely from week to week.

UNE asked how many certified POs will be hired by end of fiscal year. The employer responded with respect to the National view of hiring: forecasted plans to hire an additional 400 processing staff. They do not have the actual number of how many will be onboarding as POs.

What is the plan to prepare for the next expected busy period? The Employer responded that its focus for the remainder of the year is to continue to train using the modularized training. Furthermore, the Employer is looking at the qualification period with IRCC and possibly bringing in a 3rd module to maintain the integrity of the program. The Employer continues to invest in training.

UNE raised concerns that the Employer is avoiding the standard Passport Program training for POs as they are offering module training.

The Employer agreed to have more of a deep dive discussion with respect to the training strategy. Furthermore, UNE asked for an update on the review of objectives and performance review.

Management updates

Management is looking at property and finding alternatives as solutions so that clients have a warm place to wait in the coming winter months.

Union updates

UNE raised concerns about the module-based training and the integrity of the program.

UNE also raised concerns with respect to OT and employee morale. OT should be a temporary measure to deal with an issue, but it is ongoing and pushing POs toward leaving.

There is also still inconsistent messaging at call centres taking in transfers so reinforcing information dissemination would be helpful.

October 12, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on October 6, 2022. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 attended the meeting.

The Employer stated that it is responding to help clients because of the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. Although there has been no change in the process at this time, the employer is discussing with IRCC how it could support clients in the event there are requests to replace lost or damaged passports.

The Employer noted that it recognizes the backlog and continues to work on a strategy to reduce it while also working on the updated process to triage application to the service standard.

UNE raised concerns with the communication in which it was noted that proof of travel was no longer a requirement and that it resulted in longer line-ups. As such, UNE reiterated its unchanged position with respect to the Health and Safety of our members and that they should not be asked to go out to triage the line if they do not feel comfortable doing so.  The Employer responded that it is keeping an eye on lineups and how they are being managed.

UNE also noted it received many concerns from members where Team Leaders continue to be asked to do status updates in some offices, which takes time away from other priorities. It was also noted that not all offices offer this service and as such, requests are now coming from outside the service area. The Employer took note of the concern and will look into it and provide a response.

UNE raised its continued concern that work objectives and statistics associated with “number of files” do not equate to the reality of the work done because of the complexity of files. UNE provided concrete examples and asked again for the employer to review work objectives and how data is extracted so it is truthful.

Finally, the Employer noted that based on the review of the information provided by UNE and the commitments made, that it is getting ready to start the review of the job descriptions and will start consultation with the Union on its strategy in the next few weeks.  UNE is looking forward to the discussions.

September 27

UNE met with the Employer on September 22, 2022. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Processing files in the Virtual Workload

UNE proposed solutions for processing files, to try to remove ongoing irritants and increase workload. These suggestions were welcomed by the employer.

10-day pick up locations

The Employer announced the location of the sites:

Rimouski

Fort McMurray

Moncton

White Horse

As more sites are launched, the Employer will advise the Union.

Other Updates

The Employer noted its continued work to improve the website. Through discussions with IRCC, the Employer continues to make progress to help with client experience.

The Employer noted that as of September 7, 2022, 1 million passports have been issued. The Employer thanked the employees for the hard work and dedication to the passport program.

The Employer also communicated that it continues to review the Performance Objective and Job Descriptions Review and is preparing for further consultation with the Union.

Continuation of weekly meetings

It was determined that weekly meetings will now be bi-weekly. The UNE advised that this is fine as long as discussions on our priorities and ad hoc meetings occurs. Furthermore, should issues occur from a local/regional perspective, the Local/Region should have ongoing discussions to resolve issues that are not National in nature.

September 15, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on September 15, 2022. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Modernization

The Employer provided an overview on the modernization of the passport book and printing to occur over a one-year period starting in March 2023. The UNE asked for continued consultation.

Employer updates

The Employer provided updates on previous subjects. It confirmed it is reviewing the performance objectives and will ensure they are reflecting the current operating environment.

The Employer is also reviewing the feedback received on the training held for CSO.

Frequency of meetings

The Employer asked about the frequency of the meetings. UNE noted that while there is a continued need to meet on a regular basis,  we have met a considerable amount of time and would like to focus on priorities such as consulting on the review of the job description.

September 14, 2022

After cancelling the meeting of September 1, 2022, UNE met with the Employer on September 8, 2022. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Security Clearances

After weeks of not getting a response from the Employer with respect to questions and concerns of CSO’s performing work while not having the proper security clearance, UNE sent a notice of cease and desist on September 7, 2022.

Ms. Christine McDowell, ADM, responded the following:

“First, I would like to apologize on behalf of ESDC for the delay in responding officially and in writing to UNE’s request.

 Thank you for the email sent to my predecessor on September 7, 2022.  I can confirm that the department is diligent in the application of Government of Canada security policies and the protection of personal information, in the delivery of all programs and services.

The integrity of the Passport Program is assured jointly through shared roles and responsibilities between Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in the application of IT security, internal controls and security screening.  ESDC and IRCC have committed to taking all appropriate measures to maintain confidentiality and integrity of Passport Program information, and to safeguard that information against accidental or unauthorized access.

 ESDC and IRCC ensure that access to IT systems is limited based on the authorized functions of each user and that all actions taken by those users in the passport issuing system are tracked and can be viewed in summary reports.

 Internal controls are in place to further safeguard the integrity of the Passport Program. Duties are segregated to ensure that all passport files are completed by more than one employee.  This results in the separation of activities including file preparation, data verification, and guarantor and reference checks.  In addition, internal procedures such as alert functions to flag discrepancies and daily Quality Control and Quality Assurance Program procedures extend oversight across passport operations. Employees are trained on Integrity Awareness including internal and external fraud, Values and Ethics, and Protection of Personal Information. 

 Security classifications are based on the Treasury Board Secretariat’s (TBS) Standard on Security Screening. As UNE representatives may recall from briefings in 2018, a security classification review was conducted taking into consideration the information, technology, assets and facilities accessed to deliver the Passport Program, using this standard. Under the Standard, any position which requires access to assets of importance to the effective functioning of government and the national interests of Canada requires a secret security clearance. For the Passport Program, this means that employees with access to blank passport books, passport printing equipment and the physical space holding those assets require a secret clearance. All other positions require a reliability security clearance commensurate with access to Protected B information and systems. A printed passport, as well as the issuing system and information maintained within it, are considered Protected B. In all cases, access to information, assets, facilities or systems is provided on a need-to-know or need-to-access basis. Steps taken by the Department to update the security screening requirements reflect these results. Changes to security levels are aligned to agreements between IRCC and ESDC as well as with the Treasury Board Policy on Government Security.

