The most recent Statistics Canada study on volunteers has shown a significant increase in the number of volunteers from 1987 to 1997. (Statistics Canada 1997 Survey on Giving, Volunteering, and Participating and 1987 Volunteer Activity Survey) The 1997 National Survey revealed that approximately 7.5 million
Canadians volunteered their time and skills to groups and organisations across the country in 1997. This is 2.2 million more than the number who volunteered in
1987. These volunteers accounted for 31.4% of the Canadian population aged 15
and over, a participation rate that is 4.6 percentage points higher than the
1987 volunteer rate of 26.8%.
Volunteers contributed a total of just over 1.1 billion hours of their time
during the 12-month period ending on October 31, 1997. These hours would have
been the equivalent of 578,000 full-time year-round jobs (assuming 40 hours per
week for 48 weeks).
Over the ten year period there was an increase of 48,000 full-time year-round
job equivalents over the hours contributed in 1987. Comparing data from the
Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey shows that 71,300 fewer people worked in
the public sector in 1997 than 1987. The rise in the rate of number of hours
volunteering and the reduction in the public sector isn’t a coincidence.
Rate of Volunteering and Number of Hours Volunteered
Rate of Volunteering
Volunteer participation rate
Total volunteers (thousands)
Total population age 15+ (thousands)
Total hours volunteered
Full-time year-round job equivalence*
Increase in full-time equivalents
* Assuming 40 hours per week for 48 weeks
Public Sector Reduction(Statistics
Canada Labour Force Survey)
Reduction in employees
Forced Volunteerism and Unpaid Work
With the government cuts to public services, there are greater and greater
gaps in services. Voluntary organisations are seeing increasing demand for
community services but their budgets are also being slashed. The result has been
a serious off-loading to families and communities.
The result has been increasing levels of stress experienced by people trying
to balance work and family life. The Conference Board of Canada found in a 1999
study that one in four Canadians have eldercare responsibilities. (Conference
Board of Canada (1999) Caring About Caregiving - The Eldercare Responsibilities
of Canadian Workers and the Impact on Employers) The study also showed that 6
per cent of working Canadians had more intense responsibilities to family elders
such as feeding, dressing, and bathing that added up to 60 hours per month. A
1996 Health Canada Study found that the average working Canadian spent about 4
hours a day caring to children, elders, or doing housework. (Canadian Fitness
and Lifestyle Research Institute (1996) How Canadians
spend their time, Progress in Prevention Bulletin #6) One in ten of all workers
and 17% of women experience excessive levels of stress trying to balance work
and family life. It is no coincidence that reports show increasing levels of
stress as of health education community and social services are under attack.
Here are some examples of how government cuts and policies have resulted in
the emergence of new and troubling forms of unpaid work:
- Important government services are being cut so families and communities
are trying to avoid disaster for their neighbours and families by piecing
together some level of replacement for the lost public services.
- Families can be forced to volunteer their services to family members
under policies and service guidelines for homecare. Hours can be reduced if
family members live within the service area as they are presumed to be
- High school students are expected to volunteer as part of their school
- Some employers expect prospective employees to volunteer time with the
agency as part of an interview process as the competition process for good
jobs becomes more intense. There is also
competition for good voluntary
placements to fill out experience to get into university programs.
- Workfare programs force community participation for many people on
welfare. They appear to be volunteers in the workplace even though they are
fulfilling mandatory requirements to receive welfare. The impact of
increasing workfare targets in Ontario to 30% will mean over 60,000 people
will be forced into so-called community placement by 2001.
Examples of What Volunteers Are Doing in CUPE Workplaces
Source: Statistics Canada 1997 Survey on Giving, Volunteering, and
Problems Identified by CUPE Members
- In one school board students are being used as volunteers on the phones
and parents have been asked to pick-up clerical staff work. In one school
there are 1,000 students but only one school secretary. Job loss has been at
critical levels in school boards.
- Municipal workers are now seeing dangerous work being done by student
volunteers. For example, cleaning litter in ravines by students is dangerous
in some areas as there are used needles and other unsanitary objects which
are health and safety hazards.
- Volunteers are feeding residents in old age homes without proper training.
Patients that have problems with regurgitation of their food need trained
workers taking care of their feeding. Volunteers improperly trained have
caused residents to be burned during the feeding process. Often residents
are not getting sufficient intake of food with volunteers.
- Students in schools are now being used as volunteers doing clerical and
custodian work. Caretakers in school boards are having their hours re-organised
to work split shifts to save money. This creates hazards, as there are gaps in
service. One boy was seriously injured while helping a school principle to
move a piano.
