Union scores WIN for worker safety!

decision-tss2Yukon Employees’ Union has been raising concerns about working conditions for Residential Care Workers (RCWs) in the Yukon Government group homes since at least 2015. These workers face numerous risks in the normal course of their duties, and are regularly expected to work alone.  They provide a home environment for youth and young children, often with extraordinary emotional needs who can, at times, become aggressive or violent.  The workers must deal with a wide range of emergency situations that can involve medical needs or missing children.  Occasionally, staff must handle several challenging or emergency situations at the same time. 

When a RCW is on duty as the sole adult caregiver in a home with unpredictable youth, they are assured that support is only a phone call away. Of course, the response time for urgent support depends on how far away other available staff members might be.  Relying on on-call support does not sufficiently protect our members or residents in the group homes.

At a September press conference about youth in care, Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost and Deputy Minister Stephen Samis assured the press  that no workers in youth care facilities would ever work alone. That proved not to be the case, and the practice continued unchanged throughout the fall and winter.

Finally, after years of union advocacy and intervention, the Public Service Commissioner has ruled in favour of worker safety and against solo staffing.

On January 24, 2018 YEU filed a policy grievance asserting that the Yukon Government was “not making all reasonable provisions for the safety and health of employees in Transitional Support Services (TSS), in violation of Article 32.01.”  Some progress was made toward resolving this grievance informally, but ultimately we could not agree. The employer’s practice of frequently deciding not to backfill vacancies, resulting in single staffed homes continued, and was unsafe in the view of the union. 

We brought the grievance to a hearing with the Public Service Commissioner on November 8, 2018 to argue our case, and received a decision on December 10, 2018.  The decision reads, in part, “… on balance I am persuaded that the better interpretation of Article 32.01 is that the requirement to make all provisions for the occupational safety and health of employees requires TSS to backfill vacant RCW shifts, if there is staff available for this purpose (regardless of whether it results in overtime), in circumstances where not backfilling would mean that a RCW is working alone in a group home.”

Residential Care Workers no longer need to worry that they might end up working a shift alone.   This is a significant promise of greater protection of psychological well-being and physical safety in the workplace, and a real positive gain by the union on behalf of these workers and residents.

 

Happy Labour Day from YEU

 

Happy 124th Labour day, Canada!  From its humble beginnings in 1872, it was over 20 years before a National Holiday honoring workers was declared in 1894.  Canadian workers paid dearly with blood, sweat, tears and sometimes their lives to achieve a 58 hour work week – the first battle won by the early, newly organized labour activists.

As organized labour we’ve come a long way in 124 years – a relatively short period of time. With globalization and increasing pressures from the right, it’s more important than ever that we don’t forget the sacrifices made by a few over a hundred years ago. Let’s take some time this Monday to reflect on where we came from and how we can continue to make Canada a better place for all workers.

The Yukon is a pretty well-organized place, at least when compared to the rest of Canada. With almost 33% of our workers unionized, we boast the highest union density per capita and that density has been maintained for over 50 years. In many ways, Yukon is a big union town. This Labour Day, we want to thank everyone who works so hard to keep this territory and this country strong.

This historical photo shows Dawson’s Labour Day Parade in 1906. In the middle of the last century, Yukon’s workers began organizing in earnest. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 2499 was chartered in 1947, while the Yukon Teacher’s Association formed in 1955. The UA, or United Association of Allied Workers representing plumbers, pipe fitters and welders established a Yukon presence in 1958 and the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association (YTPSA) formed in 1965. The YTPSA was the first incarnation of what is now the Yukon Employees’ Union, or YEU/PSAC.

This year, YEU and PSAC are bargaining on behalf of members working for Yukon employers large and small. We are up against some serious challenges to the rights we have fought for over the years. Several of our bargaining units have been forced to prove their solidarity through strike votes and strike action. In these anti-union times, it’s not easy to hold on to what we have. We can’t rest on our laurels or believe that everything we have all worked so hard for is secure.

Employers have their own agendas, and it’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on, and protect the rights of Yukons’ workers, unionized or not.

We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate with our 24th annual Free Labour Day Barbeque in Shipyards Park. Each year our activists pull off one of the largest – probably THE largest free public meal in the territory, complete with fun kids’ activities and coffee provided by Midnight Sun Coffee.  We’ll also be collecting your donations for the Whitehorse Food Bank, building our 2nd Annual Mountain of Mac & Cheese! Hope to see you there!

In solidarity,

Steve Geick,

President, Yukon Employees’ Union

Guatemala for YEU members; Education in Action

Education In Action Application 2019   We invite you to consider applying for a unique opportunity to work with, and learn from communities and farmers of the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) in Guatemala.  The CCDA is a grassroots cooperative defending the economic, social and cultural rights of the Mayan people since 1982, struggling for equitable land distribution, carrying out sustainable agricultural development and encouraging the economic empowerment of women.

Since 2007, members from many different PSAC components have participated in this valuable project, including the Yukon Employees’ Union. YEU President Steve Geick joined a 2014 contingent, and he encourages our members to give thought to participating. This experience was life-changing, he says. You can read about Steve’s CCDA journey here, and if you think it might be for you, please click the link below to complete the application.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the program and the organization.

