YEU Puts Hospital Corp’s Responses to the Test

The Yukon Hospital Corporation responded swiftly to the Union’s recent statements exposing the corporation’s plan to outsource microbiology testing to St. Paul’s Hospital. They were quick to appease the public and the press, saying there was nothing to the story. They insisted our information was false.

They said the contract had always existed, and therefore nothing important would change. And anyway, even if it did change, it wouldn’t matter much. They suggested it might be an improvement in service – since we don’t have the same technology here – plus it’s cheaper and easier to send the work south. And hey, it’s only about 1,500 tests a year anyway.

We want to make sure you know the truth.  

  1. In a public statement, the Hospital Corp said This proposal is currently being reviewed and a final decision will be based on our ability to provide the best care possible to Yukon patients in terms of quality and timeliness.”  The Hospital has not ruled out sending important routine microbiology tests to St. Paul’s hospital. It is still possible that they have already signed, or will soon sign an agreement cementing a plan to ship Yukon patients’ specimens to Vancouver for testing.
  1. We believe that if the Hospital Corporation begins shipping all routine microbiology tests to BC, the impact on the health of Yukoners could be profound. Even setting aside the obvious privacy and confidentiality concerns, the risks of live sample transport to BC from the Yukon can’t be dismissed. Many blood samples, urine tests and cultures (throat, wound, etc.) are only viable for a finite period of time – hours, in some cases. Quality of care for citizens in many parts of the territory is already compromised by distance. Residents of Old Crow routinely face delays because of their remote location; adding transit time to include the trip to Vancouver is only going to make matters worse.
  1. The Hospital Corporation has promoted keeping healthcare in the Yukon close to home; increasing capacity, modernizing and reducing the volume of exported care. Citizens of Yukon have contributed hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars through fundraising efforts and have helped secure the purchase of mammography equipment, CT scanning and MRI systems. Choosing to export this routine work out of territory is like stepping back in time. The equipment needed to make sure the microbiology lab at WGH can keep pace would be far less costly than an MRI or CT scanner.
  1. The hospital’s spokesperson was quoted, saying this move would only affect about 1500 tests per year. NOT true. In fact, YEU and the Hospital Corp recently collaborated on a workload document as part of the bargaining process. Statistics provided to YEU by WGH show an increase of 7% year over year, or a cumulative increase of 30% in the volume of testing routinely performed by the microbiology lab between 2013 and 2015, when the lab conducted in excess of 17,000 tests per year.

In the hospital’s own RFP, they cite almost 20,000 microbiology tests per year in the proposed scope of work. Through ATIPP, YEU has acquired a copy of the Hospital Corporation’s recent Request for Proposal for a Professional Services Agreement to provide Laboratory Medical Directorship, Laboratory Consulting and Biological Sample Testing Services (RFP #DTS-2017-08-28) issued August 28 2017 and closing October 31, 2017. According to the hospital’s own data, the quoted 1500 tests per year is less than the work of one month.

Yukoners deserve healthcare that is reliable, timely, and performed close to home. Exporting tests as common as a throat swab for Strep, a urine or STI test makes no sense. It’s taking us backward, rather than moving us forward.

The Yukon Employees’ Union is raising this issue with the public because it’s important. The hospital assures us that no members will lose their jobs, but will be shuffled into other positions. We are not raising this flag because we are concerned about the loss of union jobs, but because we are worried about protecting the services we all rely on.

Downgrading our ability to diagnose and treat illness quickly and locally is a bad idea. Adding time between testing, diagnosis and treatment will not enhance our health and we believe it’s a terrible plan. These discussions and negotiations should be transparent, and those appointed to protect the health of Yukoners must stay focused on more than the cost.

We’re asking the Yukon Hospital Corp for answers on behalf of all Yukoners.   

  1. Will you commit to properly staff the Microbiology lab at WGH so all routine and emergency microbiology testing can continue to be performed in the Yukon?
  1. Do you commit to investing in the equipment and training necessary to keep our lab up to date and capable of performing the diagnostic tests our growing population demands?
  1. Can you state for the record whether you intend to proceed with a contract to outsource routine microbiology testing, as identified in the 2017 RFP, thus diminishing the capacity of our hospitals to provide close to home care for Yukoners?

YEU is Hiring: Executive Director

Executive Director
Full-time, indeterminate (37.5 hours/week)
Salary $129,000-$152,000

Yukon Employees Union is seeking a visionary, dynamic, and driven leader to serve as our next Executive Director. The Executive Director is the sole managing director of the Yukon Employees’ Union and is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of all aspects of the operation.

Reporting to the President, the Executive Director has four key areas of accountability:

1. Labour relations services to union members;
2. Management of YEU budget and expenditures;
3. Planning, development and implementation of YEU’s strategic goals;
4. All aspects of Human Resource Management for YEU staff.