 In September 2019, the Treasury Board introduced Enhanced security levels with a requirement for full compliance over a 10 year period.   This additional requirement is reflected in the conditions of employment of all new employees performing passport functions and is being applied in collaboration with security partners.

 With respect to any staff currently trained on elements of passport intake, processing or print, including Citizen Service Officers, a security clearance reflective of the functions they are trained for and performing is in place before doing so.

 The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians and its employees extremely seriously.  ESDC will continue to review program requirements on a regular basis to ensure this is sustained.”

UNE is still reviewing and analysing the response.

Employer Updates

The Employer provided an update on staffing and initiatives to help with the backlog.

Following the receipt of a written request by UNE to communicate the National Framework on Overtime to Managers, the Employer confirmed that it had communicated again with managers at all levels to ensure proper application of overtime.

UNE raised concerns with employee morale and as such, asked for the attrition rate for qualified Passport Officers.   UNE also noted that the review of the Job description for Passport Officers is a priority for our members and pressed the employer to act on its commitment. UNE further reiterated its concern of the work objectives and that it should be reviewed to be reflective of the reality – since most files now take longer to process and are more complex.

August 30, 2022

UNE met with the Employer on August 23, 2022, to discuss Mental Health in the workplace.

UNE also met the Employer on August 25, 2022 as part of its commitment to meet weekly.

Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Mental Health

The Employer shared a draft plan to support mental health. The purpose was to consult with the Unions before presenting the plan to Senior Management. UNE provided recommendations to support our members on a short-term to a long-term basis. For instance, UNE asked that the Employer review its Onboarding plan to include coping skills for new hires, information and training on PTSD, and workplace assessments in workplaces where there have been incidents reported.

IRCC Integrity, Security and Training

The Employer invited an IRCC representative to answer any questions the Union may have. UNE repeated again and raised serious concerns with respect to the security and integrity of the passport document and the program as a whole. Moreover, UNE raised concerns again with respect to CSO’s who are performing non-complex files without proper security clearance. In fact, UNE asked both ESDC and IRCC for clarifications on the agreement and if there are exceptions regarding security clearances. From what UNE can tell, in accordance with existing policies, the Employer would be in breach of its own policy, notably a breach of confidentiality and article 2 of the code of conduct. As such, UNE asked if the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was in fact consulted to ensure there were not issues. The Employer responded that it is finalizing its draft response and the UNE will receive a written response, stating that it is confident in its approach. UNE asked if there were any discussions with respect to simplifying the passport process for new Canadians. IRCC responded that it is part of the review of the passport program as a whole.

National Workload Management

The Employer noted its continued work to help clearing the backlog, clearing oldest first. The Employer stated it is discussing how to enable managers and Team Leaders.

The Employer further shared that it is still working on regional breakdowns for staffing numbers.

UNE asked if the Employer could provide overtime hours being worked on a regular basis, from a National perspective to have an idea of how much is work and look at the trend.

UNE also raised concerns with respect to the Employer’s lack of understanding of the role of the Passport Officer and CSO. In fact, UNE noted that since PO are essentially looking at complex files, which take more time, the Employer should be looking at productivity quotas since they are not in line with the work. UNE further reiterated that objectives have to change to be reflective in the Performance appraisal as measures are not comparable to the past.

August 24, 2022

UNE met again with the Employer on August 18, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Overtime

The Employer shared the final version of the National Strategy on Overtime. UNE is sharing it for reference.

UNE raised concerns that although weekend duty was expanded and overtime is still not voluntary, if not enough people come in they will be forced to draw names. It is essentially like forcing overtime. The Employer took note. 

Key Performance Indicators

UNE asked again if Performance Appraisals will be updated to reflect the actual work being performed. The Employer commented that the Labour Relations team is currently reviewing the objectives for each level of the appraisals and how they can be proactively updated to reflect the reality of the work during this crisis situation.

Staffing

The Employer provided a breakdown of staff at different levels. UNE raised concerns since the reported number of Passport Officers does not seem to coincide with reality.  UNE asked that numbers be representative of the regions and indicate if they are Passport officers in Training or Qualified Passport Officers.  The Employer will provide a breakdown of actual numbers by region.

Attrition/Classification

The Employer will take a closer look at the attrition rate. UNE raised concerns with respect to attrition. Notably, low morale, having the correct level of pay and how to attract employees who want to enter and remain within the Department.  UNE took this opportunity to remind the employer of its commitment to review the Job Descriptions. Both UNE and the Employer commented on a way forward.

Security Clearances

UNE noted that it has raised concerns in the previous weeks, in writing to the Employer. UNE raised serious concerns that Employees without the correct security clearances are entitling passports. UNE stated that it has not yet to receive a response on this request. The Employer responded that it would respond in writing shortly.

Workload Management/Website 

UNE asked if the website will be updated to reflect that passports are at 80 day wait times.  Passport Officers are currently working on passport requests submitted in April. This is resulting in transfers which seems to be the new normal when, it should be the exception. UNE also noted that the Employer has to stop publicizing transfers. UNE warned that if the Canadian Passport is not up to accurate standards, this will create more problems down the road. 

The Employer noted that it is looking at how the backlog can be cleared and advised there is a working group assigned.  UNE asked for details on who participates in the working group and asked if more Passport Officer positions will be created. UNE noted that MP referrals and transfers should also be considered in looking at solutions to reduce the back log.

Statistics

UNE raised concerns that Passport Officers statistics on the work being performed is not accurate, thus it is creating more stress.  In fact, these statistics are not reflective of the real work being done. For example, only the files being closed are counted versus the files that have been worked on and not closed. The Employer took note of it. 

August 18, 2022

UNE met with Minister Gould on August 16, 2022. Kevin King, National President and Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, attended the meeting.

Security and Integrity

UNE raised serious concerns with respect to the security and integrity of the passport. To support its concerns, UNE raised that the Department is not following its own policy with CSOs entitling simple passport application without having the proper security clearances. UNE further stated that it has not seen the Memorandum of understanding between IRCC and ESDC.  Finally, UNE noted it is aware of Immigration fast-tracking requests for passports, which is adding pressure on Passport Officers.

Member of Parliament (MP) Referrals

UNE raised many concerns with respect to MP referrals, what it was originally intended for and what it has become. The Minister noted that MP referrals should be triaged as emergency and non-emergency travels. UNE responded that although this is what the intention is, the practice does not reflect this. In fact, UNE stated that MP referrals are inconsistent by regions and that MP referrals often receive preferential treatments – no matter the urgency of the request.

