Bill C-27 and the Threat to Your Pension

egg-in-basketAhhhhh, retirement! You’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever you’ve been dreaming of for years. You’ve planned, you’ve saved and made sure you had your financial ducks in a row before your last day on the job. Thankful for work that offered you a rock solid pension, a deferred payment plan for your post-work years, you’ve contributed for a long time.

Well fasten your seatbelt, friend. Thanks to a new bill introduced by Trudeau’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, your defined pension plan is not safe… even if you’ve been retired & collecting your pension for years.

Bill C-27 promotes the establishment of target benefit plans, long considered far inferior to defined benefit plans. If passed, the legislation will permit employers to buy back your defined benefit plan in favour of less expensive (for them) annuities, so long as they have approval from the retiree. And while it seems unlikely that a retiree would agree, if the conditions were right and the pressure was strong, it could happen.

Bill C-27 looms as a real game-changer for Canada’s retirees and workers. For some, the pensions they worked for throughout their working lives are at risk of being fundamentally changed, even after the fact.

I urge you to learn more about Bill C-27. We’ll be in communication with MP Larry Bagnell to ask him to take a stand for all workers, especially those in private federally regulated industries. Many of our members in Yukon stand to be affected by this change, if it goes ahead.

Yukoners from the following Locals will be impacted by this legislative change:

  • Yukon Arts Centre      
  • Yukon College
  • Air North Flight Attendants  
  • Yukon Energy Corporation
  • Yukon Hospital Corporation    
  • Town of Watson Lake
  • City of Dawson            
  • City of Whitehorse

We believe that once the shift is made from defined benefit to target benefit plans, there will be no going back. Few employers will see any need to maintain or sign on to the far superior defined benefit plans.  The erosion of retirement security for Canada’s seniors continues, and with it the erosion of worker rights and the hopes of our young workers for a secure future.  

The Liberal Party did not campaign on allowing employers to pressure workers and retirees into “surrendering” their pension rights. In fact, it signaled to voters  that it would protect these rights. The government has no mandate for this extreme legislation.  

Already, beleaguered workers have begun to shrug their shoulders and say things like “well, we’re just lucky to have any pension at all”. WHY? Pensions are supported by the employer and the employee… part of a contracted benefit package that includes a portion of salary held for later. It’s not a gift, it’s not a luxury and it’s not something you should expect to lose. Solidarity is needed if we hope to defend pensions; we should not be afraid we’ll lose it all if we object.

Workers need to stand together against these constant erosions of your rights now, if we hope to shore up any hope of pension security for young workers at the beginning of their work lives.

If the legislation passes, the precedent will be set and other employers can be expected to quickly follow suit. Join us in calling on Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell to help stop this bill; email Larry.Bagnell@parl.gc.ca.

In solidarity,
steve-geick-signature-dec-2011

Steve Geick, President
Yukon Employees’ Union

Creating Community Guidelines for Union Social Media Groups

Does your Local have a Facebook page? Perhaps a small group of workers have created a closed group where they hope they can chat more freely in a private setting?

It is very important that the group or page administrators create and enforce community conduct guidelines for everyone’s protection.  Nothing on Facebook (or anywhere online) is truly private or safe from sharing, no matter how tightly you try to regulate the participants or the posts of its members.

How can something posted in a private, closed group make its way outside the group? Screenshots are the most common, but even photos with closed sharing restrictions can be downloaded or saved, and shared as easily as any other picture. Online activity may be grounds for dismissal so guidelines and their consistent enforcement are critical.

Here are some considerations when creating your guidelines:

  • Define the purpose of the page or group clearly in a post pinned to the top of the feed.
  • Make sure everyone knows who the page administrators are: provide easy contact info and be quick to respond to private messages flagging risky content. Ask members of the group or page to look out for each other online; if someone sees a questionable post, privately communicating with the poster (if possible) quickly can help minimize risk.
  • Make sure all group/page members know what to expect. If you intend to remove posts, make sure you’re clear in the guidelines about what would trigger the deletion of problem content.

What is problem content?

  • Profanity, offensive or violent language, defamatory comments about individuals or the employer.
  • Trolling; intentionally disrupting or hijacking conversations with abusive talk or off-topic comments.
  • Threats, threatening language, harassing or attacking comments directed at individuals or groups (again, including the employer or manager).
  • Discriminatory statements relating to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political beliefs, ability etc.
  • Sexually explicit material or links to sexually explicit material, sexual comments or innuendo.
  • Discussion of illegal activity.
  • Spam etc.
  • Discussion of confidential information relating to a client, patient, co-worker, student etc.
  • Disclosure of business information you should reasonably expect to be confidential or proprietary relating to your employer or place of employment.

