Education policy


There’s more to organizing than signing membership cards, holding a vote and applying for certification. As a first step, workers choose their union, but the next step is to become an active union member. Through a process of membership development and empowerment, a dynamic, united and democratic union can take root and grow strong. This process is more commonly known as union education.

PSAC’s education program is vital to achieving our objectives as a union. Our training equips our members with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to be effective organizers, communicators, spokespersons, representatives and leaders. Through workshops, seminars, courses and conferences, members explore topics of interest, become familiar with our principles, acquire skills and plan action strategies for meeting PSAC’s statutory, legal, social and moral obligations.

PSAC’s education courses contribute directly in many ways to making the union meaningful in members’ everyday lives, workplaces and communities. For example, they help new officers, whether shop stewards, local presidents or regional vice-presidents, to understand their roles and learn how to carry out their responsibilities effectively; they help to identify and train new leaders, thereby continuing to build union capacity; they tackle current and emerging issues of interest to members; they promote equity, inclusion and the integration of our membership in all its diversity; they rally support for union campaigns and contribute to positive social change on a larger scale.

Education is an integral and ongoing part of all union activity. It is about sharing information, analyzing our situations, gaining new insight and knowledge, developing our skills and organizing for action. It is not a separate activity with no relevance to the union’s actual situation. Any gathering of PSAC members is a good opportunity for union education, including courses, conferences, meetings and other large-scale activities. Education is regularly incorporated into everyday union activities as a practical application of learning within the more structured education program.

Membership engagement in a spirit of solidarity and collective good is key to the union’s strength and success. The primary goal of the union education program is therefore:


PSAC is committed to offering quality union education to its members and providing the resources to keep the program universal, innovative and stimulating.

The Standing Education Committee of the National Board of Directors is committed to maintaining the spirit of this education policy and ensuring that it remains relevant and effective.


The PSAC education program will achieve its goals by reflecting and upholding a clear set of standards or guidelines that provide a framework for meeting the goals of the program while incorporating flexible methods. These principles include:

1.1 Union education should be easy for members to get to; that is, it should be delivered in the workplace or community.

1.2 Union education should be accessible; that is, free of barriers due to geography, language, disability, income, family responsibility, working conditions and so on.

1.3 Union education should be equitable and inclusive and encourage the participation of all members in all components and all regions.

1.4 Union education should be well attended by members as the program progresses.

1.5 Union education should be flexible, adaptable and able to respond quickly to changing membership and organizational circumstances.

1.6 Union education should develop critical thinking, raise consciousness, broaden knowledge, enhance skills and value risk-taking.

1.7 Union education should be democratic, interactive, action-oriented and member-centred.

1.8 Union education should be integral to all union activity.

1.9 Union education should be designed and delivered to reflect the organizational model, principles and methodology of adult and popular education.


The cornerstones of PSAC’s structured education program are regional education plans, PSAC’s Alliance Facilitators Network and special initiatives.

2.0 Regional education plans

2.1 Each PSAC region shall plan, design and implement an annual regional education plan.

2.2 The plan shall include a range of opportunities for introductory, basic and advanced courses.

2.3 The plan shall make use of a variety of education methods, such as evening sessions, weekend courses and seminars, full-day activities and in-residence programs, and shall include a recruitment strategy.

2.4 The plan shall incorporate PSAC goals and priorities.

2.5 The plan shall include basic introductory courses for members; courses for shop stewards and local representatives on such topics as occupational health and safety, equity and local organization; and courses for activists.

2.6 The plan shall include training initiatives related to key PSAC campaigns such as organizing, political action and strike mobilization.

2.7 The plan shall be developed in consultation with members, locals, component officers, regional facilitators and regional structures and staff.

2.8 The plan shall specify the use of funding from the PSAC education budget that is earmarked for the region, in accordance with the standards and rights set out in this policy.

2.9 The regional education officer or, in their absence, a staff member designated by the regional coordinator, shall coordinate the design and implementation of the regional plan.