Task Force

When asked about the taskforce, The Minister clarified that contrary to a House of Commons taskforce or Committee, they are under Cabinet confidentiality and no information can be disclosed.

Program Review

UNE noted that the Passport Officer position is distinct based on the level of complexity of the program, which is different from all other ESDC programs. As an example, Passport Officers used to be called “Examiners” which implies more than program functions. UNE is seeking support from the Minister is her discussions with Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) to have a specific benchmark to be conducted prior to Occupation Group Structure transition in 2024.

Passport Program Needs to Return to the Way it was Most Successful

UNE asked the Minister to consider having the Passport program returned to Global Affairs Canada.

Mental Health

UNE stated that our members have been placed under undue stress and situations such as violence and harassment. We provided specific examples. UNE stressed the importance of having a solid Mental Health plan. There is a need for a concrete plan for members members suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an outcome of different situations. The Minister concurred.

UNE offered solutions for the Minister to consider. The Minister was very receptive to UNE and will be following up on different issues raised. UNE commented that Passport Program staff have a high level of dedication to their work and they would do anything to get one more passport entitled. The Minister agreed and gave her appreciation for the hard work and dedication to our members.

August 17, 2022

UNE met again with the Employer on August 8 and 11, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Mental Health

The Employer listened to mental health concerns to which UNE provided multiple examples. Particularly, UNE raised concerns not only with the current situation where our members are exhausted, that they have been living through a very difficult situation, there is shortage of staff, they are pulled in all directions and morale is at an all time low. UNE is concerned about mental health in the workplace, but also how mental health will be supported in the long term.

UNE raised concerns that often, the employer will suggest that members seek help from their Employee Assistant Program (EAP). However, at this time, resources are very limited, and it may take time to have help. As such, the UNE shared that we would like to collaborate to see what other tools can be developed and provided examples. 

The Employer also asked what we thought would be a good start. UNE noted that managers at all levels need training, more particularly how to recognize burnout, basic understanding of mental health and Duty to Accommodate. There will be more meetings scheduled to continue the discussions.

Update on Training

The Employer provided an update on the training of CSOs that are entitling passports. It also provided a one-pager on simple versus complex files that was created by IRCC.

UNE reiterated its position on CSO entitling passports and asked for a copy of the memorandum of understanding with IRCC.  UNE also raised concerns on the training, the security and integrity of the passport. UNE also noted that IRCC should also be part of these discussions. Finally, the UNE asked if the CSO entitling passports was coming from the revolving fund. The employer noted that since it is a passport entitlement function, it is coming from the revolving fund.

August 10, 2022

UNE met again with the Employer on August 4, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Key Performance Indicators

Discussions were held on the subject of Key Performance Indicators, notably requesting managers to communicate to members that they shouldn’t be stressed out regarding these indicators at this time of increased pressure. UNE raised concerns that work objectives should be realistic and concerns about performance appraisal should be put on the backburner. The Employer noted that it would be having further discussions on this topic.

Introduction of the Ten-Day Pick-up Service in Additional Offices

The Employer gave a brief overview of the project in Service Canada Centres and noted that it will be rolled out at four sites to start but the intent would be to eventually offer the service in thirteen offices. UNE asked if this is a temporary or permanent measure, to which the Employer responded it will be a permanent measure.  Sites will be announced shortly. UNE is concerned about the roll out of this program and reserved additional comments pending further discussion.

Other Updates

There have been a number of recurring topics over several weeks.

Overtime National Strategy: UNE provided comments on the National Strategy on Overtime. It will be posted shortly. However, our understanding is that it has already been communicated in the workplace.

Mental Health and Stress: A meeting is scheduled to discuss Mental Health in the workplace and to collaborate on a strategy.

Annual Leave: UNE raised concerns that members are being coerced and pressured by management to delay leave. The Employer confirmed that leave requested in April was approved and that other leave is approved based on existing operational requirements.  As such, should any member feel pressured to move leave, they should discuss with their Local or through the Passport Corner generic email with examples.

August 3, 2022

UNE met again with the Employer on July 28, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Productivity Solutions

The Employer asked Unions for ideas to help increase productivity. UNE noted that any increase in  productivity should not be to the detriment of the security and integrity of the passport document. The UNE provided a list of solutions that could help however it raised concerns with MP referrals and had a lengthy discussion on this situation. UNE asked for a commitment from the employer to review the MP referrals to ensure proper protocols be communicated so there is no preferential treatment in accordance with existing guidelines.  UNE further asked if the review from the “audit team” and the “task force” had made any recommendations on productivity specifically and would be interested in hearing what they were.

Union Updates

UNE asked for ongoing updates on many subjects it has raised over the past few months; specifically, updates on official languages, overtime and mental health.

Official Languages

Upon review of the directive, the Employer confirmed that the intent was not to service clients based on language, but more to ensure unilingual employees had a workload. UNE noted that although this was the intent, the reality is that this directive was interpreted differently and still is to this day. As such, UNE recommended that this directive be archived since there is sufficient work in both official languages. Finally, UNE stated that files should not be treated in accordance with their language, but rather chronologically, from oldest to newest.

Overtime Distribution

Our members are working significant hours of overtime to support the Passport program. As previously committed to the UNE, the Employer introduced a draft of the proposed National Framework on Overtime based on discussions and concrete examples of how overtime was applied across the Department.   This will ensure the Collective Agreement is respected, that hours of overtime are distributed on an equitable basis and finally, to support our members who are available for overtime to work either in the office or remotely, based on the work available. Once the framework is approved and translated in both official languages, it will be shared with our members.

Workplace Mental Health

UNE asked how the Employer can improve mental health in the workplace. The Employer concurred that this subject is a priority and as such will be organizing a series of meetings to look at what is available and what else can be done. UNE noted that it looks forward to collaborate with the Employer.

July 25, 2022

UNE met again with the Employer on July 21, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local 20088, attended the meeting.

Language Disadvantage

The Employer provided an update on previously discussed subjects. With respect to the language disadvantage, it advised that since it was a regional directive, the review and discussions would be held at a regional level. UNE responded that since this issue was brought up previously at the regional level and that again in this forum, that the Union would like to hear what the employer has to say about the outcome of discussion. Furthermore, UNE had submitted a list of questions in writing and was awaiting the response/data:  

  1. How many passport officers are bilingual and how many are unilingual French
  2. What was the breakdown by language for files in 2020, 2021, 2022
  3. How long were French files in the queue as opposed to English files in 2020, 2021, 2022.

