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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)



Hours Volunteered



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


Canada Labour Force Survey)



Public employees



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

    providing services.

  • 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


  • Students filling as phone assistants over lunch
  • Parents teaching language arts and math
  • Library helpers shelving books
  • Parents photocopying and working in the office
  • Social Services

  • Foster parents
  • Filling in for instructors in develop-mentally disabled day programs
  • Doing payroll sheets and other office work
  • Transporting clients to events using the association vehicle
  • Healthcare

  • Feeding residents
  • Intake counsellors duties of giving tours to prospective residents
  • Filing reports on residents
  • Therapy and recreation activities

  • Municipal

  • Ice rink maintenance
  • Tree planting
  • Litter clean up
  • Reading programs in the library

  • 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

      new services.

    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
    •  bargaining.

    • Collection of data to build campaigns to bring volunteer work back to the

      bargaining unit.

    • 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:

    Example 1:

    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.

    Example 2:

    CUPE Local 382 and the Greater Victoria School Division No. 61 (B.C.)

    39.02 Volunteers

    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.

    Example 3:

    Ontario Council of Hospital Unions

    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

    public services.

    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

      personal contact).

    • 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





    1. Voluntary activity is that which is undertaken

    1. by choice;
    2. in service to individuals informally or through organizations;
    3. 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


    1. 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

      skills development.

    2. 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.

    3. Within this web of services and programs, there is room and appropriate

      roles for both paid workers and volunteers.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. Profits should not be made from the promotion of voluntary activity or the

      placement of volunteers.

    7. In unionized workplaces the collective agreement provides the dispute

      resolution process.

    8. 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.

    opeiu 491