2.10 The regional executive vice-president shall approve the annual regional education plan and forward it to the AEC officer responsible for the PSAC education program.

2.11 The regions shall develop efficient mechanisms for forwarding the names of members who have completed basic education courses to the components.

3.0 The Alliance Facilitators’ Network (AFN) Policy (adopted by the AEC in June 1995 and amended in January 1998):


If the empowerment of Alliance workers is to happen on a significant scale, then conscience-raising union education has to be extended from weekend courses, advanced training or special interest seminars into the workplaces. Union education must find different, creative ways of reaching members and of addressing their pressing and ever-changing needs.

With this goal in mind, PSAC set up the first introductory Alliance Facilitators’ Training Program (now the AFTP) in 1984. Since then, PSAC has remained committed to the concept of training members to become facilitators in workplaces, locals, components and regions. The Alliance Facilitators’ Network benefits components, locals and the organization as a whole, helping components and locals to meet their individual, immediate education needs. PSAC is also working to set up a system for ad hoc training for members on important, emerging union issues.


To provide members with local-based union training opportunities organized, developed and delivered by members trained as PSAC Alliance Facilitators (AFs).

To provide interested members committed to union education with the appropriate training to become effective AFs.

To help union facilitators realize their potential in building strong, active, informed locals.

To offer support mechanisms and resources instrumental in establishing regional networks of union facilitators.


To organize, design and deliver local- or region-based union education courses, as defined in each region.

To set up and coordinate local education committees, and help them to operate smoothly.

To provide active assistance in designing and delivering education courses within the components, including conferences and courses on component-specific issues.

To offer courses on request to other locals and as part of activities organized by area councils, regional women’s committees, political action committees and any other regional body.

To respond to requests to act as a facilitator at regional or national conferences organized by PSAC or a component, or both.

To assist with coordinating PSAC local or regional union education activities, as defined in each region.

To help to make the Alliance Facilitators’ Network a PSAC priority.


Any member interested in belonging to the Alliance Facilitators’ Network should:

apply to become a PSAC Alliance Facilitator;

obtain a recommendation from the regional office supporting their membership in the Alliance Facilitators’ Network (AFN);

demonstrate a willingness to spend the time and energy required of a PSAC Alliance Facilitator.

Candidates for membership in the AFN should possess the following qualifications and skills:

  • demonstrated commitment to union principles;
  • experience as a union activist and familiarity with union issues;
  • completion of several courses in the PSAC education program; 
  • willingness to spend the time required to work as an Alliance Facilitator.

Candidates should support local-based education, be well known and respected in their community and be good communicators. They should be proponents of self-education and be prepared to create learning situations and training resources with minimal guidance from a central body.

The AFN application process:

After a regional office (RO) sends a call-out letter, members can express their interest in joining the AFN.

Interested members receive an introductory letter with information on the AFN and the regional education program.

A follow-up interview (telephone or other) is scheduled to discuss the member’s interest in the AFN and assess their knowledge and skills. They may be asked to provide union references.

At this point, if a member is still interested in joining the AFN and the regional office considers them a good candidate, they are asked to apply in writing to become a committed AFN.

When enough new facilitators need the training provided in the Alliance Facilitator Training Program (AFTP), a course will be scheduled.

What is a committed facilitator? A member who meets the criteria below, which describe the standard we can use in consultations with regional offices, the AFN and future facilitators.

A committed facilitator:

frequently delivers union education to members of a local that covers issues of interest to the component as well as local and regional issues. Examples of local-based union education are workplace discussions on current issues and campaigns, distribution of summaries on desks or by email and planning of lunchtime information sessions;

sets up learning opportunities (i.e., initiatives organized at the component, local and regional committee levels);

is willing to draft a plan;

actively recruits members to take courses or other union education;

seeks opportunities to collaborate with coalition partners;

helps to design the regional education plan;

is in contact with other AFs and the education officer;

organizes professional development opportunities for AFs;

communicates with the component on education issues;

contributes regularly to the AFN’s supply of tools and resources;

identifies learning needs pinpointed by members who are active at the component, local and regional levels, and shares them during the regional planning process;

is a committed union member who has completed advanced union education.