A competitive candidate will have extensive knowledge and experience in the areas of management, finance, administrative law, labour relations and conflict resolution. The level of knowledge and skill required is typically achieved through post-secondary education in business, law, labour relations, or human resources, and ten or more years’ experience in a similar leadership position. The Executive Director should have experience with collective bargaining/grievance processes and should have in-depth knowledge of the benefits and challenges associated with unionized working environments.

YEU’s Executive Director must be ethical, strategic, resilient and collaborative in order to meet the needs of nearly 5,000 members and the staff.

This challenging position is rewarded with a competitive salary, excellent pension, medical and dental plans, training opportunities and other benefits.

Applications and inquiries should be sent by e-mail with the subject line Executive  Director 2018 to:

Laura Hureau, Executive Director
lhureau@yeu.ca

Application Deadline: December 22, 2017

Welcome to the Next Three Years!

Welcome to the next three years! First of all, I would like to thank the delegates who represented the membership at our recent convention for their faith in my leadership. I heard what you said loud and clear. You want strong representation, fair collective agreements, strong communication and more training.

I pledged to do my best to deliver, and I will do just that. The thing is, I can’t do it alone. To accomplish all those tasks I need the help of many.

Over the last two terms, we have built an amazing team at Yukon Employees’ Union. Our staff is second to none, and it’s largely because of their efforts that so much of the work mandated by the 2014 Convention has been accomplished.

Delegates to the 2017 Triennial Convention have elected a strong Executive, too. I am really looking forward to working with this diverse group, and I’m especially pleased that they represent workers from many Locals, not only the largest.

What can you expect from the new Executive? Top of the list of deliverables will be worksite visits. We are also planning Rand drives – inviting dues paying but unsigned members to sign union cards. Rand drives help strengthen locals, since dues are remitted to the Local based on the number of signed members. Being “in good standing” allows members to fully participate in union business and to access all the benefits of union membership. More and more often we are learning that new hires are not being given union cards to sign by their Human Resources contact, and many don’t have any idea what the union is doing on their behalf. We mean to work on that, starting now.

We know that the challenges to our negotiated contracts are growing in step with national trends. All bargaining units can be assured that YEU is standing with your bargaining team every step of the way. If your collective agreement is due to be renegotiated, you’re in good hands. PSAC provides us with expert negotiators, experienced and strong. Fully resourced teams supported by their members have the resolve to stand firm in the face of ever increasing pressure from employers.

We want to make sure we reach you with our communications. Please take a moment to register to receive updates electronically via email. At present, we have email contact for just over half our members. We will never flood your inbox, and you can always unsubscribe at any time. Visit our website, https://yeu.ca and register for email updates on the home page. Seriously, we can’t grow our ability to communicate with you if you don’t subscribe!

If you’ve signed up for our emails help us out. You all know other Union members; encourage them to subscribe to the digital emails too. If each of you can encourage one friend or co-worker to subscribe, just imagine what we could do! Stay tuned for an announcement: we are planning an interesting little contest, soon to be unveiled.

As president, I hope to work with the new Executive to achieve a lot in the next three years, but I need your help. Please, become involved in your local – you don’t have to hold an elected position. Most Locals participate in community events or initiatives, and they have a budget that consists of a portion of your Union dues. Come out to your local meetings and have a say in how your dollars are spent. Is there an event or cause you want your Local to support? Say so, and then help to get others involved too.

Don’t think your collective agreement is fair? Want to see something different? Come to your bargaining input meetings, learn your collective agreements so you can put forth a proposal. Get elected to your bargaining team.

Consistent feedback over the last decade has been clear; members want education. We are about to begin the process of hiring a full-time education officer. We have commitment from both YFL and PSAC to work with us to provide more Local training.

We have always provided training, but we don’t always see a return on that investment. I hope our new training initiatives result in greater long-term involvement, and members using the training!

What kind of involvement? Well, you could become a shop steward or a training facilitator. Maybe you’re an amazing event planner, or you want to submit a column or article to our newsletter. You could write about labour issues, human rights, or areas you see the union needs to focus on. The point is there are many ways to engage with this vibrant organization, we’re saving a spot for you, in fact!

At the end of the day, I can’t make all of this happen without you. Neither can the YEU staff or the Executive. Together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. You are the Union and without your involvement we will not succeed.

Questions? Not sure how to do it? Not sure why you should? Call me and we’ll chat.

Steve Geick
867-336-2631
sgeick@yeu.ca

PRECARIOUS!

precarious

Precarious. The word makes me think of danger, uncertainty and risk. The definition is “held through the favour of another, obtained by asking or praying and dependent on the will of another”.