The Employer further noted that it is continuing work on the national strategy for overtime while ensuring it supports the needs of every workplace. UNE would like to know the data on the distribution of overtime such as how much overtime was worked per office/region. This will provide a true picture of how the overtime was distributed. 

Weekend Duty

UNE raised concerns of the weekend duty which has allegedly been extended to all offices and would like to understand why and how this strategy is happening. UNE further noted that it has been asked to go in person on weekends to provide status updates. It seems to be a national initiative for which UNE was again not consulted. Our hard-working members deserve to spend a little bit of what’s left of the summer with their families.  As a response, the Employer  said they would seek information from the regions and provide a response to the Union.

July 18, 2022

UNE met again with the Employer on July 14, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President, Local  20088, attended the meeting.

Communication

The Employer, in its commitment to provide more transparent communication to staff, shared its strategy to better acknowledge the hard work of its employees, including a message from the Deputy Minister and from Minister Gould.

French Passport Applications

UNE raised again with the Employer its concerns about French files being disadvantaged, compared to the ones submitted in English.  UNE asked if, following the submission by the Union of evidence that would suggest that French clients were overlooked, the Employer was investigating the situation. The Employer noted that it will be looking into it and follow up with the Union.

Overtime

UNE raised concerns on the equitable distribution of overtime. For instance, in some offices, the POs have carte blanche with the amount of overtime they can work while in some offices, they can only perform overtime in the office and only during core hours. UNE commented that some offices only allow overtime on Sunday if the Saturday was worked, which is inconsistent with the interpretation of the Collective Agreement. As such, UNE asked for a national strategy to be shared regionally. The Employer concurred and will work on it.

Staffing

The Employer shared its staffing strategy with measurables actions to both increase staffing numbers and streamline the training.

The Employer has a multi-pronged approach to identify the workforce capacity by:

  • External Recruiting
  • Realignment of the existing ESDC workforce from outside the Passport Program to Passport work
  • Redeployment of resources from other federal departments

The Employer shared its Q2 onboarding forecast which includes the hiring of 500 Passport Officers. UNE asked for the complete list of locations of the new hires. The Employer provided a partial regional breakdown since not all regional representatives were in attendance. UNE will provide the information once it is made available.

July 13, 2022

UNE met again with the employer on July 7, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer (NLRO), Nathalie Fitzback, Local 10520 President, as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local 20088 Vice-President, attended the meeting.

Training

To continue its plan to find solutions to the Passport crisis situation, the employer shared its plan to provide training to CSOs so they are able to entitle simple renewal applications. The training would consist of 5 days and the department provided a high-level overview.

UNE shared serious concerns with the integrity and security of the passport and provided concrete examples of why this decision is detrimental to the passport program and ultimately, the reputation of the travel document. UNE also noted that this tactic by the employer to further deskill and devaluate the work of qualified Passport Officers. UNE asked how the specific, complex and intense training, and the qualification period that take 4 months, can be watered down to 5 days without thinking of the long-term consequences of this decision.

UNE further asked if IRCC was consulted, a MOU signed, and which policies were updated to reflect this change. The employer responded that IRCC was engaged but that no MOU or policies had to be updated/modified. UNE asked that the employer take a step back and rethink this strategy and again highlighted its concerns for the security and integrity of the passport. The employer confirmed its position that it was going ahead with the training.

Other

UNE asked for further discussions on distribution of overtime across the country as some offices only offer overtime during core hours while some offices offer unlimited overtime. UNE would like to know what the national strategy is.

UNE also would like to have further discussions and clarifications, with respect to client applications, and have confirmation of clients being discriminated against based on the language of the passport application.

July 7, 2022

UNE met again with the employer on June 30, 2022, as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer (NLRO), Nathalie Fitzback, Local 10520 President, as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local 20088 Vice-President, attended the meeting.

Security

The employer provided an update on measures taken with clients such as toilets and bottled water.

UNE noted that the employer has taken measures to ensure the health and safety of the clients but asked, while working extended hours, what it is doing so our members get home safely. UNE asked what specific measures were in place if members were not comfortable with taking public transit after hours or if public transit was not available to them. The Union noted that this concern has been raised in Montreal and that work is underway. However, we wanted to know what was being done from a national perspective. The employer responded that they are currently having discussions and will have more details soon.

Printers

The employer noted that additional printers will be made available in Montreal and Vancouver. UNE asked for more fulsome discussion on maintenance of the printers.

Training Strategy

The employer shared that a new training strategy is being finalized to increase capacity, which would include Citizen Services Officer (CSO) training to be able to process renewals and entitle simple files. UNE raised serious concerns with the entitlement aspect, more particularly with respect to security. The employer agreed to have a subsequent meeting to discuss/consult with us.

Staffing

UNE raised concerns that to date, we have not seen the detailed staffing plan and that we have been raising this issue on a weekly basis. UNE wishes to see what the hiring plan for Qualified Passport Officers is. Again, the employer noted that it is working on the plan.

June 27, 2022

UNE met again with the employer on June 23, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly to have a more fulsome discussion.  Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.

Communications

Since UNE requested through different forums, that information sharing be transparent from the department and had asked a list of documentation, the employer responded that it finally got the documentation requested ready and will forward to Unions. They also noted they will continue to forward reports on a weekly basis.

Internal Review

The employer advised that they are undertaking an internal review, through the Audit team, of the passport situation. The desired outcome is for the review to present recommendations for management to consider. Furthermore, they are looking for input from Unions and employees in different positions throughout the organization.

UNE responded that it welcomed the discussions and is looking forward to providing input and hearing the findings of this review.

Employee Appreciation

UNE raised concerns on the health and safety of our members. Passport Officers are currently working long hours and can work 65 hours and more per week. They are not being forced to work all these hours, but they hear the frustrations and cries of clients on a daily basis, and they want to help. They are exhausted, they are discouraged, but they continue to commit to get the job done.

UNE further noted that although it appreciates the efforts taken by management, these actions taken are just band aid solutions on the real problem that caused this crisis and until there is a realization of what the real problems are, the problems will just get deeper.

UNE stated that it hopes that the Employer is seriously listening to what we are saying when we say our members are exhausted. The elastic has been stretched to the max and is about to break.

Finally, UNE reiterated that it has asked for transparent and meaningful consultations with the employer. Although UNE understands decisions are made quickly for the benefit of the citizen, it is often time at the detriment of the member. As an example, if the employer would have taken a step back to consult on the disastrous ticket system that was proposed, we could have worked together to find a better solution.