Consider who will take over management of the group or page if the original administrators leave, move away etc. An unmonitored page is both a wasted opportunity to communicate and a risk. No matter what guidelines are in place, some people will not play nicely. Be prepared to take action in case of inappropriate activity on the page or within the group. It’s a matter of protection for all who participate in the online community.

 

Community Guideline Examples:

YEU Shop Steward’s Network is a closed Facebook group for our elected Stewards. Here are the guidelines we have posted for that group:

COMMUNITY GUIDELINES; PLEASE READ

This group allows YEU/PSAC Shop Stewards an opportunity to access information specific to the Steward role. This is a good place to share ideas and thoughts with your fellow Stewards to strengthen and support the work.

NOTE: This is not the place to post specific details of ANY grievance or member conversation, confidential information etc. Please make sure you maintain your Oath of Confidentiality in all communications, online and in person.

2 Questions to ask yourself before you post:

  • Does it build Solidarity?
  • Is it respectful?

If the answer to either question is ‘No’, please think of another way to phrase your post that supports the above 2 questions.

Posts may be removed if they are contrary to the spirit of these guidelines.

Members may be removed from the group if they consistently post in such a way.

If you have any questions about the administration of this private group, please contact YEU’s Communications Officer or Shop Steward Coordinator at 867-667-2331.

 

 

YEU Needs Shop Stewards!

YEU needs Shop Stewards…workers like you who are willing to take some training and be available to help colleagues who need an ear, someone to accompany them to a meeting or to help find a solution to a problem at work.

Who can be a Steward?  Any member in good standing of Yukon Employees’ Union can be a Shop Steward in their Local.

What about training? YEU has created a new staff position dedicated to strengthening our Shop Steward team. New training initiatives will be announced over the next year; it’s a very good time to step forward as a Steward!

YEU currently offers monthly Shop Steward Round Table sessions held the 3rd Wednesday morning of each month. These informal presentations offer opportunities to ask questions and learn from others. The PSAC office in Whitehorse also offers regular training on things like union structure, roles, Local Officers training and more. There is online training available through PSAC’s Education program and workshops are offered by affiliate organizations throughout the year.

Rob-Jones-Y010-President-2016Yukon Government has an employer/union co-facilitated course on the Grievance Process – required training for all YG Stewards which can be accessed by all YG members through the Quarterly. No union leave is required for this training. For other training approved during your regular work hours, YEU reimburses your employer for your time; you will not lose pay to attend.

What will I be expected to do? Your co-workers will likely ask you questions about the contract, the union or their own work situations. Stewards are called by our Intake Officer at YEU to accompany members to fact finding meetings with their manager or supervisor. Your role at these meetings is usually as an observer, note taker and provider of moral support. In some cases and with appropriate training, you may be asked to participate more fully in discussions at meetings, but not until you have received coaching and feel prepared to do so.

Is it all volunteer work?  Most contracts have a clause that permits Shop Stewards to do union work while on the job. You submit a leave form citing the appropriate article from your collective agreement for the time you spend researching or representing a member. Your pay will not be disrupted. Representation work done outside your normal work hours is done on a voluntary basis and is not compensated.

My workplace already has a Steward. Stewards represent workers from their Local, not just from their specific workplace so don’t let that stop you. The more well-trained Stewards we have the better.Teresa-Acheson-Miscal-Avano-Nesgaard

If I make a mistake, will someone lose their job? No. You will have a network of support including our well trained & experienced Union Advisors. As a Shop Steward you will have regular conversations with our staff in order to ensure everyone is working in unison for members.

How do I become a Shop Steward? Each Local’s bylaws are worded differently. Some dictate that Stewards are elected at the Local’s AGM, others allow for nominations and elections at any time.

Your Chief Shop Steward or your Local President will guide you through the process. Once we’re advised by your Local that you’re a Shop Steward, you’ll be invited to our office to be sworn in by our President or Vice-President. You’ll get an orientation to our office, staff and procedures and receive your New Steward’s package. Once you’ve met everyone, you’ll be registered for upcoming training.

Will becoming a Steward make me a target for my employer? Shop Stewards who are well trained and level-headed help create workplaces that function smoothly. Employers recognize the benefit of a union liaison in the workplace and are usually very happy to work with them. It’s in everyone’s best interest to solve problems quickly and cleanly. It is very rare that our Stewards find themselves in conflict with their employer simply by virtue of stepping forward as a representative.

Will co-workers expect me to be an instant expert on our contract, labour law and all things union?
Your role is to ensure members have fair representation and that all pertinent information is recorded, provided to the Union Advisor and kept confidential. You’ll need to get to know your contract but we do not expect you to interpret the agreement or be up to date on all labour issues.Talk to a steward

A Steward needs to be compassionate and organized. The Steward’s role is one of problem solver and witness.