- Outdoor community rinks that were once maintained by municipal employees
are now left to volunteers. There has been job loss and the rinks are
unusable as they havent been flooded and cleared properly.
- Social services workers cant even identify who is a volunteer and who
isnt. In one workplace there are two volunteers for every CUPE member
working. Co-ordinating the work of volunteers and ensuring follow-up puts
pressure on CUPE members who are trying to ensure the service is being
delivered. Co-ordination of volunteer work increases their workloads.
Impacts of Volunteers Performing Bargaining Unit Work
Impact on Service
- no effective controls on quality of service and supervision.
- gaps are inevitable if only volunteers providing the service.
- inadequate or poor training of volunteers.
- standard of performance not the same as for employees.
- employees often have to rectify mistakes made by volunteers.
- governments use volunteer work as an excuse to cut services or not provide
Impact on CUPE Members
- decreased employee morale where volunteers do work of the bargaining unit.
- pool of volunteers are a threat to job security.
- friction can occur between volunteers and employees.
- Sometimes friction can occur between CUPE members. Some workers are
desperate to cope with excessive workloads and they cant see that
inappropriate use of volunteers will erode the service in the long-run and it
takes away from the service being recognised as a public service.
- volunteers can be used as strike breakers.
- women in the labour force may be disproportionately affected by the use of
unpaid labour because volunteers typically donate time in female dominated
Impact on Employers and Voluntary Organisations
- conceals underfunding problems.
- undermines the employers need to increase or maintain funding.
- may be liable for services provided by untrained persons.
- volunteer work should enhance a service not try not replace, paid work.
- if volunteer work illustrates an ongoing need, it should become paid work.
Collective Agreement Language
Why Negotiate Collective Agreement Provisions
- Protection of bargaining unit work.
- Monitoring use of volunteers for preparing grievances and collective
- Collection of data to build campaigns to bring volunteer work back to the
- Opportunity to put forward the unions case to new volunteers instead of
volunteers feeling the union is thwarting their efforts leading to unnecessary
friction between the union and the volunteer.
Some collective agreements restrict the kinds of activities that volunteers
can do. For example, in one library agreement volunteers can only decorate the
library, water plants, and shelf reading. Restricting volunteers through the
work of the bargaining unit work clause is another way to restrict the use of
volunteer and unpaid work. Here are some examples:
Work of the Bargaining Unit (CUPE Standard Agreement)
Persons whose jobs (paid or unpaid) are not in the bargaining unit shall not
work on any jobs which are included in the bargaining unit, except in cases
mutually agreed by the parties.
CUPE Local 382 and the Greater Victoria School Division No. 61 (B.C.)
Volunteers will not perform tasks that are within any contractual agreements
and/or job descriptions of CUPE Local 382, unless mutually agreed to by CUPE
Local 382 and the Board, in accordance with Policy 1240, as revised in 1994.
11.02 - Volunteers
The use of volunteers to perform bargaining unit work, as covered by this
agreement, shall not be expanded beyond the extent of existing practice as of
June 1, 1986.
Effective October 1, 1990, the Hospital shall submit to the Union figures
indicating the number of volunteers as of September 20, 1990. Thereafter, the
Hospital shall submit to the Union, at three (3) month intervals, the number of
volunteers for the current month and the number of hours worked.
Example 4: - Ways of Monitoring Volunteers
The employer will advise the union in writing of the names of new volunteers,
the type of services to be performed, and location.
Within the first month of engaging a new volunteer, the employer will provide
the union with the opportunity of meeting with the new volunteer during work
hours for up to one hour for the purpose of providing an orientation to
volunteering in a unionised workplace.
Every three months the employer will provide to the union a report in
electronic form on the number of volunteers and the number of volunteer hours
used by the employer during the previous three-month period.
Principles for Working Volunteers
Volunteers and voluntary organisations can make valuable contributions to our
communities when there is a sound framework of public services within which the
sector operates and reliable funding sources for voluntary organisa-tions.
However, governments have also cut funding to the voluntary sector so it has
lost capacity to deliver services and co-ordinate voluntary activity. Instead,
they are left scrambling trying to raise funds to keep bare bone operations in
place. Working with volunteers and the voluntary sector presents new challenges
in the context of the fight against privatisation and the struggle to promote
CUPE policy on volunteers is set in this context and suggests criteria for
locals to keep in mind:
- Employers should not be allowed to replace or displace staff with
volunteers. An essential job on a continuing basis should be a paid job.