Young workers may be eligible for one of four sponsorships provided by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. If you are a young worker (18–35 years) and are interested in being part of a delegation on an Education project, please complete the application below.

 

YEU MEMBER APPLICATION TO EDUCATION IN ACTION, GUATEMALA 2019

YOUNG WORKER APPLICATION FOR SUBSIDY 2019

A Message from Chris Aylward, PSAC National President

I looked forward to my visit to the Yukon this summer because it gave me another opportunity to meet with members in Whitehorse, Pelly Crossing, Stewart, Carmacks and Dawson. It was great to chat with workers from Wildland Fire Management and to hear the concerns of volunteer community EMS workers. I always learn a lot when I can visit worksites and talk to members on the job.

I attended the KVA Local Y018 AGM – what an active and engaged local! Every position on their Executive went to an election, with three or four nominees named on each ballot. That’s impressive, and encouraging.

Speaking with Parks Canada members at the Dawson and Whitehorse community barbecues was a highlight of my trip, and an important reason I came north this summer. The PSAC is keeping up the pressure on our federal government to pay its workers correctly – every time. We have secured employer compensation for out-of-pocket expenses for things like banking fees or interest charges due to late or missed payments, as well as support for people on disability, maternity, and parental leave.

It’s important for members affected by Phoenix to know what we are doing to support them, and to hold the government to account. Critical to many affected federal workers is the emergency salary advance; an advance is to be made available within 24-48 hours of request by an underpaid worker. Those requests must be made through the employer, but please notify the PSAC to inform us of pay issues experienced by any federal employee in the territory. Please contact me directly at aylwardc@psac-afpc.com, or contact the PSAC’s National Executive Vice President Magalie Picard at picardm@psac-afpc.com

What is happening in Yukon’s Department of Health & Social Services is appalling. This is a department responsible for the well-being and care of children and youth! Their decision to fire whistle-blowers after promising safety illustrates the fact that they cannot be trusted. The dishonesty they displayed shutting down the ISSY office under completely false pretenses can’t be ignored. PSAC and YEU demand that any reports or recommendations arising from the current third party investigation be made public.

YEU has been calling attention to the lack of staffing and support for workers and youth in residential care settings for years, but the department didn’t take action until the press got involved. Now, the issue has gained national attention and the department’s actions are being closely watched around the county. We will continue to monitor the situation alongside Brother Geick and YEU and if needed, we will request federal intervention. If the results of the investigations are not made public, no-one will have any confidence in anything that department says.

Finally, I sincerely hope you will get involved in your union. Be knowledgeable about the issues your co-workers face. I got involved almost 30 years ago when I worked as a member of the Union of Taxation Employees, and I’ve never regretted that decision. It’s one thing to complain, but unless you are willing to be part of the solution, you’re not helping anyone. It’s workers like you who make up the YEU and the PSAC – workers like you who make a difference.

In solidarity,

Chris Aylward, National President
Public Service Alliance of Canada

In Support of A Living Wage

 

Yukoners who rely on minimum wage earn $11.51 per hour. And that’s before any tax comes off the top. Yukon workers deserve better than minimum wage – they need a living wage. Most minimum wage discussions tend to go down the path of cost, instead of decency. Let’s take a quick look at the cost side so we can better understand the argument for decency.

Let’s envision a worker putting in 60 hours a week at two different minimum wage employers (with no overtime). At the current minimum wage, and after taxes, their take home is just under $33,000 a year. Let that sink in for a moment.

Given the recent rent survey completed by Yukon Bureau of Statistics, let’s assume our worker is single and pays the average rent for all types of rental units, $1,184.00 per month. Over a year, that total comes to $14,208.00. Nearly half of our worker’s income is gone in rent.

I could go on, but I imagine folks can predict where this math leads. Come year-end, a worker with one full-time and one half-time job has been able to little more than meet their survival costs.

The decent alternative to the minimum wage is a LIVING WAGE.

In Yukon, a living wage is calculated as $18.26 per hour – a substantial jump from the $11.51/hr minimum wage. This figure takes into account the true cost of living in the north, factoring in the high rents, higher cost of living and realities of the northern economy.

The minimum wage was introduced in 1975 to prevent the exploitation of women and youth in the workplace. Over time and in practice, minimum wage has served to do the opposite. Most minimum wage positions are now occupied by adults, especially people of colour and new Canadians. Minimum wage earners often support families, working two or more jobs to do so.

The living wage is designed to lift individuals and families out of poverty and into a place of greater economic security.

Times have changed since 1975. Business interests have formed powerful lobby groups which are often given the same or greater rights as people. What has been lost along the way is the understanding that businesses exist to meet the needs of the people. If people can’t afford the costs of goods or services, then businesses will starve and die.

Making decisions on how much people should earn based on the cost to business, is indecent.

Providing workers with a decent income will result in greater financial freedom, and increased spending on goods and services. People who aren’t on the knife’s edge of poverty have a much better quality of life, lowering costs for our health care system.