June 24, 2022

The ESDC National Union Management Consultation Committee was held on June 21, 2022 with Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Luc Paquette, National Labour Relations Officer attending.

The Passport situation was an item submitted on the agenda. The employer provided an update of the situation and its plan in support of the Passport Program: Health and Safety, Program Streamlining, Deployment of Resources and Communications.

With respect to Communications, UNE shared its frustrations regarding the lack of transparency from the Department when communicating  with clients and with our members. UNE further noted that clients deserve to know the truth about the issuance of passports and that the Minister should change her message to the citizen and tell them not to make any travel reservations without having their passport in hands. Furthermore, our members should not get information or learn about changes in the workplace through the media and provided the example of the article that was published in “La Presse” stating that Passport offices would be open June 24 and July 1, 2022.

UNE further noted, that through various consultation forums, informal or formal, that we have requested documentation and reports, without, to this day, any answers. UNE once again asked the employer for a list of “hot spots offices”, a list of Passport Offices that have extended their hours – without consultation or any prior notification with the Union – a detailed staffing plan as well as a list of locations of the new hires, the actual number and actual position that were staffed, for clarity, the number of Citizen Services Officers and the number of Passport Officers.

Finally, UNE raised concerns with the raise in escalation requests from Members of Parliament. In fact, the UNE failed to see a written policy on this subject. On the contrary, these escalations are being issued on a preferential basis, for files that are less urgent than others, at the detriment of Canadian citizens who have followed the proper process. This is a breach of the code of values and ethics. UNE further referenced the policy of preferential treatment and urged the employer to review these MP escalations that are not for humanitarian reasons.

June 22, 2022

Click here to view the letter sent to :

Peter Simeoni, Assistant Deputy Minister, Employment & Social
Development Canada
Evelyne Power, Senior Associate Deputy Minister, Director General
In Person Operations and Strategies

UNE met again with the employer on June 20, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly to have a more fulsome discussion.  Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.

Employer representatives noted they wanted to have more “deep dive” discussions, particularly with respect to a metropolitan strategy for passport, program streamlining, deployment of additional support, staffing and extended hours.

Metropolitan Strategy

The Employer noted that actions were taken over the weekend that were put in effect immediately to increase Commissionaire and security with a  police presence in the Montreal area in specific response to some of those acute issues. The employer says it reached out to any employee who would like to help out on a temporary basis and that more help is on the way. They further noted that they have asked for additional Passport Officers to help with triage, manage line-ups and answer client questions while they are waiting.

The UNE responded that the Union sent a letter to the employer asking them to cease asking our members to step outside and have direct interactions with the public as this a serious safety issue. The UNE further noted that it would support any member that exercise their right to refuse dangerous work

Program Streamlining

The Employer noted that they have started consultations with IRCC to streamline different processes and they would keep the Union informed.

The UNE raised concerns with how this could affect the security and integrity of the passport. 

Deployment of additional resources/Staffing

The Employer informed the Union that it has ask for temporary deployment of resources and that a plan will be shared.

UNE raised serious concerns with respect to staffing and retention of Passport Officers. More particularly, the job content and classification issues that continue to exist. UNE pressed the employer to seriously consider the distinct function of the duties of a Passport Officer. As a response, the Employer committed to initiate a review and update of the work description.

UNE welcomes these discussions and is looking forward to consultation on the subject. UNE further noted that this project would need to be done in a timely manner to be concluded before PA conversion (Occupational Group Structure) in 2024.

Extended hours

The Employer committed to provide a list of sites where it has extended hours.

UNE advised that it wanted to know what these extended hours were. UNE told the employer that it was completely unacceptable to have our members work until 2:30 am in order to serve every client and when it realized it was not possible, had staff come back the following morning. The employer concurred and advised it would follow up.

June 21, 2022

UNE met again with the employer on June 16, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.

Employer representatives reported on their regions and updated the Union with respect to security measures in place, more particularly how the employer has increased its security. 

Security & Communications

UNE appreciated the update and the effort to increase security, but it’s not enough.  Notably, UNE indicated that Le Devoir had posted an article where Minister Gould said that “it is up to her Public Servants to offer, to those who show up in person, to process the passport application service 45 working days before departure or less.” This is not helpful. The offices are at capacity dealing with requests for those traveling within 24-48 hours, not days.

Discussions continue surrounding the health and safety of our members, and communications with clients and staff.

Our members are exhausted and overworked. The announcement of the lifting of the vaccination requirements to travel will cause another surge just before a long weekend and the simple fact is that the department will be even more short staffed with employees taking well deserved leave.

UNE recommended again, that the communication to the population be changed to be transparent: Do not make plans to travel if you do not have a passport. Furthermore, close comments sections on different social media platforms. They are not helpful at this time.

Although UNE is pleased to hear about some measures taken, we questioned the employer about how it intends to support staff that are witnessing acts of violence.

UNE also noted that it has again received inquiries about the right of employees to refuse dangerous work.

Training, Staffing & Quality Control

The UNE raised that the quality of training is causing concerns with our members. Our members have noted that there is such a push on service delivery and production, to the detriment of the integrity and security of the passport. UNE would like to have further discussions on this subject in a future meeting.

Finally, UNE raised concerns with respect to the staffing plan and would like to discuss in depth at a future meeting.

June 15, 2022

UNE met with the Employer to follow-up on the ongoing Passport issues.  Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President 10520, attended the meeting.

The employer and the Union discussed different priorities such as communications, service response and acceleration of training. The employer noted that it is currently reviewing the feasibility to provide more simplified training however, since every site is designed differently, the department will have to review this proposal by individual site.

UNE raised concerns with communications to clients and highly recommended that real-time wait times be posted on the website for each dedicated passport centre. This will improve client expectations because as the system works right now, people are showing up and becoming increasingly frustrated that the wait time is not as advertised.  UNE also recommended that call centre messaging to clients be better scripted to minimize inaccurate information that may cause for more client irritability. Finally, UNE recommended that the employer be more present in real time on social media platforms, however, if the employer does not use social media in a more responsive way, that it closes the comments to minimize misinformation.

UNE further noted that the consistent messaging it heard through the site visits was the appointment system simply doesn’t work. UNE provided the example that appointments are supposed to be 10 minutes long, however simply put, just processing the payment takes 2 minutes. This doesn’t leave enough time to process a simple file, let alone complex files.  Although it understands that the employer has put a lot of time, effort and funds into the online appointment system, it simply doesn’t work and should be phased out.

