Posted: Saturday, 7 May 2011
At the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 2008 Convention, delegates passed two important equity resolutions: i) for the CLC and its affiliates to undertake a gender and equity audit; and ii) to survey affiliates on their progress implementing the recommendations made by the 1997 Anti-Racism Task Force.
Because of the overlap between these resolutions, a single survey tool was developed with the assistance of a working group of unions' representatives and CLC staff.
Work began in early 2010 with the final survey mailed out to the CLC’s 52 affiliates in November, 2010. Part 1 of the survey was modelled on a similar tool developed by Britain’s Trade Union Congress. Part 2 was designed to gauge how far the recommendations of the 1997 Anti-Racism Task Force had advanced.
The CLC distributed printed copies of the survey to the affiliates' head offices and provided an option to complete the survey online. The vast majority of affiliates who responded used the online option. The survey was conducted between November 2010 and February 2011 and allowance was made for late contributions into the month of March.
The survey was administered by STRATCOM Strategic Communications to guarantee anonymity. They provided the CLC with consolidated data and a summary report. The summary report is available here: Part 1 - Part 2.
Fifteen unions completed the survey representing 28.8 percent of the CLC’s affiliates who in turn represent 70.8 percent of the CLC’s union membership.
Advancing Equity by the Numbers
- All affiliates who responded demonstrated they have designated staff or executive officers with specific responsibilities for equity issues.
- Almost all affiliates report that they employ staff, nationally or provincially, “whose responsibilities specifically address the concerns” of one or more designated groups.1
- All responding affiliates have established a body or committee “tasked with advancing the concerns” of designated equity-seeking groups, and have devoted budget resources to these efforts.
- Over the last five years, two-thirds reported taking specific actions to organize new members from equity-seeking groups, especially women, racialized and Aboriginal persons. There is also a strong emphasis on training organizers of equity-seeking groups.
- Most have programs to recruit, train, and retain members of equity-seeking groups for elected and staff positions locally, regionally, and nationally.
- Very few have designated voting-rights seats on executive committees for members of equity-seeking groups, and most also do not keep statistical records for appointment to union positions, elected offices, or joining the union as a whole.
- As employers, less than half have undertaken wage/salary/working condition reviews to review potential discrimination in their practices. However, half have special recruitment programs targeting one or more equity-seeking groups, and about the same number have procedures to enable self-identification of staff members from designated groups.
- Most affiliates (13/15) consider equity when sending delegates to CLC conferences or conventions, but, only one-third track the outcomes of those equity considerations such as the actual numbers of delegates from equity-seeking groups.
In union organizing drives, unions are working within a general equity framework and they also target workplaces where racialized and/or Aboriginal persons are predominant (transport and security services, call centres, northern schools/universities). Unions are thinking about demographic diversity of their union’s membership in making strategic decisions about future organizing.
- Some affiliates are putting a strong emphasis on training organizers of equity-seeking groups to build their organizing teams.
Measuring Progress – 14 Years On
The second part of the survey was designed to measure our progress as a movement in implementing recommendations for the 1997 CLC National Anti-Racism Task Force.
Measured against the recommendations of the 1997 Task Force, we find almost every affiliate who responded employ staff whose responsibilities include advancing the concerns of designated equity-seeking groups. They have responded to recommendations to integrate anti-racism analysis in their education courses.
- Most affiliates are providing services and training to one or more specific designated group.
- All affiliates reported they provided educational training opportunities that address equity issues.
- The vast majority of affiliates provide campaign and communications material in both official languages. However, less than half produce campaign and communications material in languages other than English and French, or in formats accessible to people with visual, auditory or learning challenges.
- The majority integrate anti-racism into their education work and materials. Forty percent have developed specific anti-racism courses and materials for staff, while the majority have done so for their union leadership. The majority report that racialized workers and Aboriginal workers deliver the courses.
Most affiliates have full-time staff and funding to provide a variety of anti-racism and human rights programs and plans. Nine responding affiliates have staff assigned to this work that are racialized or Aboriginal workers.
The 1997 Task Force recommended unions adopt internal action plans to improve representation of racialized and Aboriginal persons as union staff, and within other union structures.
The majority of unions report they take specific efforts to ensure representation of racialized groups and Aboriginal persons at all levels of their union, however very few keep data to measure representation levels.
Half indicate their own staff participation rates of racialized workers is above the national labour force participation rate (above 15 percent), but only two affiliates reported participation rates of Aboriginal workers above the national labour force participation rate of 3.2 percent. Most affiliates report their participation rates are improving over time.
- One-third of the responding affiliates report an anti-racism strategy is part of their organizing initiatives.
- Close to one-half have full-time racialized or Aboriginal workers doing organizing work. Two-thirds have racialized workers doing this work at least part-time or on contract. Less than half report having Aboriginal organizers doing this work at least part-time or on contract.
Fighting Racism in Our Communities
The 1997 Task Force made a series of recommendations to integrate anti-racism concerns in collective bargaining, in political action and in their work in their communities. In 2011 we find:
- Most affiliates are negotiating anti-racism provisions in their collective agreements, and most advocate for employment equity legislation within their provincial, territorial and federal jurisdictions.
- One-third report working with community groups to develop strategies to support employment equity in their jurisdictions or to organize activities that target employers who engage in discriminatory practices.
- Most use their web sites to publicize their direct lobbying to governments on these issues.
- A majority do not have Aboriginal and/or racialized workers on their political action committees.
- One-third work with teachers’ unions to integrate anti-racism initiatives into schools, universities, colleges, and trades programs.
- Very few report having policy statements on environmental racism and its impacts on workers and their communities. Those that do, point mainly to international cooperative efforts with international solidarity partners.
- Most engage in international issues relating to aboriginal/indigenous and racialized communities and report a wide range of active international projects they are currently undertaking.
Our Commitment to Equity
The equity audit allowed us to establish a snapshot of where the movement is on equity in this moment in time. Using web-based technology to conduct the survey, we can measure our progress regularly. The CLC is planning to conduct an equity audit every three years with the results being reported at tri-annual Conventions.
The CLC will also participate in the audit every three years so we can measure our own progress.
And we will conduct ongoing outreach to smaller affiliates to seek out their input on how to improve their participation in future audits.
We look forward to reporting again in 2014.
1. Where an affiliate does not, it is because they (as with most) have ranking officers (national/provincial or regional level) or elected representatives (at local level) who are responsible for this area, usually overseeing staff’s efforts to implement policy, or heading national committees on diversity or women’s issues. It is common to have status of women officers at national, regional and (in some cases) local level.