Yukon’s Community Nurses Need Resourses STAT!

Community Ncarmacks-health-centre-signursing Stations serve the medical needs of residents and visitors in some of the most isolated corners of the Yukon.  In the absence of multiple healthcare facilities, these clinics offer a dizzying array of services from first response to referral. When doctors visit from Whitehorse, the health centres get even busier. Community Nurses provide prenatal care, counselling, nutrition support, maternal health programming, diabetes education and more.

Year after year more programs are added to the responsibilities of Community nurses with no increase in staffing to reflect the added workload. Consequently, nurses are frustrated and burning out; there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. They are relied upon heavily by local RCMP detachments and work hand in hand with social services and First Nations. In communities with volunteer EMS teams, the nurses must frequently step in to fill the gap when volunteers are unavailable and resources are few.

Nurses are at daily risk of workplace violence. In small communities they face dramatically increased incidences of physical & verbal abuse on the job. Respite is critical to ensure these workers stay healthy. Time away from the intense stress levels of a sometimes 24/7 job can make the difference between doing the job well and suffering a tremendous physical and emotional toll.

In June of this year PSAC’s Regional REVP and National Vice President travelled to several Yukon Community Health Centres with me. Their conversations with nurses in those centPelly Crossing Health Centre signres were sobering.

Despite improvements to Collective Agreement language in recent contracts, the employer continues to deny earned vacation leave to exhausted nurses, citing “operational requirements” and lack of staffing.  Staffing levels are a genuine concern. When a nurse works an on-call shift rotation lasting up to 10 days, the resultant lack of sleep and downtime can be nearly debilitating and there’s often no relief in sight.

Nurses tell us that vacant positions remain un-filled; medical centres that are intended to be staffed by 2 nurses at all times frequently rely on a single nurse with no back-up. A 7 day work week is the rule and not the exception and a knock on the nurse’s door at home in the middle of the night is all too common. No matter how far in advance leave is requested it is often denied simply because there is no-one available to cover. Nurses often seek coverage themselves, in fact, before applying for vacation.

These nurses fill a vital Meadow-with-mug CMYKrole in the communities they serve. Their level of personal sacrifice is testament to their degree of commitment and professionalism, but there must be relief in sight.  As YEU and YG enter bargaining this year there is hope that some of the chronic issues plaguing Community Nursing will be resolved.

Unfortunately there is only so much we can accomplish at the bargaining table. The issues Community Nurses face will only be resolved if the Yukon Government steps up, takes notice and shows the political will to do so. Nurses simply cannot continue to provide the level of care they so desperately want to, that all Yukoners expect and deserve, with ever dwindling numbers and little hope of meaningful change. YEU’s voice and the voice of the nurses will only go so far. If you live in a community or have ever had to rely on this amazing group of professionals I urge you to write to your MLA, the Premier, the Minister of Health and any other entity that will listen. It’s your health, your family’s health and that of the nurses at stake.  Ultimately it’s up to the politicians to ensure adequate healthcare resources are available to everyone…especially those providing the care.

In the meantime, we salute all nurses for the important and difficult work they do.

Steve Geick, YEU President
& Proud Community Nurse

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Feeling silenced? As a public servant, how outspoken can you be during this campaign?

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This Federal Election is unlike any we’ve seen before. It’s the longest campaign ever but it’s also taking place during something of a communications revolution. Sure we had Facebook  during the 2011 Federal Election but we hadn’t yet hit the user density of today and we hadn’t yet heard of things like Snapchat & Vine. Few Yukoners were tweeting in 2011 and we still naively believed that our privacy settings guaranteed us some degree of…well, privacy!

A lot has changed. Most of us are skeptical about how private our posts are, and we should be. What we say online in our off-work hours can have a profound negative impact on our careers. The recent suspension & subsequent retirement of scientist & public servant Tony Turner after his protest song Harperman went viral is a case in point. To be fair, it’s not only public servants who are felled by their online activities; in this election we’ve witnessed a never ending parade of disgraced candidates whose tweets and status updates have made short work of their political aspirations.

