Farewell, 2015

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This has been a busy and productive year for the Yukon Employees’ Union. Not without its challenges, 2015 offered YEU opportunities to stand up for Yukon Hospital Corp workers and Yukon’s school bus drivers. We saw new workers choose us as their representatives on the job as we organized new Locals in Haines Junction & Whitehorse. Dawson City employees joined forces with YG workers in the Klondike region to form a brand new super-local and we were BUSY!

We welcomed new staff to YEU, held training events & joined you in celebrating some important milestones. Our 50th Anniversary observance spanned the year and culminated in a great party in November. We bbq’d, skated, watched films together and celebrated Human Rights. Our members came for training, joined PSAC Committees and helped bring about important change in our communities. Thank you, YEU members. You are an inspiring group of individuals and we’re proud to work hard for and with you all year ’round.

From all of us to all of you, Happy New Year. May 2016 bring you health, happiness and peace.

Best Wishes,
Yukon Employees’ Union Staff & Executive

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An Open Letter to Mike Nixon, Yukon’s Minister of Health

As a nurse,  I can’t believe your response to issues raised by ourselves and the NDP concerning the Community Nursing branch.  I’m amazed at your lack of understanding of the realities healthcare professionals face in our rural communities and I shake my head at your blasé attitude toward the health & welfare of rural Yukoners.

As Union President, I am now more worried than ever for the health of nurses in the communities who tell us they are struggling and suffering. Whether your recent comments were based on misinformation, naiveté, arrogance or indifference you’ve misrepresented and manipulated the truth.

Let me take a few moments to point out where you’ve missed the mark.

  1. Nurses in communities are leaving their jobs or choosing not to return to Yukon for new contracts. Your response that you’re “working with the YRNA on recruitment & retention” tells me you haven’t done your homework. Have you investigated why there is such a high rate of turnover? Your numbers were wrong as well; 2 nurses have chosen to retire and another 3 have simply given up…quit; not your stated 1 retiree and 1 resignation. Sure, turnover happens but the spike in resignations and retirements with more certain to come should have your alarm bells ringing. Community Nursing is in crisis. In my opinion, morale is the lowest it`s been since the service was devolved from the Federal Government.
  1. Nurses worked alone in rural health centres for 182 days from March until the end of August. In one community, the health nurse worked alone for 52 days over the busy summer tourist season. Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada which allows a nurse (and a community) to be placed in that dangerous position. Working alone places nurses at greatly elevated risk of injury, violence and fatigue and increases the odds of error, putting patient safety at risk. No other first responders are expected to work alone; no firefighter, no RCMP, no-one.
  1. You assert that Yukon nurses have never worked alone in a community for longer than five consecutive days; not true. That’s the result of flawed accounting of the true hours worked. The clock stops after five days; weekends aren’t counted–even when nurses work through the weekend-and stat holidays aren’t calculated. And though you may not be counting weekends, you’re certainly paying for them as overtime costs skyrocket.
  1. Although you stated (incorrectly) that YG employs 40 community nurses, your staff corrected that number to 32. In fact, there are only 22.5 staffed nursing positions to serve the needs of rural Yukoners. Although there are 4 “float” positions to act as backup staff, those positions haven’t been filled for years. You tell us there are currently 11 vacant positions; that means the Yukon Government needs to hire 50% more nurses simply to meet its own required staffing levels. That’s not normal turnover; that’s a critical failure to manage operational needs.

Putting the numbers aside, there are problems in Community Nursing that need scrutiny. In my opinion, high turnover in such a critical area indicates serious systemic malfunction.  Prolonged position vacancies, chronic recruitment/ retention problems and the departure of committed long-term employees mean something is wrong. I suggest you take a look at how things are working at Community Nursing and get things fixed before something awful happens.

Our members are talking. They’re talking to each other and they are certainly coming to talk with us. There are real problems in Community Nursing that this letter cannot address. You need to show some leadership and make it possible for these exhausted and under-resourced professionals to continue to provide the high quality care they are trained to provide.

One more suggestion: If you genuinely care about your employees and the health of rural Yukoners, get out from behind your desk. Travel to each health center – I’ll even drive you myself. Have open and honest conversations with the nurses. Allow them to speak freely without fear of reprisal or recrimination. I think you’ll be surprised at what you learn… unless of course you already know but are choosing not to act.

Steve Geick, President, Yukon Employees’ Union, Proud Community Nurse

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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Sick Leave: Ours to Protect!

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PSAC Launches Online Member Survey

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The Public Service Alliance of Canada launches an online membership poll

PSAC will soon be conducting an important poll of the membership as part of its ongoing process to ensure that your voices are heard and that your priorities are reflected in the work of our union.  Members of the Yukon Employees’ Union are component members of the PSAC and may be contacted to participate.