The goals of this advanced Alliance Facilitator Training course are to promote the Alliance Facilitators’ Network and strengthen PSAC locals through workplace and local-based union education. The AFTP develops members’ skills and confidence to undertake union education activities within their locals, components and regions. Participants explore how to identify learning needs, set learning objectives, facilitate discussions and develop workshops and seminars. Through practical exercises, participants learn how to choose and use various techniques and aids and how to foster positive group dynamics. They also learn the principles of popular and adult education and the elements of an effective learning experience.

From time to time, Alliance Facilitators may be asked to co-facilitate learning events, to enhance and apply their teaching skills. They can also request additional training on specific issues from their regional office.

Annual regional seminars for Alliance Facilitators should include training designed in consultation with Alliance Facilitators to address specific education needs.

Alliance Facilitators are encouraged to further develop their skills by taking part in seminars and courses offered by other union organizations (such as the CLC or a federation of labour) or community organizations. Funding is available from the regional office.


PSAC is committed to including local-based courses offered by members in its union education program. To meet this commitment, PSAC must provide active support to Alliance Facilitators, otherwise the vision of a network of committed facilitators would be futile.

Support for Alliance Facilitators should include:

advice and support from regional office staff;
component-based encouragement and resources to allow AFs to collaborate with component facilitators and leaders on special educational initiatives (such as special conferences and education activities on component-specific issues);
co-facilitation opportunities: When setting up the annual schedule of weekend courses and the steward advanced training program, regional offices should make a point of offering such opportunities to Alliance Facilitators so they can receive feedback and suggestions to help them maintain their skill level;
quarterly meetings with other facilitators from the same regional office;
participation in a weekend regional seminar organized annually in each of the following regions: B.C., Prairies, North, Ontario, NCR, Quebec and Atlantic, where AFs could share experiences, discuss impressions, plan education activities for the next quarter and strengthen the AFN. Seminars should include training/skills development;
an annual allowance for preparation time: Each AF shall be entitled to such an allowance for course preparation, the amount to be determined each year by the Education Section, depending on available resources;
an annual allowance for the purchase of materials, the amount to be determined each year by the Education Section, depending on available resources;
a regional AFN newsletter published several times a year to strengthen the Alliance Facilitators’ Network: It would include brief descriptions of AF activities, advertise professional development courses and announce new modules;
promotion of AFs to area councils, federations of labour and other community organizations to create additional opportunities for professional development and profile enhancement in the region.


In each regional office, the education officer, or the regional representative if there is no education officer, is responsible for coordinating the Alliance Facilitators’ Network, but in a regional office, everyone should share responsibility for providing facilitators with an effective support system. The education officer’s responsibilities are:

to work closely with regional representatives and locals to identify potential AF candidates and encourage them to join the AFN. Any AFTP recruitment strategy should consider component representation and equitable gender and equity representation in the AFN;

to ensure the program is well publicized in the region;

to offer regular advice and assistance to AFs;

to provide mentoring and support to AFs during local-based learning events to help them develop their skills;

to supervise AF efforts and contribution and submit a regular report to the Education Section that includes: a description of local education activities they have developed and/or delivered, weekend courses they have co-facilitated and any other AF initiative to strengthen the regional network. The report should also present a summary of the program expenses for that year;

to help to plan and organize regional weekend seminars for AFs;

to keep an updated list of addresses and telephone numbers of committed AFs;

to help to produce or coordinate production of a regional newsletter as described above;

to review AF project proposals and approving funding for them;

to recommend AFs who could facilitate conferences and seminars to the appropriate PSAC staff member;

to offer AFs opportunities to co-facilitate learning events.

Responsibilities of the Education Section

To create a centralized system for filing AFN documents and prepare regular reports for the national and regional offices based on the data in the system.

To design a handbook and/or resources for AFs.