Bruno Thériault, director general of Justice Canada’s workplace branch recently sent a memo to the employees in his department. The memo, heavy handed and intimidating, sends the message that public servants should avoid using social media altogether during this election.

“Recent memos being sent to federal public service workers seem designed to discourage our members from exercising their legitimate rights”, says Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada PSAC). Read Ms. Benson’s blog post “We shall not be zipped” here.

Union members and all employees have a right to freedom of expression protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even if they work for the federal government.  Expressing political opinions or sharing political content on social media is a form of political expression and is protected by the Charter. Online political expression does not benefit from any greater or any less protection than other forms of political expression. You have the right to share political content on Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts as long as you do so outside your hours of work and you don’t use the employer’s equipment.

These rights are not absolute, so please consider the following carefully before you post, share, or tweet.

1. Don’t identify yourself as a government employee or include information or comments that suggest you are a government employee. Make sure your social media profiles don’t list your place of work or employer.

2. Consider your level of visibility and influence. Are you a supervisor? A public face of your organization?

3. Are you a union representative? Union representatives have greater freedom to engage in political activities however union representatives cannot make any comments about their employer that are reckless, malicious or dishonest.

So what’s the bottom line? Speak your mind, have an opinion, engage in the democratic process and be involved. While you’re at it, be wise, prudent and circumspect. And above all else, VOTE. Self censorship is only necessary in an atmosphere of mistrust and fear. Elect a government you do not fear.

Leave Request DENIED!

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It’s been a long year – you’ve been crazy busy at work and you can’t wait to take your vacation.  You’ve made plans; maybe even booked a plane ticket and started looking for a house-sitter. It’s time to start counting down the days ‘til you hit the road.

Then you hear the dreaded words … your request for leave has been denied. You’ve got the leave in your bank and there’s no question – you need the break, but your supervisor cites “operational requirements”. Suddenly your plans are washed away like a sandcastle at high tide.

The words Operational Requirements can be a magical get out of jail free card for an employer. This phrase is often used to cover a number of situations including costs of overtime, challenges planning workload etc., but it’s your employer’s responsibility to anticipate and plan for operational needs. They’re required to organize their business so employees can exercise their Collective Agreement rights, including leave entitlements. When considering leave requests, supervisors must consider the employees’ interests and balance them against the Employer’s need to continue doing business without an appreciable loss of production or efficiency.

So what can you do when you’ve been denied, you’re exhausted and desperate to get out of dodge? Can you file a grievance? Should you try and negotiate or should you throw yourself on the floor kicking and bawling ‘til they beg you to take leave?

1. First of all, don’t book the seat sale tickets unless your leave is approved. Telling your supervisor “I’ve already booked tickets”  will not help you.

2. If you work in specialized field, a field that tends to be under-resourced or a workplace that has predictable busy times, plan ahead.  Get your leave request in early; there’s not much your manager or union can do for you when your request comes in last and everyone wants to be gone for the month of July.

3. Watch the calendar; if you’ve submitted your leave request and you don’t hear back within the number of days prescribed in your collective agreement, your leave may have been approved by default. (Most CA’s require your employer to approve deny your leave in writing within a couple of weeks of submission). Follow up with an e-mail confirming that your leave has been approved.

4. Call YEU and speak with the advisory staff. While refusals to grant leave are most often not grievable because of the circumstances or because there is no remedy to be granted, don’t assume that “operational requirements” ends the conversation. The employer has obligations under the Collective Agreement, and we are here to ensure those obligations are met fairly.

Why Are YOU Voting This Year?

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In the 2011 Federal Election, only about 61% of Canadians went to the polls. Stephen Harper & his Conservatives were able to claim a majority victory and form Government with only 41% of the vote, which translates to about 25% of the population of Canada. That’s not a real majority in any sense of the word. If an election is decided by those who choose to show up, it’s equally true that the outcome can be decided by those who choose to stay home.

