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

 

YEU@ #PSAC2018 Day 4,5

Yukon’s delegates continue to lead and inspire at the National Convention. Again and again, members of our group have stood in front of hundreds of union activists and presented cohesive, well thought out and persuasive arguments for and against resolutions under debate. Yukon delegates have also contributed greatly to the work of each Convention Committee, seated at the head table to face the membership and their questions.

Teresa Acheson spoke in favour of a resolution to fully fund Regional Conventions, reminding delegates that the proposed budget reflects lower dues for all members, even with this resolution. She reminded them also that every delegate at #PSAC2018 attends thanks to funding from various sources. After coming to the floor again and again, convention after convention, 2018 delegates strongly supported the resolution to fully fund Regional Conventions. Teresa’s decisive arguments came just ahead of the vote, and we believe she helped solidify the win.

YEU’s Stephanie Coulthard stood in support of a resolution to help democratize the election of PSAC Regional Executive Vice President, North. Previously, the position required a candidate to move to Yellowknife if elected. This non-negotiable barrier discouraged many qualified, committed activists from considering a campaign. The floor voted in favour of the resolution to allow REVP’s to live and work in any city with a PSAC Regional Office. For northerners, that means REVP candidates may choose to live in either Whitehorse, Yellowknife, or Iqaluit.

Elections were held first thing Thursday morning for the roles of PSAC National Executive Vice President and National President. Two candidates vied for the top job – Chris Aylward, sitting NEVP and Fabienne Jean-Francois, National Vice President of CEIU.  Sister Jean-Francois secured 23% of the vote, while Brother Aylward achieved the majority and won the seat. Sister Magali Picard, REVP for Quebec was acclaimed as NEVP, with Sharon Desousa accepting the Alternate NEVP position.

A long line of buses waited outside the Toronto Convention Centre to drive delegates to the start of a Fix Finance & Fix Phoenix rally at noon. Despite the rain, a large and raucous crowd marched and chanted, arriving at the constituency office of Finance Minister Bill Morneau. He has a lot to answer for to the workers of this country, including Bill C-27 which will jeopardize the pensions of Canadian workers. Our Yukon activists didn’t let the rains low them down, marching in full solidarity with our affected brothers and sisters. Phoenix needs to go, and Canada’s public servants MUST be paid, correctly and on time, for their work. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.3 states “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.” The PSAC demands that the Liberal Government fix Phoenix now.

After hours of debate with over 80 speakers lined up at the microphones around the hall, a controversial resolution put forward by the Collective Bargaining Committee to allow electronic voting in some cases was passed. Following the vote, delegates again lined up at the microphones to record against, ensuring the minutes show their opposition to this contentious change. For those of us in the far north, we believe this change may allow greater participation in ratification votes for members in remote communities.

A moving tribute to 30 year PSAC activist and two term President Robyn Benson wrapped up the business of the day, with delegates looking forward to an old fashioned Manitoba Social in her honour. Tomorrow will provide an opportunity to get back to debate and voting for the morning before Frank Miller, elder from the Mohawk Turtle Clan offers a traditional blessing to close the 2018 Convention.

YEU @ #PSAC2018 – Day 3

The third day of  PSAC’s Triennial Convention was a day of debate, discussion, points of order and privilege. Much of the day was spent discussing constitutional resolutions, sometimes fairly dry business, but critical in ensuring the foundation of the union is sound and reflects the values of the membership.

Some important decisions were made, including the adoption of the term Indigenous to replace Aboriginal, throughout the PSAC and its committees. There was a lot of debate over a resolution to add 35 Equity delegate seats to the regional seat entitlements to national conventions, and our delegate Chase Blodgett spoke passionately in favour of this resolution. In fact, his powerful comments elicited thunderous applause, and a standing ovation. Sadly, despite that support the resolution was not passed. As Yukon Area Council representative Linda Moen says, equity delegates and area councils will go home knowing where to focus their work.

 

YEU delegate Derek Yap has been working as a member of the Constitutional Committee for the last several months, and Day 3 was a long one for he and his colleagues. They spent many hours in meetings, as many resolutions were referred back to the committee with instructions from the floor to make changes.

 

 

 

 

#PSAC2018 Day 1 – YEU at Convention

Photo courtesy of the Public Service Alliance of Canada

Our eleven delegates to the 2018 PSAC National were in their seats and ready to work when the week long conference began Sunday.  The day kicked off with a meeting of delegates from across the North, including Nunavut and the NWT. YEU Vice President Paul Johnston joined UNW President Todd Parsons and NEU President Bill Fennel on a panel to explain the resolutions, constitutional work and financial proposals their respective committees had worked on.

Candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency stopped by to introduce themselves and do a bit of campaigning. YEU Delegate Charlene Smith reports that Northern delegates asked the question “what will you do for us if we vote you in?”

Presidential candidates vowed to visit remote northern communities and talk to members about what they need from the PSAC. None claimed to be experts on the north, but all expressed their intent to stay open to the needs of the region, and to try and learn from the members – the real experts.

YEU delegate  Derek Yap was honoured to be asked to join two other activists in singing Oh Canada and Solidarity Forever to open the Convention. He did a great job, and we were all very proud!

Day two is the start of the real work, the business of Convention with debates on resolutions, finance, constitution and more on the agenda for the coming days. We will let you know things are going, and share stories of our delegates in action.

Solidarity Forever!

 

 

 

YEU Delegation Prepares to Attend 2018 PSAC National Convention

We are only a few days away from the National Convention of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. As usual, the Yukon Employees’ Union will send a delegation of activists to Convention to represent us at the national level. Our delegates hail from six Locals, and reflect the diversity of our union.

Members of our Executive have played key roles on several Convention committees, meeting over the past several months to discuss resolutions, finances and more. Their contributions will continue once we reach the Convention floor in Toronto.

Senator Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be the Keynote Speaker on Monday April 30th, a speech certain to be moving and memorable. In fact, the week’s agenda is packed with resolutions, plenary and committee sessions, regional caucuses, after hours educational opportunities and speakers.

YEU will provide daily Convention updates which we hope you’ll follow. Look for Live Facebook video feeds and regular posts from the floor. Make sure to like the YEU’s Facebook page, keep up to date at the PSAC’s Facebook page and follow the twitter feeds of both the Yukon Employees’ Union and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. If you want to keep it simple, just follow #PSAC2018 on Twitter and you’ll see it all.

PSAC National President Robyn Benson is retiring, and a number of activists have announced their candidature. The field of candidates is diverse and exciting, with a representative cross section of Canadians offering their skills and experience to lead this dynamic organization through the coming years.

Stay tuned – follow the hashtags and watch for our regular updates. We want to be sure our members see the big picture – your representatives working for you at the PSAC 2018 National Convention.

 

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?