Founding of the Civil Service Association of Canada
First federal association outside the Post Office
May 6th – A clerk named J. Lambert Payne, of the Department of Railways and Canals, sent an open letter to fellow Civil Servants calling a meeting to found a union. May 13th they found the Civil Service Association of Canada (later re named Ottawa). It had membership representation of government departments in Ottawa that would eventually be become the Department of Transportation in 1936. They included; Marine Department, Railways and Canals, Naval Services. It represented only national office staff in Ottawa.
Civil Service Association of Ottawa Founded
Believing there was a need for a national organization for federal employees the Civil Service Association of Ottawa called staff associations from across the country to a founding meeting of the Civil Services Federation. Membership was national but comprised of local groupings. By the 1940s it had over 70 national and local associations in its membership.
Amalgamated Civil Servants of Canada Founded
Amalgamated Civil Servants of Canada was founded on the west coast, it included Light-keepers and Radio Operators. The organization would grow to have branches across the country. It was noted for its militancy and came to rival the Civil Service Federation. At the 1923 convention it protested that the “principal of Equal Pay for equal work is ignored by the Federal government” in its policy to pay single men less than married ones.
Civil Service Superannuation Act Victory
After years of lobbying by the unions the Civil Service Superannuation Act (CSSA) was passed by Parliament. It was a defined benefit plan and remains so today because of the vigilance of the union. Benefits were calculated as 2 percent of the 10-year average salary and a minimum 10 year service requirement up to a maximum of 35 years with a retirement age at 65. It also provided survivor benefits for widows and children but only for male employees. Contribution rate was set at 5 percent of salary.
Department of Transportation is created
Department of Transportation Act was passed under C. D. Howe (MP and Cabinet Minister, 1935 – 1957) who would use the portfolio to reorganize the governance and provision of all forms of transportation (air, water and land). . He merged three departments: the former Department of Railways and Canals, the Department of Marine and Fisheries (est July 1, 1867), and the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of National Defence (est 1927 which replaced the ‘Air Board’ Canada's first governing body for aviation, which existed from 1919 to 1923) Howe created a National Harbours Board and Trans-Canada Air Lines.
Dominion Canal Employees’ Association formed
The first meeting of the Dominion Canal Employees’ Association was held at Peterborough, Ontario. Local associations from Chambly, the Quebec Canals Office Employees, Rideau Canal, the Trent and Welland Ship Canal, and Cornwall Canal joined forces to create the new organization. In the coming years staff at the Sault, Cardinal, Wiiiamsburg and Lachine canal’s joined.
National Association of National Harbour Board Employees founded
The National Association of National Harbour Board Employees is founded in Montreal bringing together a number of local associations already operating in Halifax, Quebec and Montreal. It quickly organized Saint John, Chicoutimi, Trois-Rivières, Prescott, and Port Colbourne. They had secured collective agreements for a number of ports because as Crown Corporations the workers had rights denied the Federal employees.
Civil Service Federation convention unanimously calls for amalgamation of all Federal Staff Associations
The move to unity grew stronger when the delegates to the 30th National Convention of the Civil Service Federation unanimously approved resolutions calling for the amalgamation of all Federal Staff Associations. That sentiment was echoed a few months later by the Amalgamated Civil Servants of Canada at their convention.
Married Women gain right to work for the Federal Government
At one time it was a criminal offence for a woman to conceal that she was married if she was working in the Federal Public Service. The first changes to that policy allowed women to stay but only as typists, stenographers, and junior clerks. In response to pressure from the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) members in Parliament and the Staff Associations, the government moved to make it easier for married women to obtain jobs in the civil service.
Department of Transport Component formed
By 1966 the smaller staff associations active in the department of Transportation had joined into two unions, Canadian Air Services Association, and the Canadian Marine National Employees. It was these two associations that merged to form the first Department of Transportat Component (DTC). DTC was one of the 5 founding Components that met prior to the Nov 9th merger convention electing a provisional National Board of directors. Of four possible names, it was decided that the new union was to be called the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Firefighters (FR) and Lightkeepers (LI) are two of the first groups to be certified within the PSAC-UCTE.