Choosing not to vote does impact election outcomes; in fact it’s often the same as casting a ballot for a party you don’t support. Taking the time to educate yourself may feel like a hassle but voting is a right that many have struggled to gain. Whether or not you believe your vote matters on the national scene it surely matters in the Territory.  Ryan Leef was sent to Ottawa on the strength of 131 votes. Those 131  votes made a huge difference.  In our small Yukon riding even a very few individuals can have a profound impact on the outcome of an election.

In October of 2015 we urge you to vote. Who gets your vote is up to you; we hope you ask tough questions and consider the good of working people and families, of the environment and the social fabric that we hold dear as Canadians. We also hope you take the time to review the platforms of the candidates and their parties.  41% of Canadians should not carry the future of this country. It’s up to all of us to join in and move Canada forward.

Look for YEU at the Fireweed Community Market Thursday afternoons in August; we will have our voter registration kiosk set up. Not sure if you’re on the eligible voter’s list for the 2015 election? Please stop by and check. More than 50% of those who stopped by on July 30th discovered (to their shock) that they were NOT registered, despite having voted in many previous federal elections. It’s worth checking out. If you won’t be at market, make sure you visit www.elections.ca and check for yourself.  Enumerators are NOT coming door to door this election to make sure you’re on the list… it’s up to YOU!

Download the poster and print it out for yourself. Why are YOU voting?need-change

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
Abraham Lincoln

HOT New Home Heating Fuel DISCOUNT for YEU/PSAC Members!

Heat truck isolatedYEU is very excited to announce that we have negotiated a heating fuel discount of 3 cents/litre off Heat Yukon’s fuel delivery market rate for our members! The discount will apply whether you choose auto-fill or on-call service.  Heat Yukon is proud to offer contract free delivery; you’re never locked in to service, there is no cancellation penalty and they offer flexible payment options including email money transfers.

Launched in August of 2014, the 100% Yukon owned heating fuel supply company has really taken off. With a focus on terrific service, flexible options and great pricing, Heat Yukon has quickly established a terrific reputation and a broad customer base.

The small group of partners are very proud of their 100% Yukon owned status; even the supplier of the fuel they deliver is wholly Yukon owned. With a staff of 5 and growing, managing partner Douma Alwarid and her team are excited about the future. The goal is to provide customer service unparalleled in the Yukon.  Douma says “fuel is fuel… anyone can deliver fuel. We want this to be a good experience for our customers”.

With the purchase of another fuel delivery truck and service partners in *almost every Yukon community, they are poised to make that happen.

If you choose the auto-fill option, Douma tells us the savings are most pronounced. There is an automatic 4 cent/litre reduction off market rate for those on auto-fill, and the additional 3 cent/ litre discount makes for a pretty great deal.  The average Whitehorse home uses about 3000 litres of fuel per year, so over a long cold winter the savings could really add up.

Here’s how to get the YEU/PSAC member discount:  Logo HeatYukon-md-all

1.  You’ll need to provide your YEU/PSAC Member Number; it’s on your membership card. Don’t have one? Call our office or email contact@yeu.ca to request a new card. Our staff will provide you a “Member in good standing” letter to use while you wait for your new card.

2.  Visit http://www.heatyukon.com, call Heat Yukon at 633-3322 OR email sales@heatyukon.com and decide which service suits you best. Not sure you want to commit? Try their on-call service and decide. No pressure. As Douma says, Heat it UP!

At YEU, we’re always looking for ways to improve life for our members.  To learn about OTHER YEU member benefits, visit http://bit.ly/YEUMemberBenefits

*not yet available in Dawson (sorry!)

A Little Straight Talk about Workplace Discipline

disciplineIn the context of employment, discipline is the employer’s corrective response to a workplace issue, usually related to your performance or behavior. While Employers have the right to discipline employees, there are a number of questions that must be asked and answered before an employee is sanctioned.

First, the employer must establish that you did something “wrong” or acted in a manner that warrants discipline. In most cases, you will be invited to an investigative meeting so that the facts of the matter can be established.  For most employees covered by a Collective Agreement, your right to representation by the Union starts here. Call us for representation.  While some employees choose to go through this step alone, it’s important to remember that if the right questions aren’t addressed at this stage, you may receive discipline that is either not warranted, or more than you deserve.