Finally, UNE commented again on overtime and that the employer should let employees work from home on paperless files and that the employer should have a more consistent and standardized approach. This will ensure not only the health and safety of our members but also provide for a better work/life balance.

June 14, 2022

UNE met again with the employer on June 9, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 attended the meeting.

Employer representatives reported on their regions and updated the Union with respect to security measures in place and how each region manages their lines. They also shared that executives and managers were on site and discussed strategies regarding commissionaire presence and particular issues that occurred, such as the printing challenges at the St Laurent office.

Security

UNE raised concerns with ongoing security problems. Specifically, clients blocking entrances and having too much access to staff. The wait times shown on the website are inaccurate,  giving clients unrealistic expectations. As a result, more people show up and lines become crowded with frustrated clients. Providing the correct information and managing misinformation coming out of social media would improve line ups and client expectations.

Overtime and Virtual Work

During our site visits we have asked how the overtime is distributed and managed.

Some sites offer virtual work, while others ask employees to work in the office on paperless files. This came as a surprise and is a concern for UNE since there are inconsistencies on how the overtime is managed from site to site. While we understand that this is up to the workplace, UNE hopes that the employer, on a national level, would encourage uniformity and virtual work.

As mentioned before, the passport officers are tired, and deserve a work/life balance, but they also want to be productive members of the team and work where they can. Offering virtual work would benefit both the employer and our members by files being done, and giving the opportunity for employees to go home and have dinner with their family (as an example) and then logging on and work on files a few hours. We hope that by raising this at this forum, the employer will communicate with their respective centres to support virtual work.

June 6, 2022

UNE met with the Employer to follow-up on the ongoing Passport issues.  Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President 10520 and Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.

The Employer provided a brief overview of the ongoing work being done to help with the Passport issues in the past week with some regional updates and noted they have worked on updating the website, simplifying processes and maximizing staffing plans.

The Employer also noted they have added management team members and increased the number of Commissionaires in some locations to improve employee safety.

Finally, the Employer shared that they now have extended hours in some centres with high volume.

UNE responded, raised concerns and asked questions, more particularly but not limited to:

  • Ensuring safety of our members by better managing queues, the website and transparent communication with clients. If all of this is well managed, the aggressiveness and anxiety of clients will decrease.
  • The website should show the processing time of each office (24h, 48h, etc.) and not the waiting time. This would be more transparent when it comes to realistic expectations. If the Employer insists on continuing to have daily reports, it would be important that they reflect the reality of the wait times.
  • Concerns with inconsistency of the office closures. UNE was surprised to hear that the Employer stating that it has, in some offices, extended the hours, and that there was no consultation.  The Union is concerned that some offices turn away clients when they are at full capacity while others serve all clients and end up closing the office at 11:30pm. This causes employee fatigue and mental health issues.
  • It is false to claim that the surge will be in 2023. It has been known that clients renew their passports a year in advance and that part of the incoming traffic is in relation to the 10-year passport renewal.

UNE Commented on the different topics discussed during the House of Commons meeting on the passport service standards

https://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/Meetings?meetingDate=2022-05-30

French link:

https://www.noscommunes.ca/Committees/fr/Meetings?meetingDate=2022-05-30

Comments made with respect to Vaccination

When asked what the status of the vaccination was and calling these employees back to work, the response was that there are only a low number of employees not vaccinated and overall, it would not affect the numbers. UNE disagrees with that statement.  Because of the urgency of the situation, UNE recommends that the Employer place a moratorium on the policy. UNE has members that have been denied duty to accommodate and are ready to work. The employer can easily accommodate them with rapid testing and teleworking.

Predictability of passport issues

UNE agrees with the comment on the predictability and foreseeable of the passport issues. What has the employer done during the pandemic to prepare?

Minister Gould commented that 85% of passport requests are first-time applicants. UNE questions the validity of this statement since we have learned that majority of the passport requests are applications for children’s passports and usually not their first application.

Service standard limited to 45 days: Why the changes when passport officers cannot handle 25 days out? Also, the UNE questioned why no information about this change was shared with UNE.

Increasing Staff and Organizational Issues

When asked about the 600 new hires and how many Passport Officers were already on staff, the answer was before pandemic 1500 / post pandemic 2100 were processing passport. The UNE questions this statement and further asked the employer: How many passport officers can entitle a passport? All the applications can be accepted faster by having employees who are processing passports, but there is a big difference in the outcome if at the other end there are not enough qualified Passport Officers who can entitle the passport. As such, this does not provide the true picture of how the employer’s staffing plan will help accelerate the production of passport.   

With respect to the plan to increase staff and the 3-prong approach: realigning of staff, hiring and technology, UNE asked for the human resources plan and we would be interested in the discussions on that topic. With respect to comments made on management and organizational issues – the UNE would be interested in continuing the discussions since we have long term solutions to recommend.

Reaction from Employer

The Employer agreed to provide answers. Additionally, as a result of the overwhelming amount of information provided by UNE, it was agreed that, further to the weekly discussions, “deep dive” meetings would be scheduled to focus on discussing and finding solutions on specific subjects.

This is another update from Passport Corner. UNE is YOUR UNION and we are here to help! Contact us with your questions, concerns and suggestions at ppt@une-sen.org.

May 27, 2022

UNE National President Kevin King, National Labour Relations Officer Manon Boy and Local 10520 President Nathalie Fitzback met with the Employer on Friday May 27, 2022. The purpose of the meeting was to follow up on the passport discussions that occurred during the Service-Union Management Consultation Committee (SUMCC) meeting.

Following incidents in some centres, the Employer agreed that actions must be taken in order to support the health and safety of our members and solutions be developed to ensure these types of incidents don’t happen again.

UNE noted that our members are anxious and afraid to go to work. They are also tired. The UNE further raised that the Employer should look into heightening security in what are considered “hot spots”.

UNE further raised that the Employer should look at processing simplification, updating its service standard online to manage clients’ expectations, and look at system reporting.

The parties agreed to meet on a weekly basis to continue the discussions.

May 25, 2022

UNE National President Kevin King and National Labour Relations Officer Manon Boy met with the Employer on May 25, 2022. The purpose of the visit was to report UNE’s observations and concerns raised during recent site visits.