The benefits to our communities would be many, and the businesses paying higher wages would benefit from a stronger economy – the positive effects of increased wages have consistently proven to outweigh the costs. It’s time for Yukon government to make the decent choice, and support low-wage earning Yukoners.

Justin Lemphers, President
Yukon Federation of Labour

Read the letter to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver sent by Northern Labour leaders.

Download a copy of the postcard petition in support of the #LIvingWageNorth campaign

Visit #LivingWageNorth web page

Whose Side are we ON?!

It’s hard to go to work every day when you’re in conflict with a co-worker.  When workplace conflict starts to impact your life, we hope you look for help. You can take many different paths to resolution, but we hope you will contact the union. Yukon Government workers will likely be assisted by the Respectful Workplaces Office with or without union assistance, while workers from other  Bargaining Units are encouraged to use the grievance process to work through these challenges.

We know going to the union is an idea that makes some people nervous, or uncomfortable. How would it work? How can two co-workers seek help from the same source? When both parties come to YEU for support and representation, how do we make sure we treat them both fairly?

The union cannot choose one member over another. Under the Canadian Labour Code, all Canadian unions have a legal obligation to fairly represent all members, and to look at each individual case on its own merits.  When a YEU Labour Relations Advisor is actively representing one member, and another member involved in the issue requires representation, another YEU Advisor will take on the case. We do not discuss the specific of cases in our briefings as a team, always recognizing our need to remain fair, objective and focused in our representation work.

How do we manage this in serious harassment situations? How about in cases where one person has acted in the role of whistle-blower?

Very serious harassment situations can be complex, and may even involve law enforcement or external investigators. In YG, harassment issues are managed through the Respectful Workplace Office and one or more Advisors are often part of the case management team. Again, we keep our focus on the member we are representing while recognizing that we may have opposing perspectives on some of the points in the case. This is not to say we oppose each other’s work, but we rely on the information from our members and our job is to represent their interests and rights. The same applies whether one or both members blew the whistle, or if the employer directed both members to work with RWO to resolve a workplace conflict.

Union members from other employers without a formal harassment prevention branch do have internal processes, agreed to by the employer and the Union, and we will ensure the employer follows their process, and is held accountable when they don’t.

How do we help members feel safe?

We do our best to assure every member that what they disclose to us is confidential, and we will only share their concerns as needed, and only with their full and informed consent.

If a member doesn’t want us to share any info, then there will be limits to what they can expect in terms of a resolution as workplace conflict is always a multi-party situation. We also have to be honest about the limits to our ability to ensure their privacy when other parties such as RWO and HR are involved.

We counsel members on what to do if they fear workplace reprisal, and we are prepared to hold the employer accountable if there are any behaviors that even appear retaliatory in nature. We assure members that our file management system allows each Advisor to keep their file confidential, with all information stored in a locked cabinet in the Advisor’s office and password protected e-files on our own computer drives. We also have a very high level of trust across our team and communicate this to our members through our actions and words.

What if a member doesn’t want to file a grievance, but wants the situation improved?

The grievance process is our members’ way of speaking out against unjust or unfair treatment in the workplace. Of course it’s only one option; the staff at YEU can recommend alternative dispute resolution, if another path to reconciliation is likely to serve better under the circumstances. Members from non YG Bargaining Units can file grievances in conflict situations, while YG members are directed to the RWO for resolution.

As Labour Relations Advisors, we help members resolve conflict and address harassment or bullying in the workplace. We stay apprised of current case law and research in the area and most importantly, we understand the need for each member involved to be fairly represented, and to feel safe and respected throughout the process.

Call us at 867-667-2331, 1-888-YEU-2331 or email contact@yeu.ca

 

Your Input, Your Contract

Our contract with the Government of Yukon expires December 31, 2018. We are already gearing up for a strong start to the bargaining process, but we need you. Bargaining proposals come from the members. Nominations for the Bargaining Input Committee come from the members & the Bargaining Teams are elected by the members.

We Need Your Bargaining Proposals by June 15

Do you have an idea to improve working conditions in your workplace? Is there something in our contract that just needs fixing?

Please print the Bargaining Input form linked below, complete it with supporting signatures and submit it to your Local President, to the Yukon Employees’ Union, or to the PSAC Regional Office before the Bargaining Input Deadline of June 15th. Not sure how?

Call YEU at (867) 667-2331 or toll-free at 1-888-YEU-2331 
OR call the PSAC North office at Tel: (867) 668-8593
toll-free: 1-888-998-8229
OR 
Email contact@yeu.ca or dalleys@psac-afpc.com 

We hope to have a new contract ratified by the time our current contract expires December 31, 2018 but we need your help to make that happen. Please, get involved now and stay informed throughout the important process of bargaining. 

YG 2018 Bargaining Input Form (complete, print & sign)

YG Bargaining Input Committee Nomination Form (complete, print & sign)

READ THE CURRENT COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT. 
Make note of any articles you think need to be updated, changed, or improved and complete the Bargaining Input form linked above.

Deadline to submit – June 15.