A new name, Union of Canadian Transport Employees
The Department of Transportation Component adopted a new name, the Union of Canadian Transport Employees, at its first convention in May 1969. It was announced to the delegates that 9,125 of a possible 11,916 employees had signed union cards, 77% of the eligible employees.
Firefighter wildcat strike becomes the first PSAC-UCTE strike
Firefighters (FR) fed up with the government feet dragging in negotiations staged a wildcat strike. Starting in BC, it spread to 17 airports lasting 18 days between April 5 and 23rd. Parliament passed back-to-work legislation to end the strike and starting a long trend of government abuse of collective bargaining. The following year, GLT members started a national strike after months of stopping work for “study sessions.” The PSAC National Board of Directors’ reported that of the legal action taken against 534 members of the GLT group during their strike, 423 were UCTE members. That’s 79%!
Clerks hold the line with some help from their friends
55,000 clerks, the majority of whom are women, hold a national walkout joined by the DA group. They remain on strike for 8 days in the largest strike in Canadian history at the time. Their demands where for fair wages and maternity leave. UCTE Airport Firefighters at Toronto, Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie refuse to cross the clerks’ picket line for two days closing those airports to commercial traffic and forcing the cancellation of passenger-carrying flights for over 25,000 passengers. The strike changed the union forging a new militancy.
Striking Ships Crews dock all CCG ships
Richard Côté, RVP Quebec, noticed that the Canadian Coast Guard had failed to designate any Ships Crews members as essential during bargaining. When the strike started, all ships were returned to port. Parliament stepped in to once more legislate the crews back to work after 5 weeks despite the fact that the members continued to respond to life saving rescues.
Supporting our members outside of the Public Service
As the employer changed it policies and moved services from public to private sector, UCTE changed as well. The UCTE by-laws were amended allowing the union to ensure workers outside the federal public service continued to be represented. In 1994, Nav Canada was created as a not-for-profit agency. A Memorandum of Understanding meant protection for UCTE members’ rights and jobs as the transition to private sector entities happened. No worker would be left unprotected by the union.
Members arrested for occupying the Status of Women offices
During the 1991 Treasury Board national strike by 70,000 PSAC members, UCTE member Christine Collins is one of 10 union members arrested for occupying the Office of the Minister responsible for the Status of Women to protest the government’s inaction on Pay Equity.
Canadian Coast Guard is moved to DFO; Members stay UCTE
As the Canadian Coast Guard is moved from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), employees keep their rights to remain UCTE members.
$5B Pay Equity complaint upheld by the courts
After years of filing grievances, and a Human Rights complaint, the Federal Court finally upheld a pay equity complaint filed on behalf of 50,000 clerks against the federal government. The fight started in 1984 and took 15 years for the government to finally comply with the equity rights of its female employees.
Canadian Coast Guard was made a Special Operating Agency
After much hard work by the union and its members lobbying, the federal government recognized the Canadian Coast Guard as a Special Operating Agency within DFO.
Protecting Canadian Coast Guard Services
The Canadian Coast Guard announced its intention to close a few bases across Canada to cut its budget. UCTE launched a campaign to try and save these strategic and important locations. It led an occupation of the closed Kitsilano Coat Guard Base joined by BC labour leaders in solidarity and supported by a wide section of the community. The base finally reopened in 2016 after a four-year fight by the membership. UCTE was also successful in keeping the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre in Quebec City open as well as have the MRCC reinstated in St. John’s.
Saving the Port of Churchill
Churchill is a small community in northern Manitoba which is only accessible by air and rail. In the 1990s the federal government sold the publicly owned Port of Churchill and rail line to American owned Omnitrax Inc. In 2016, Omnitrax announced its plans to close the port and the rail line devastating the town of Churchill. Working with the community, UCTE launched the “Save Out Port” campaign to help save jobs and the town’s future.
Privatization of Canada’s airports stopped
UCTE-PSAC members successfully campaigned against the government’s plan to privatize Canada’s airports. We were effective in delivering the clear message that our airports should not be for sale but maintained as not-for-profits community services. Canadians joined in, and elected officials listened shelving the report. United actions saved services and jobs.