Included among the multitude of issues that are on the table for negotiations in the ongoing strike by more than 100,000 federal government workers represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is a call for an anti-racism strategy in the federal public service.
While it’s certainly not as high on the agenda as the push for higher wages, the ability to work from home or remotely and greater job security, for Blacks and other minorities the issue of racism and discrimination is crucial importance to their continued presence and advancement in the federal workforce.
The numbers are difficult to come by, but Blacks make up a little over three per cent of Canada’s 160,000 public servants, working in various departments and at different levels.
The numbers also show that Black are woefully under-represented at the management level of the public service, where they make up less than one percent of managers and workers at the higher echelon.
All evidence show that the public service is not a happy workplace for Blacks.
A 2021 PSAC Membership Bargaining Input Survey shows “35 per cent of respondents who self-identified within an equity group saying they have experienced discrimination in the federal public service, and one-third saying their career progress in the federal public service has been adversely affected by discrimination.”
A Canadian government 2020 Public Service Survey that shows “about 56 per cent of respondents weren’t satisfied with how their concerns or complaints about racism in the workplace were addressed.
Of the respondents who were victims of discrimination, 28 per cent experienced race-based discrimination and 77 per cent experienced it from individuals with authority over them.”
And PSAC wants the government to do something about it by instituting mandatory training that would address systemic racism, harassment, and discrimination in the federal public service.
The union has also thrown its support behind a longstanding class action lawsuit against the federal government the Canadian public service.
The lawsuit, which involves more than 600 complainants, alleges systemic discrimination in hiring and promotional practices that leave highly-qualified workers with decades of experience repeatedly passed over for promotions or advancement positions.
Individual stories of Black workers who have been side-lined involve highly educated men and women with decades of experience who have been kept at entry level positions for most of their tenure in the public service.
Their stories also include having to deal with years of marginalization, discriminatory attacks and ostracization by superiors and peers on the job.
The lawsuit, which reaches back over the past 50 years is calling for compensation and redress as well as policy changes such as improving the language in the Employment Equity Act.