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Project: An Organizational History of PIPSC from 1967 – 2020

Published on September 22, 2016

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC)

A union representing 55,000 professional public service employees (mostly federal; some provincial employees)

Seeking a doctoral candidate / post-doctoral fellow / tenure track assistant professor (with a demonstrated interest in labour history) to research and write the history of PIPSC since 1967 as PIPSC prepares to celebrate its centennial (February 6, 2020)

Contact: Laureen Allan, PIPSC.


  • a 3-member team at PIPSC, comprising:

o   a past president (who served from 1996 to 2004)

o   a retired member (an archivist at Library and Archives Canada)

o   a long-serving staff member (20 years)

  • full “carte blanche” access to PIPSC archives
  • access to long-time active members and senior staff

Compensation (to be negotiated)

Background (please see also the appendix and outline attached):

  • PIPSC was formed in 1920 as an association
  • PIPSC became a certified bargaining agent in 1967
  • A book covering the organization’s first 50 years was published in 1970 (John Swettenham and David Kealy, Serving the State, Ottawa: Le Droit, 1970).   

The Professional Institute is a certified bargaining agent representing knowledge-based professionals employed in the public sector.  The moniker “labour union” applies to organizations which seek to define and defend their members’ employment rights and pursue related interests.  These objectives are undertaken within the framework of prevailing labour laws governing the right to collective bargaining and the internal governance structure applicable to each union.  By virtue of this description, the Institute is unquestionably a labour union but by no means is it a typical labour union.

The Institute occupies a niche in the spectrum of Canadian labour unions.  Since its founding, the organization has remained the domain of knowledge-based professionals, people who are trained to think critically, act independently and who are frequently subject to rigorous professional standards and codes of ethics.  By virtue of their vocation Institute members are on the vanguard of change, innovating and promoting technological change and new approaches and ideas affecting work. Consequently, Institute members embrace a culture which may appear at odds with the notion of solidarity of thought and action traditionally associated with labour unions.  Reconciling labour goals with professional values is a continuing reality of the Institute.

Founded as an association of like-minded professionals in 1920, the Institute has at times survived but more often flourished over a period now approaching a centenary.

Longevity has meant existence some 47 years before becoming a certified bargaining agent in 1967.  Attaining the legal right to operate as a certified bargaining agent required the Institute to reinvent itself.  The process of changing from a voluntary staff association to the legal entity of a bargaining agent proved long and challenging.

Serving the State chronicles the first 50 years of the Institute’s existence when “the germination and early growth period of that significant sociological phenomenon - the awakening and organization of the employed professionals in the democracies of the Western World”.   

The period from 1970 to the present encompasses many struggles, debates and developments as the organization sought to adhere to its founding principles of advancing the well-being of its members and their professions.

In an article advancing the merits of the study of history (, Frank Luttmer, a professor at Hanover College, Indiana stated “The analysis and interpretation of history provide an essential context for evaluating contemporary institutions, politics, and cultures.”   


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