You have the right to know what you are being disciplined for, and to present your side of the story.

When discipline is being considered, there are a number of factors that the union will insist the employer examines including:

• Did the employee act willfully?
•Was the employee properly trained?
• Has the employee received previous discipline?
• Are there mitigating circumstances?

If the employee’s actions warrant discipline, the next question is “how much is enough?” The employer’s corrective response should match the employee’s actions; discipline is not intended to be punitive. The union will look at whether the amount of discipline is in line with the offence and whether discipline has been progressive.

Progressive discipline provides a graduated range of responses to employee performance or conduct problems. Disciplinary measures range from mild to severe, depending on the nature and frequency of the problem. It is important to keep in mind that your employer is not obliged to follow a specific path; some conduct warrants substantial discipline regardless of the employee’s prior history.

Sometimes it’s not clear whether you’re receiving discipline, or coaching, or a verbal warning. If you are in doubt, or you are called to a meeting that might lead to discipline, call us; 667-2331.

Strike Vote, Recession & the 9 Day Fortnight.

yg-hours-cut-aug-6-1982-star Yukon’s economy was in free fall in 1982. The hard rock mining industry had collapsed, mines were shuttered and the territory slid into recession. Hundreds were out of work and recovery looked bleak.  It was against that evolving backdrop that the negotiating team of the YTPSA met with  the Yukon Territorial Government in early 1982.

Still battling wage disparity and the high cost of living in the north, YTPSA opened salary negotiations with an 18% pay raise demand. This was met with a resounding NO by the government who offered 13.5% and no more.  The union and employer battled it out at the table but reached impasse when the government’s offer was rejected by the union. Internal conflict within the Union saw the resignation of 2 of 3 YTPSA bargaining team members.

In May of 1982, Government leader Chris Pearson withdrew the salary offer and chided the union for its attempt to “insulate public servants from the economic environment which provides their livelihood”.

Following the decision of a conciliation board, the Union recommended ratification of a contract containing an increase of 10.2%. A territory wide ratification tour followed, and the ballot boxes returned to Whitehorse to be counted. But while the union was getting the contract ratified, the politicians refused to accept the conciliator’s recommendations. No deal.

YTPSA didn’t bother opening the ballot boxes. Instead, they grabbed new ballot boxes  and hit the road again. This time though, they were looking for a strike mandate; they got it – over 80% of the membership voted in favour of a strike.
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When they returned to Whitehorse, strike vote in hand, both sides met again at the bargaining table. This time they agreed on a 10% raise  and the deal was signed.

Meanwhile, the economic realities of a territory without a hard rock mining industry could not be ignored.  Soon after the contract was signed, the landscape shifted again.

Government leader Chris Pearson rose in the legislature to say “Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the current economic recession is having an impact on Yukon and its people far beyond anything that could have been foreseen six months ago.

The closure of the United Keno Hill mine at Elsa in combination with the closures already announced at Whitehorse Copper and Cyprus Anvil constitute a disaster to the Yukon economy as well as to the mining personnel themselves and their immediate communities. It will be no surprise, therefore, that the Government of Yukon has found it necessary to undertake a program of retrenchment in order to bring our spending plans in line with the financial resources available”.

On August 6, 1982 Pearson announced that the Yukon’s Public Service Union had agreed to the government’s proposal, cutting civil servant’s working hours by 10% as a cost-cutting measure. This cut would be in effect until March 31,‘83 and could save the government $2 million.

Pearson’s “9 day fortnight” program was clever; the pay increase was cancelled out by the reduction in hours worked. YG’s Main Administration building and other administrative offices shut down every second Friday. Thus, most employees’ pay cheques remained unchanged while they enjoyed a long weekend every other week. The union faced little choice; cut backs or lay offs, the government needed to cut costs.

Our thanks to the Yukon Archives for Whitehorse Star records and to past President Dave Hobbis for his recollections of this interesting period in YEU’s history.