Why Join a Union for Professionals?

As a professional, your employer depends on you to take on important responsibilities. You have unique skills and training to take on complex and sensitive roles. Your work is usually self-directed and often requires that you direct others and advise the employer on appropriate courses of action. Often your decisions and actions affect the security and well being of others. You follow your professional code, and do what it takes to get the job done right.

It's hard to understand why you don't always get the respect you deserve in the workplace. Senior management has to run the place, that's true, but shouldn't they also listen to the professionals who have the expertise to get the work done?

Professionals face many employment problems every day:

  • Lack of job security
  • Lack of salary protection
  • Inconsistent treatment
  • Lack of say in scheduling
  • Lack of recognition for overtime
  • No say in hiring or promotion
  • No coherent voice in dealing with the employer
  • No impartial process for resolving complaints
  • No protection against unfair treatment

The workplace has become an increasingly more demanding and tenuous place for professionals. How did this come about, particularly at a time when “intellectual workers” are supposed to be gaining importance in our economy?

Ask Us a Question

You can call or email us in confidence for information. We may be the perfect fit for you and your colleagues.

Email Brett Harper or call him at (250) 385-8791, or at 1-800-779-7736.

The Professional Workplace Has Changed

Professional employees have faced unique problems during the restructuring of work over the last decade. Many professional positions have disappeared either through lay-off or attrition as management ranks have been flattened. Those professionals who remain in the workplace have seen their workloads skyrocket. They're not only doing the work of departed colleagues in addition to their own work, but the demand for professional services is also increasing as the economy becomes more information-based and large corporations and institutions encourage their departments to become more "entrepreneurial."

Meanwhile, new professionals entering the workforce can't find secure employment. Term contracts are the order of the day with employers unwilling to make long term commitments to employees, even though it's not uncommon for contracts to be renewed for ten or more consecutive years. Professional employees not only find themselves in more demanding positions but also face increasing pressure to keep themselves current and valued.

Despite the trends, many professional employees still believe that individual or collegial relations with the employer are most appropriate to professional values. Those values include personal responsibility for work and assignments, independence of action and judgment, and an abiding commitment to a professional code and duties. Unionism is dismissed as a mode of relations that emphasizes collective action rather than individual responsibility, replaces independent judgment with executive or mass decision making, and sacrifices professional responsibility to the picket line.

With the PEA representing groups of accredited professionals, this is simply not true anymore.

Unions Complement Professional Values

A union can address these problems and enhance professional values in the workplace. The core principles of unionism are consistent with professionalism. Both movements can trace part of their histories to the guild movements where workers with particular sets of skills in common joined together both to protect their control over those skills and to protect their economic position. Many professional codes, for instance, indicate that members have a duty to see that they are adequately compensated for their work.

Professional values also reflect an industrial era when the norm was for professionals to be self-employed or associated with firms who contracted with larger companies or institutions. As professions have become more established and corporations and institutions have become increasingly dependent on the intellectual capabilities of professionals, professionals have increasingly moved from contractual to employment relationships.

While many employers did respect professional skills and values, competitive pressures to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and maximize profits have left little room for that respect to be demonstrated in employment relations. As a result, professional positions in many workplaces do not allow for the same self-direction, control, and independence of judgment that were once the hallmarks of professionalism.

In this section

The PEA was formed in 1974, by a group of professionals working in the public sector. The story goes that the founders of the union mortgaged their houses to fund negotiations of the union’s first collective agreement. 

Now, the PEA is BC’s union for professionals. We represent a wide range of professionals including lawyers, foresters, engineers, agrologists, teachers, veterinarians, fundraisers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists program managers, librarians and more.

Our union is led by the PEA Executive. They represent members from across the chapters of the PEA and set the overall vision and direction for our union.

Resources for our members

Navigating a union can sometime be a challenging process. Under this section of the website you will find resources to help you navigate the PEA. In the members section you'll find expense claim reimbursements, information on the PEA's scholarship and bursary program and our grants and donations program.

Collective bargaining and job action resources explain the process of collective bargaining and what to do in the unlikely event of job action. 

Local reps can also find resources to help them complete their job more effectively. This includes ways to welcome new members, how to take notes in investigation disciplinary meetings and more.

The heart of our union

The PEA is made up of nine chapters, or groups of members who either work for the same employer or are in the same field of work. Each chapter has an elected executive tasked with running the affairs of the chapter. Each chapter is entitled to representation at the PEA Executive, the governing body of the union. 

Our members work for a range of employers: the Province of BC, the University of Victoria, St. Margaret's School, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Law Society of BC, Legal Services Society, the Okangan Regional Library and health authorities across BC.

Professionals need unions now more then ever

Since the 1970’s, when the PEA was formed, our mission has been to ensure our members can work in safe, productive environments and receive fair and reasonable wages and benefits for the valuable work they do. We help individuals and groups of professional workers to understand the challenges they face in their workplaces and some of the solutions available to them. 

We work with potential members to become certified as a union and achieve the wages, benefits and respect they deserve. 

The Professional | Volume 46 Issue 1

The Professional is the PEA's award-winning, quarterly magazine for members.

The January-February 2020 issue includes a Vancouver Sun op/ed piece from PEA Executive Director Scott McCannell on the Legal Services Society strike.

Read the January-February 2020 issue



The PEA was formed in 1974 to represent licensed professionals in the BC Public Service. Since then the organization has grown to include a wide range of professionals from across BC. Find our more about our governance, staff and strategic direction.

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