When you put the word “workforce” behind precarious it takes on a whole new meaning. If it sounds horrible, that’s because it is. Lots of precarious work is mis-labelled as offering “flexible-hours” or is classified as temporary, contract or seasonal. This precarity is accepted as the price of an entry level job, or as a way for older workers to remain employed to supplement their CPP or pension, if they’re lucky enough to have one. Looking around, we see the growth of the “gig economy”. Many young workers know they’re not likely find a single job that will sustain and support them – they’ll have to juggle multiple “side-gigs” to pay the bills.

Across Canada, companies and governments are staffing permanent positions with contract and temporary workers. These vulnerable workers do the same work as permanent employees – often working right alongside the permanent staffers, but they are denied the rights of full employment. These workers are subject to unreliable income, no job security, and lower wages. Thanks to the nature of their employment, they’re often denied the right to join a union. Even when they have the right to unionize, many are afraid – they know full well how easily they can be replaced.

Women, youth, minorities and migrant workers are much more likely to fill these kinds of jobs- at least that has been true in years past. The demographics are changing though. Permanent employment across many sectors has shifted to precarious jobs through outsourcing, use of employment agencies, and the inappropriate classification of workers as “short-term” or “independent contractors.”

Does this type of exploitation exist in the Yukon? Absolutely! Over the last few years Yukon Employees’ Union has successfully unionized a number of workplaces that follow this staffing model. Many are organizations providing social services to vulnerable community members. These are often non-profit organizations, overseen by volunteer boards of directors. Reliant on government funding or grants, there is rarely much room to maneuver in their staffing budgets, so some rely on “creative employment standards” to meet their staffing needs …precarious employment resulting in high staff turn-over rates. Of course these outcomes can also result in the organization’s diminished ability to meet client needs.
People who choose to work in care and service roles are some of the most compassionate and empathetic people I have met, hard-wired to put the needs of those they serve before their own needs. It’s a sad truth that most are also struggling to make ends meet, working more than full time hours, working more than one job, with few benefits and no job security.

While these non-profit sector bargaining units are small, there are now roughly 300 Yukoners that can count on a living wage, benefits and perhaps even some form of retirement package. This means they can do the work they love without struggling with the precarity of so many similar jobs.

Our goal as a union is to remind employers of their contractual obligations to their workforce. It’s not acceptable to manipulate the rules of engagement to keep workers from accessing the full benefits of their labours. When a seasonal employee is re-hired year after year, but laid off for one day each year so the employer can sidestep the duty to provide a full employment package, we’re going to step up and challenge that. We don’t believe in a two-tiered workforce, with permanent and precarious temporary workers doing the same job while receiving wildly different levels of respect and payment.

We have had some success with our larger Yukon employers by monitoring the use of on call, seasonal and casual employees. We will continue the pressure to ensure anyone working full time hours is treated equitably, with a proper rate of pay, benefits and workplaces that are safe both physically and mentally. To date YEU has been able to facilitate those changes for about 50 Yukon workers.

What difference does the permanent job make? Same job, same or similar rate of pay, with a benefit plan, the ability to contribute to a pension, and stability! Think of the impact on a worker’s life; a permanent job (not a precarious, seasonal job or never-ending series of temporary contracts) can mean the difference between being accepted or denied for a mortgage. Only the employer benefits from staffing permanent positions with contract, seasonal and temporary workers. Our communities suffer, workers suffer, and the inequities between co-workers creates an unjust working environment.

50 workers now in permanent jobs; 300 Yukoners working in service roles who are now able to count on a living wage and union representation – those are no small achievements. We’re not done, but that’s okay. We’re going to keep at it – stay tuned!

Steve Geick, President

Yukon Employees’ Union

 

#millennials-the kids are not all right.

Who are the Millennials? A millennial is anyone born between the early 80’s and the late 90’s – they are a pretty large cohort. Basically, if they’re younger than YOU, they’re millennials. If they’re annoying you, they’re millennials. If you don’t like a style, a trend or a new reality, blame that demographic. Everybody’s doing it. According to the press, they’ve killed the serviette industry and Sears. Really.

Millennials catch hell for just about everything they do or don’t do, buy or choose not to buy. Millennials are scapegoated or mocked almost daily in the media as lazy, vain, celebrity crazed and s­till living with their parents at 30. In fact, they are a socially conscious, diverse and well educated generation, busy challenging the status quo and changing the world in some profound ways.

As workers in their early 20’s to late 30’s, millennials comprise an enormous chunk of the work force. Many struggle to find an entry point into steroid enhanced housing markets, while staggering under crushing student debt. Too many work in jobs that are precarious and poorly paid with few benefits, little security and no hope of a pension. 