Specifically, UNE raised the following concerns:

  • Line management (between appointments/no appointment, transfers, pick ups)
  • Staffing, onboarding and transfers
  • Health and safety issues including violence, hair pulling, shouting, aggressive behaviour by clients, long term effects on mental health, stress and anxiety (some members have been followed in the parking lot), and fatigue
  • Service standards
  • Lack of communication between Service Canada and Passport offices
  • Inconsistency of signage (Proof of travel, harassment and violence)
  • Inconsistency of screening processes between offices and call centres
  • Lack of training spaces
  • Ineffective use of social media (always answer with links to complaint/link to follow up the status of the request)
  • Unrealistic client expectations
  • Concerns with the security and integrity of the passport
  • Ensure staff finish their workday on time
  • Time to disconnect from the workplace
  • Fear that due to the operations, leave requests for the upcoming summer would be cancelled or not approved
  • Lack of communication between IRCC and Passport Canada regarding long and short passport demands (Review system harmonization)
  • Capacity management and predictability ahead of time
  • Policy review
  • All level of employees feel they are not heard by upper management. In fact, they wish more executives would actually visit and observe their daily struggles and listen to ideas that could easily be implemented at low or no additional cost.

UNE proposed the following recommendations/solutions:

  • Review of transfer processes
  • Review of policies
  • Review of the services standards: Update Service Standards on the web and call centres
  • Clear communication line between Service Canada service centres, call centres, and Passport centres. Be clear, truthful and transparent. This will certainly help manage the clients’ expectations
  • Have a clear staffing/HR plan
  • Update signage
  • Use social media effectively by providing concrete answers
  • Ensure staff can disconnect and can plan their evenings
  • Plan for proper staffing

The Employer noted the concerns and agreed there was much work to be done.

Future meetings will be scheduled to continue the dialogue.

UNE Statement on the Recent Alberta Government Decision to Ban Gender-Affirming Treatments

UNE stands with the 2SLGBTQ+ Community. We support their safety and access to care. We condemn the gender identity policy changes recently unveiled by the Alberta Government.

There is an alarming rise of anti-trans and anti-queer actions, policies, and hate across the country. Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse people are already vulnerable without these additional attacks on their rights.

This new policy is very invasive and places unnecessary restrictions on transgender youth. Students 15 and under will require parental consent to change their names or pronouns at school. Furthermore, this new policy would refuse any youth under the age of 15 the use of puberty blockers. They are a safe, reversible and medically proven method of temporarily delaying physical changes caused by puberty.  Such a prohibition will seriously harm the mental health of transgender youth.

UNE has always supported Human Rights. We will continue to fight to preserve the rights of the Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse members within our communities.

For more information or if you have questions, please contact the UNE Human Rights Committee.

UNE To Connect with Passport Officers Across Canada

February 22, 2024

UNE is proud to represent Passport Officers and the colossal work they do for Canadians each and every day. When the responsibility of the Passport Program was transferred to former Canada Immigration and Citizenship (CIC), now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in 2013, with service delivery to be delivered through the Employment and Social Development Canada’s Service Canada Initiative (ESDC), the employers claimed it was an efficient move to improve service delivery, but it has been anything but for our members. Eleven years on, Passport Officers continue to be lost in the shuffle and their work undervalued.  

Shawn Walker, UNE Regional Vice-President, Outside Canada, will visit Passport Offices across the country to connect with members and to better understand their concerns. Shawn has been a member of the Passport Program since 2007. With several years at the national processing service, a brief time at the Certificate of Identity Office, and 9 years as a Passport Officer providing in-person service at the Ottawa regional office, Shawn now works at IRCC for passport. Shawn has been a Local executive of UNE Local 70130 since 2009; he has been a regional officer of PSAC-NCR, and is a graduate of the Union Development Program (UDP).  

UNE wants to hear directly from the membership what workplace issues are at the forefront and how your union can help. The visits will take place in the Passport offices. UNE Passport members will also be able to meet and discuss with Shawn and the other UNE elected officers after work hours on the following dates:  

Atlantic Visits 

  • February 27: Visit of the St. John’s Passport Office with UNE Regional Vice-President Gail Budgell, Atlantic 
  • February 28: Visit of the Halifax Passport Office with Gail  
  • February 29: Visit of the Fredericton Passport Office with UNE ARVP Elyse Jones, Atlantic 

Prairies Visits 

  • March 12: Visit of the Regina’s Passport Office with UNE Regional Vice-President Gloria Pfeifer, Saskatchewan 
  • March 13: Visit of the Saskatoon Passport Office with Gloria 
  • March 14: Visit of the Calgary Passport Offices with Assistant Regional Vice-President Cookie Kerel, Alberta, N.W.T. and Nunavut 
  • March 15: Visit of the Edmonton Passport Office with Cookie 

If you have any questions regarding these visits, you can send Shawn an email

Happy Lunar New Year (the Year of the Wood Dragon)

O’Siyo ᎣᏏᏲ “o-si-yo,” (Cherokee: I see you) Hello, Bonjour and 你好! (nǐ hǎo) union siblings. 

Many of our union siblings are celebrating the Lunar New Year! Those from China, Tet in Vietnam and Seollal in Korea are celebrating with huge festivals. I hope those who are in places far from those celebrating find a chance to gather with their close friends and loved ones to spread the celebration world-wide.

This year represents my second Lunar New Year celebration with my partner. As many of you may know, it is also the auspicious year selected for my wedding. 

Over time with my partner, I’ve learned so much about traditions and a culture I knew little about and I believe it’s allowed me to grow. I’ve taken on much of the work and am not expecting him to provide the information.

I’m wishing all members that celebrate the Lunar New Year in one form or another a wonderful year ahead. It’s time to celebrate shared moments with loved ones and know we will accomplish great things as we move forward together.

Happy Lunar New Year (the Year of the Wood Dragon)

Thank you, Merci, ᏙᎾᏓᎪᎲᎢ “di-da-yo-li-hv-dv-ga-le-ni-s-gv,” which means “Until we meet again”

Pronouns: She/her

Alisha Campbell

National President

Union of National Employees

Statistics Canada Data Collection Clerks (DCC) to receive overtime pay corrections

When the merger took place and the former Statistical Survey Operations (SSO) interviewers were offered positions with Statistics Canada, some indeterminate and some part-time, all were advised it would be business as usual with additional entitlements and benefits as core public service employees under the PA collective agreement recently negotiated between TBS and PSAC. Since November 23, 2023, our DCC members have encountered many unexpected obstacles.

UNE believes all former interviewers should be treated as either indeterminate full-time or part-time workers, whereas the employer disagrees and believes part-timers should be treated as “shift-workers” and therefore not entitled to all the part-timer benefits as described in the newly achieved collective agreement.

Although a small victory in a long battle, UNE has worked with the employer on an overtime provision that benefits UNE members making the move from SSO to Statistics Canada. After many meetings between the employer and UNE representatives, the union was notified February 5, 2024 that the employer has agreed to correct overtime entitlements as described in article 25.13 of the PA collective agreement.