To coordinate the development of teaching and learning documents for AFs as needed;

To compile and distribute education documents designed by AFs.

To coordinate the production of a quarterly newsletter for AFs that makes suggestions for education methodology and encourages facilitators in the various AFN regions to share their experiences. Each newsletter would include both region-specific features and articles of national interest.

To design flyers and leaflets explaining the AFN to locals, components, area councils, regional women’s and political action committees and other regional bodies.

To provide assistance and information to the regional offices and ensure the limited resources available are used as effectively as possible.

To ensure that program funding is used effectively and the program is in good financial health.

4.0 Special PSAC initiatives

4.1 In any given year, certain education activities may be scheduled by the head office in Ottawa for participation by all regions. Examples are the Union Development Program, courses for national officers and special education projects that respond to an emerging need.


5.1 Funding for the PSAC education program comes from the Member Education Services envelope in the budget approved at PSAC convention.

5.2 Any surplus in the budget for member education services in a given fiscal year is transferred to the provisional member education services account. Any deficit in a given fiscal year is covered by the funds in the provisional account. If there are no funds in the provisional account, the deficit shall be funded from the budget for the following year.

5.3 Annual education budgets for the regions come from PSAC’s overall education budget. Funding is allocated based on criteria agreed by the regions and approved by the executive vice-president responsible for education. Any surplus or deficit in the regional budgets shall be handled as set out in paragraph 5.2.

5.4 Every year, a portion of the education budget shall be earmarked for projects designed or scheduled by the head office in Ottawa. In general, the amount set outside for unforeseen expenditures may not exceed 10% of the overall education budget.

5.5 To encourage member participation in its education program, PSAC has adopted the following principles governing expenses:

member participation in the union is a form of volunteer work;

participation in a union education activity shall not result in any financial loss;

the union shall reimburse any lost wages incurred when a member must take unpaid leave to attend an education activity;

PSAC’s childcare policy shall apply to union education activities.

5.6 Out-of-pocket expenses generally include transportation, meals and accommodation and shall be reimbursed as set out in the PSAC Travel Directive.

5.7 Members who complete a weekend course, or equivalent course, shall be entitled to a daily allowance of $25 for expenses.

5.8 Ten per cent of the education budget shall continue to be earmarked for the Alliance Facilitators’ Network.

5.9 A region may decide to allocate additional funding to the AFN from the region’s overall education budget, but the reverse is not possible. However, in the last quarter, an assessment can be made as to whether it would be advantageous to assign funds unused by the AFN to the region’s overall program.

5.10 Regions shall use the following standards to determine which AF expenses to reimburse:

reimbursement of salary lost to preparation time, to a total of 5 days of unpaid leave a year;

reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, in accordance with the PSAC policy;

an honorarium of $150 a day (taxable) for the delivery of courses on the weekend or on regularly scheduled leave days, as part of the regional education plan. Lost wages shall apply if the learning event takes place on a regularly scheduled workday. (The honorarium or lost wages shall be charged to the budget for the course, not the AFN budget.);

a documentation allowance of $75 a year (not taxable);

a professional development allowance of $50 a year (taxable).

5.11 On the AFN’s recommendation, and in consultation with the REVP, a region may decide, if it has reasonable grounds for doing so, to set fees that differ from the standards referred to above.

5.12 Reimbursement of AFs’ costs shall be “activity-based”, as set out in the AF plan.

5.13 The expenses of AFs who are asked by the regional office to facilitate a union activity, such as a conference for a specific campaign, shall be reimbursed from the budget earmarked for the activity.


6.1 Regional Offices Branch, working closely with the regional executive vice-president responsible, shall implement this policy. It shall also develop a set of guidelines and administrative procedures for course promotion, recruitment and selection, eligibility criteria, facilities and travel reservations and so on.

6.2 Education activities shall comply with and apply all PSAC policies (such as policies governing accessibility, harassment and a smoke-free environment).

6.3 All participants in education activities shall behave in a mature, adult manner and treat other participants with tolerance and respect.