Environics Research Group, a well-known and respected polling firm, will be conducting the online survey for PSAC, asking questions about union priorities.

Here are some things you should know about the survey:

  • The survey will be sent by email to members whose email is up to date in our database as as of January 20, 2015.
  • A random sample of members from all of our union’s bargaining units will be contacted.
  • Members who are contacted may accept or decline to participate in the survey.
  • The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
  • Individual information collected through the survey is confidential.  Also, responses are anonymous – at no time will the opinions of individual members be identified.

If you receive an email to participate in the survey, we hope you’ll click yes. Your opinions are important!


Sondage électronique des membres de l’AFPC

 L’AFPC réalisera bientôt un sondage de grande envergure auprès de ses membres. Vous aurez ainsi l’occasion de vous exprimer puisque le travail de votre syndicat doit être le reflet de vos priorités.

Environics Research Group, une maison de sondage bien connue et respectée, sera chargée du sondage électronique.

Points à retenir au sujet du sondage

  • Le questionnaire sera envoyé par courriel aux membres dont l’adresse courriel se trouve dans la base de données syndicale le 20 janvier 2015.
  • On communiquera avec un échantillon de membres de toutes les unités de négociation.
  • Si l’on communique avec vous, vous êtes libre de refuser de participer.
  • Le sondage devrait prendre environ 15 minutes.
  • Les données personnelles recueillies dans le cadre du sondage sont strictement confidentielles. Vos réponses et opinions demeurent anonymes.

Si vous recevez un courriel vous demandant de participer au sondage, nous espérons que vous accepterez. Votre opinion est importante!

Here’s looking at YEU in 2015; thanks for a great 2014!

steve elizabeth food bankThis has been a busy year. We have welcomed workers into the YEU Hall from four new bargaining units. These, our newest members, have made the sometimes difficult decision to pursue unionization as a means to an equitable workplace. 2014 saw us announce the certification of Help & Hope for Families in Watson Lake, Takhini Transport bus drivers, the municipal workers of Haines Junction and the support staff of Teegatha’Oh Zheh.

In each case, unionizing was a decision made by the employees and they approached us for help moving forward. We are grateful that they look to us for assistance in crafting contract language to improve their working lives.

YEU had our Triennial Convention in October; we welcomed new faces to our Executive and bid a grateful farewell to several outgoing elected officials. Loralee Kesler served three terms as our elected VP, and we wish her all the very best as she begins her next adventures. Brother Blair Andre (Brother Bear) has stepped away from our Executive, as have Sister Girlie Austin and Brother Mark Bowers. We are grateful for their long service as activist Directors on the YEU Executive.

We also bid farewell, in a way, to our long time activist Jack Bourassa in June when he was elected Regional Executive Vice-President of the North for PSAC. He has relocated with his family to Yellowknife but his work is pan-northern and he will continue to be a fixture in the Yukon through his term as REVP.

YEU has seen several staffing changes over the last year, as we say adieu to long time staffers and welcome new faces and energy. If you haven’t popped in to meet everyone yet, please do… we’re a friendly bunch and the coffee is always on.

Looking ahead, we’re excited to launch into 2015. This year will mark the 50th Anniversary of this small northern union. What began as a small regional group of upstarts challenging the status quo has evolved into a much larger group of upstarts challenging the status quo…. Some things don’t really change I guess!

Our community involvement continues, and I’m very proud of the work done by our activists, Locals and even staff over the last year. We have participated in events that bring attention to some serious issues nationally and locally. We have helped raise awareness, funds and food for the Whitehorse Food Bank and honoured Human Rights Day with a series of meaningful talks. Our activists work on committees that are out there doing real work all year long, often without any acknowledgement or reward. We thank them, and invite all of you to join a committee or come out next time we join a community challenge.

The year is shaping up to be a busy one internally for YEU as well. We have a lot of work planned; there are issues we plan to address in the delivery of training for our Shop Stewards, in the support offered to our Locals and more. As always, we appeal to you… the members, to guide our work. Here’s an invitation to join a training discussion for Stewards January 22nd; if you’re a Steward, PLEASE find time to attend. If you wonder why your workplace doesn’t have a Steward, call us.

And hey… if you came out to one of our events in the last year, thanks! Our plan is to carry on. In fact we’ve proudly made donations once again this year to a number of local groups. We also plan to keep that up.

This is, now as it was 50 years ago, YOUR union. YEU is a small but mighty union, and we are bucking the trends. While other unions shrink, we continue to grow in strength and in numbers.

So here’s to you this holiday. We wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and Solidarity Forever!