Each region will be asked to create a list of interviewers who have worked more than 7.5 hours/day as well as for weeks where interviewers worked greater than 37.5 hours/week. Once the numbers are compiled, the corrections will be made and outstanding overtime will be paid. The employer has now agreed to make the corrections retroactively going back to

November 23, 2023.

The work continues as UNE believes that all former SSO interviewers should be entitled to the benefits outlined in the PA agreement and since none were shift workers prior to the merger and no Stats Can letters of offer indicated any change in status, none should be considered shift workers post-merger. Therefore, shift worker articles do not apply.

UNE will continue to work with the employer to ensure all PA collective agreement articles are applied fairly and not applied selectively as the employer wishes.

Statement by UNE on the Increase of in-Person Applications at the Laval and Montreal Passport Offices

January and February are the busiest months for passport offices. Because of the upcoming March Break in Quebec, from March 4 to 8, 2024, Canadians are applying in person at various passport service locations, such as the ones in Laval and Montreal.

It’s also a busy year for all offices because many people who purchased 10-year passports in 2014 will require renewal in the coming months. Furthermore, the government decided to transfer over 500 workers who helped with the processing of passports at Service Canada locations to work on the new dental plan. This has created a shortfall for passport offices felt across the country.

While times for in-person applications have been longer on the day of application, Canadians continue to receive their passports on time whether they apply in person or by mail, thanks to the diligence and professionalism of Passport Officers who are proud UNE Members.

PSAC Increases Access to Online Union Education

Did you know? PSAC has a free online education program available to all members. The courses are typically 1-2 hours in length and include electronic handouts. You can work at your own pace to complete the courses.

These topics cover information important to Local activists as well as new members looking to familiarize themselves with how our union works.

You can access the site and create your account here. Registration only takes a couple of minutes.

PSAC Online Education Program

Current course offerings include:

Welcome to your Union
PSAC Grievances: An Overview
Understanding your Collective Agreement
Strike Preparation
Writing Effective Resolutions
Convention Preparation
Precarious Work – a Union Issue

This is a great tool available to all members. We encourage you to share this with other workers in your Local.

If you require technical support, please contact: SoutienEducationSupport@psac-afpc.com

What Does Black History Mean to Me?

O’Siyo ᎣᏏᏲ “o-si-yo,” (Cherokee: I see you) Hello and Bonjour!

Happy Black History Month Union Siblings,

I’m often asked, what does Black History mean to me?

I’m happy to see Black Canadian historic figures celebrated, in whom I see myself, and our contributions to Canada brought to the forefront. Yet I worry that this is the only time the next generation sees themselves highlighted and that one month isn’t enough for Canadians to learn of our roles within our country.

I’ve always made it a point to uplift our impacts on Canada year-round.

This year’s theme for Black History in Canada is Black Excellence. There is much of that in our Ancestors to celebrate as Canadians. However, too many are individuals that are not much older than I am. There are stories of the over two hundred years of Slavery in Canada and nearly one hundred and seventy years of segregation told by those such as Viola Desmond. There is also the closing of last segregated school for Black children in 1983. The enslavement and segregation of Black Canadians back-to-back means Canada has been robbed of too much Black ingenuity, art, originality, creativity and so much more. This has exacted a heavy price on Black Canadians but they have still found ways to contribute to Canada.  We can do better and we can  be better. My members have shown us all how.

I join an elite group of Black Women such as:

1825 – Rose Fortune Considered by many Canada’s 1st Female Police officer

1853- Mary Ann Shadd Cary First Female Publisher in Canada and a Black Women

1983 – Shelly Peters Carey 1st Black Woman RCMP Officer

1987 – Andrea Lawrence 1st Black Woman Regular Member of the RCMP

1996 – Jean Augustine Canada’s 1st Black woman Elected to the House of Commons

2005- Michaelle Jean Canada’s 1st Black Head of State as General

2007 – Lori Seale-Irving 1st Black Woman Commissioned Officer of the RCMP

2022 – Caroline Xavier First Black Woman Deputy Minister

I also sit among the ranks of union Black excellence firsts such as the likes of the Sleeping Car Porters, Cal Best, Muriel Jean Collins, Livingstone Holder, Mervis White, Craig Reynolds and Larry Rousseau. I will do my utmost to live up to the trust members have put in me and to make my communities proud. 

I hope you will take some time this month to think about and share a few of the stories of Black Excellence historically within Canada but especially those making a contribution within your place of work, community and beyond.

Thank you, Merci, ᏙᎾᏓᎪᎲᎢ “di-da-yo-li-hv-dv-ga-le-ni-s-gv,” which means “Until we meet again”

Pronouns: She/her

Alisha Campbell
National President
Union of National Employees

A History of Black History Month

By Sam Padayachee

Black History Month traces its origins back to the early 20th century, when honoring African American history was first proposed by the historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African American figures.

Woodson, often hailed as the “Father of Black History,” was committed to promoting the study of African American contributions to American History. He believed that history was more than just political and military achievements; it embodied the social, intellectual, and cultural highlights that painted a detailed picture of a people’s history.

In 1926, Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, started the first iteration of Black History Month, then called “Negro History Week.” The second week of February was selected to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both key figures in the history of African Americans.

Woodson’s aim was to encourage the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation’s public schools. The week was met with enthusiastic response, prompting schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures.

Black History Month has since grown from a single week to being observed for a month. It has become a globally recognized celebration, observed not only in the United States but also in Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries around the world. It serves as a reminder of the struggles for racial justice and equality, and it spotlights the achievements and contributions of African Americans to science, education, literature, art, and the cultural development of society.

Today, Black History Month continues to be a time for reflection, recognition, and education. It’s an opportunity to engage in dialogue about race and equality, and to commit to understanding the rich history of people of African heritage. Through exhibitions, documentaries, readings, workshops, and seminars, Black History Month inspires individuals and communities to learn about and appreciate the history that helped shape the world we live in today.

During this Black History Month, we should all take the time to reflect on the struggles and achievements of Black people, which is essential in supporting social progress. Each of us has the obligation to raise awareness about the ongoing issues of racial injustice and inequality, encouraging society to engage in meaningful dialogue and action. Active participation promotes unity and solidarity, not just within Black communities, as people come together to celebrate and recognize Black history.

Celebrating Black History Month not only honors the past but also shapes our collective future by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Sam Padayachee is the UNE Regional Representative for Human Rights, Ontario.