- Employers should not be allowed to use volunteers as providers of ongoing
service, but rather they should add something extra (for instance, more
- If volunteer activity illustrates an ongoing need, then the work should
become paid work. Once the pioneering or supplementing is over, the jobs
should be permanent.
There have been tensions with volunteers working in unionised work settings.
The union is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the collective
agreement and trying to preserve public sector jobs. The volunteer is taking
direction from the employer and is just trying to help out. They are often the
victims in the struggle between the employer and the union over what is
appropriate activity for a volunteer. The union has no formal way to
communi-cate with the volunteer if there is no provision in the collective
agreement. Often the volunteer feels the union has prevented them from
performing their volunteer activities. Over time the labour movement and the
voluntary sector have developed principles to follow when volunteers work in
unionised work settings. These principles can be useful tools in providing
orientation to volunteers. The following is an example from the Volunteer
Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Labour. There is also a 1988 Agreement
with the United Way and the Canadian Labour Congress.
Check with your Federation of Labour to see if an accord exists in your
The Ontario Federation of Labour and Volunteer Ontario 1996
Principles on the Role of Volunteers and Paid Workers in
Non-Profit Organizations and Public Institutions
VOLUNTEERS ARE UNPAID BUT NOT ALL UNPAID WORKERS ARE VOLUNTEERS
VOLUNTARY ACTIVITY MUST NOT REPLACE OR DISPLACE PAID WORK
THEREBY CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF A
LOW WAGE ECONOMY
- Voluntary activity is that which is undertaken
- by choice;
- in service to individuals informally or through organizations;
- without salary or wage
People required to do unpaid mandatory service placements such as community
service orders, co-op placements, or workfare assignments, etc., are not
- Social and fiscal policy must create an environment in which such activity
can occur. This means public policies which make for full employment at
decent wages, accessible public education and training, housing, a strong
social safety net, food, peace, a clean environment and a safe workplace.
Both paid work and voluntary community service promote self-esteem and
- There is a need for strong stable public services adequately funded and
maintained providing essential and complementary services and programs to
all Canadians through non-profit organizations and public institutions.
- Within this web of services and programs, there is room and appropriate
roles for both paid workers and volunteers.
- Society must recognize the value of volunteer activity in complementing
public services and the need for stable support for the infrastructure of
volunteering which includes volunteer centres and the professional
administration of volunteer programs.
- There is a need for balance and appropriate division between the role of
volunteers along with paid workers, support for the maintenance of that
distinction and recognition of the value of both volunteer and paid work.
- Profits should not be made from the promotion of voluntary activity or the
placement of volunteers.
- In unionized workplaces the collective agreement provides the dispute
- Co-operative decisions about the role of volunteers must be made within
the above principles.
Decisions shall be based on specific criteria concerning the levels, types
and conditions of voluntary activities.
Strategies to Win the Fight for Public Services -
- Survey the use of volunteers at your workplace.
- Try to define appropriate use of volunteers in your workplace.
- Share information on volunteer use among CUPE locals.
- Explain the problems with inappropriate use of volunteers to CUPE members.
- Speak to members of your local board to convince them on the perils of
inappropriate use of volunteers.
- Explain your position to the volunteers that are in your workplace and
provide them with information on how volunteers and unions can work
- Negotiate collective agreement language and enforce it.
Example of a Local Fighting Back
Winnipeg city council wades out of contracting out
In 1998 Winnipeg city council introduced a plan that handed maintenance of 96
city wading pools to volunteer community groups. Council had originally proposed
that all pools and arenas be turned over to local community groups but 5,000
signatures on CUPE cards opposing these measures forced council to scale back
its plans. In the end, only 11 of 74 community groups wanted to take part in the
contracting out experiment, assuming responsibility for 16 wading pools.
The pilot plan was a failure. What was supposed to save the city more than
$100,000 ended up costing thousands of extra dollars to administer and
Contracting out the management and operation of the centres to community
volunteers raised serious liability issues. With annual turnover on the centres
boards, there was no guarantee that contracts would be administered in the same
way from year to year, leaving the door open to health and safety problems. The
service contracts left the city liable for any violations.
Only one of the volunteer groups was willing to take on pool operations again
in 1999. All the centres supported municipal employees taking over the tasks.
Members of CUPE 500 are once again at work in all of Winnipegs pools.
Community groups didnt want the responsibility for delivering this service
and knew city employees had the resources and the time to do it best.