The stable union jobs that allowed their parents’ generation to thrive have all but disappeared. The wages that allowed home ownership were the outcome of negotiated collective agreements, but no-one is talking to young people about unions. Organized labour has been so demonized by corporate interests that many union members feel little pride in their membership. As a result, they don’t talk with their kids about the very real advantages of union membership.

Millennials are the first generation who will find it difficult to achieve the same financial stability their parents enjoyed.

In fact, studies have shown that a university educated 30 year old today earns about the same as someone without a degree in 1989, in today’s dollars but of course, the cost of living has skyrocketed.

Few young workers have had much exposure to unions and the bargaining power unionization allows. With many millennials working as interns,  contract labourers or navigating the new “sharing economy”, the idea of collective bargaining seems out of reach. Without it, decent salaries on which to raise a family, buy a home, and save for the future are unlikely.

Millennials starting families are faced with some hard choices. It’s almost impossible to afford daycare for more than one child, but few young families can afford to have one parent stay home – housing costs alone make that choice increasingly difficult. Young workers have some very compelling reasons to join a union and to support the ideals of the labour movement.

Union activism in young workers is in decline, so it’s up to the more seasoned union members to encourage them to look for unionized jobs. Talk to young workers – help them organize their places of work. The loss of good jobs won’t just affect millennials and their children, it will affect every Canadian.

Low wages mean a shrinking tax base, and an ever diminishing ability to fund the services and programs Canadians count on. Canada’s healthcare system will undoubtedly suffer without healthy incomes for this and future generations.

Let’s stop blaming millennials for the real world problems they have inherited. Let’s remember how important unions and union jobs are to communities and families. Let’s support young workers as they try to organize their places of work, and let’s encourage contract workers to find unions that connect and empower free-lance and sharing economy labourers.

Community Nurses need support – STAT

Postcard front Sign Petition

“We will ensure that we have the necessary staff in place for this coming tourist season.”

Yukon’s Health & Social Services Minister Pauline Frost announced emphatically in the Legislative Assembly on May 23rd that the Yukon’s Liberal Government will fully staff the territory’s Community Health Centres for this summer’s tourist season. Considering it’s now mid June, we wonder how that will happen. While Yukon Employees’ Union, Community Nurses and all of us who drive the highways would love to see this happen, so far there has been no action.

Nurses often work alone in small highway communities where they must be available 24/7 for weeks at a time with no relief.  We hear of nurses working late into the night and reporting for duty first thing in the morning, day after day. Nurses are routinely exposed to violence and threats on the job, and are more prone to make errors when they have no opportunity to rest. With no respite, the work is exhausting both physically and mentally.

The Collective Agreement signed between the employer and the union in 2016 included  a Letter of Understanding addressing One Nurse Health Centres. This pilot project was designed to create additional full time nursing positions in both Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay,  communities facing chronic nurse shortages. The dangerous under-staffing is most pronounced during the summer months when increased highway traffic and higher patient numbers tax the nurses to the near breaking point.

From May 1 to September 30, each of the two communities are to be staffed with an additional nurse, and a single additional nurse is to be on staff from October 1 to April 30th, shared equitably between the two communities. The addition of two full time staff for the busiest summer months will help alleviate the risk of overwork, personal safety and fatigue. That’s critical – not just for the nurses, but for the communities they serve and the many thousands who travel Yukon’s highways.

Yukon’s Nurses were promised this support in the ratification of Letter of Understanding M, designed to provide a second full time nurse in the two communities most consistently affected, Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay.  Although that LOU came into effect with the current Collective Agreement January 1 2016, to date no more nurses have been hired.

We ask you to please sign our petition. Ask Minister Frost to provide Yukon’s Community Nurses with the resources they have been promised, STAT!

3community nursing petition graphic

Finally! Yukon to Amend Human Rights Act & Vital Statistics Act.

On Tuesday May 16 2017 the Yukon Legislative Assembly voted to amend the Yukon Human Rights Act and Vital Statistics Act to explicitly recognize and protect the rights of transgendered Yukoners.
The amendments were first recommended to the Government of Yukon in 2008 by the Human Rights Commission who argued that although existing legislation cited sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination, it did not specifically protect against discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
Changes to the Yukon’s Vital Statistics Act will include, among other changes, the removal of provisions requiring proof of gender reassignment surgery, certified by two physicians before any change to the gender marker on official identification documents like birth certificate. This institutionalized discrimination speaks to a systemic disrespect that the new legislation will serve to change.
\We want to acknowledge and thank Trans Rights activist Chase Blodgett who has been absolutely instrumental in getting these changes made. Chase has challenged us to re-examine our personal biases, to check our privilege at the door and to stand and be counted as allies. The road to change is not an easy one, and it’s brave and fierce activists like Chase who have the courage to take it on the chin, taking on the system so others are spared the same indignities in future.