President's Commentary: Every day heroes. Heroes Every Day

And what about the long list of workers that have been deemed essential during this pandemic? People who work in our grocery and convenience stores, at gas stations, or who provide food delivery.  These are also the heroes we’re hearing about. Would you have seen them that way before the pandemic broke out? 

by Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (02 April 2020) —  In our work, we see the impact the members of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) have everyday. We know how valuable they are to how our society functions and how they maintain the effectiveness of our public service s that our country relies on. Many of them work through crises daily – in our health care system, our justice sector, on our roads and in our communities, in so many different roles. Most of them work behind the scenes and rarely have the spotlight on them.

But during this crisis they are suddnely in the public eye. These are also the people who are being called heroes at podiums and microphones across the world. Elected leaders and many others are finally taking the time and giving the recognition to people who should be thanked for their work everyday, not just during difficult times.

They don’t do their work for the accolades, they just want to do their jobs well and contribute to the wellbeing of others. During this COVID-19 crisis, they are working harder and longer than ever, and at greater risk.

Yet, these are the same people who are on the frontlines when government’s need to, in their words, “control spending” or “balance the books.” These are the people who are laid off, or we see the positions go unfilled in the name of austerity. The consequence of such decisions is the increase in the remaining staff’s workloads, making it harder and hard to provide quality care and service. 

And what about the long list of workers that have been deemed essential during this pandemic? People who work in our grocery and convenience stores, at gas stations, or who provide food delivery.  Workers at banks and credit unions, office supply store workers and dry cleaners. The reality is that many of these workers don’t have any job security, are working for minimum wage and do not have any sick leave. They are often ignored, overlooked and treated poorly. Most are not unionized and have no recourse when problems or concerns arise.

These are also the heroes we’re hearing about. Would you have seen them that way before the pandemic broke out? Will you see them that way afterwards? Would you support them in getting paid a decent wage or working in a safe environment?

These workers are getting us through a very difficult and dangerous time. So, we need to reconsider how we see them moving forward. Employer and governments need to see, and treat, them as the unsung heroes they are — every day.