At some point in their careers about 50% of workers call their union. It might be a simple question about vacation leave, a scheduling issue or ongoing and persistent harassment from a co-worker or supervisor. To meet our members’ needs when they need support we need your help. Please call your Chief Shop Steward, Local President or the YEU Office today. Visit yeu.ca for contact info.

Remember; join us the 3rd Wednesday of each month for Shop Steward Round Table training sessions; informal workshops geared to skill building. We also invite you to an informal Sandwich Session at lunch the 1st Tuesday of each month. This is a training fee casual get together just to build our network and get to know each other. Call David Anderson at YEU, 667-2331 or email danderson@yeu.ca

Straight Talk: The Independent Medical Examination or IME

confidential report

If you have an illness, injury or disability that impacts your work temporarily or long term, you may require an accommodation, need extended leave and/or disability benefits. Accessing any of these requires documentation, including proof of your medical circumstances. If your employer requests an Independent Medical Examination or IME, there are a few things to know.

What is an IME?
An IME is an examination by a medical professional who does not have a therapeutic relationship with the patient. Often, the IME doctor is a specialist chosen by the employer, and there is a contractual obligation to provide a report to the Employer on their findings.

When is an IME requested?
Your employer may request information to determine that your illness or disability is genuine and the impact it will have on your attendance. As a last resort and where the Collective Agreement allows, your employer may require you to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME) at their expense.

Why can’t I just provide a Doctor’s note?
Doctor’s notes that say “Can’t attend work for medical reasons” or “off work for 30 days” or “patient needs new supervisor” are not well received. The Union often hears of employees denied access to their sick leave benefits because their medical notes are seen as insufficient to prove they are or were unable to perform their duties because of illness or injury. Similarly, notes that reflect numerous restrictions may compromise the employer’s ability to accommodate the employee.

When a medical certificate is requested, it should confirm a bona fide medical condition, provide information about the nature of the condition, explain your prognosis as it relates to the workplace and your return to work, and list any restrictions or limitations on your ability to perform your duties. Ideally, your medical practitioner will provide objective medical evidence about your limitations as they relate to your job so that your employer can respond with a reasonable accommodation or help you access disability benefits.

Do I HAVE to provide an IME if they ask?
You can refuse to attend an IME, but this may result in delays returning to work or denial of sick leave and other benefits.

When an employee is dealing with multiple or chronic medical conditions, a mental health issue, a substance use issue, workplace conflict or when there is a mix of culpable and non-culpable behavior, it can be more difficult to identify the medical restrictions without breaching the employee’s privacy.

If you are asked to provide consent to the employer to speak with your doctor, you should preview the questions the employer wants to ask and limit your written consent to those questions. Do not consent to open questions such as “please explain…”. 

ASK QUESTIONS! Who will get to see my information? How will my information be used?

You are not obliged to consent to release medical information (medical/family history, test results, diagnosis) to your employer. You have the right to alter any consent form to protect your privacy. There are benefits to an IME, but also some important things to keep in mind to protect your rights and privacy:

Pros:
•Access to a specialist more quickly
•Comprehensive medical exam and report for your treatment provider
•Clarity around your medical condition, treatment and restrictions

Things to think about:
•An IME can be invasive and should only be requested as a last resort, where other appropriate medical queries have not resulted in sufficient information to explain ongoing absence or develop an accommodation.
•Many Collective Agreements oblige the employer to follow the recommendations in the report, which may not be consistent with your preferences.
•You are entitled to your privacy. Your employer does not have the right to information about your diagnosis, test results or your medical history.
•The employer does not have the right to share your medical information without your expressed, specific consent.

When medical issues affect you at work please contact us. Let us help you navigate the system and protect your rights.

Leave Request DENIED!

denied stamp
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.

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.

Straight Talk: Addiction & Accommodation at work.

addictDid you know that alcoholism and addiction are considered disabilities?

A seven year legal battle for two Ontario residents and a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada set a legal precedent on what constitutes a disability under Human Rights legislation. Employees who suffer from an illness or injury that restricts or limits their ability to perform their duties are considered to be “disabled” under employment law; addictions and alcoholism are considered disabilities.

Under the Yukon Human Rights Act, an employer must accommodate disabled employees – this is the “duty to accommodate”.  The right to equality for persons with disabilities is entrenched in Human Rights legislation across Canada.   If an employee suffers from an addiction they may have access to a workplace accommodation while they are recovering.

We say may because the duty to accommodate usually follows disclosure by the employee. The employee may believe they suffer from an addiction but unless this is disclosed, it’s tough for the employer to know what supports are appropriate.

An accommodation can be anything from  altered  hours of work, time off to attend counseling or treatment or even modified duties.  It may mean working in a different position or location. The intent is to reduce or eliminate the risk of further injury or illness, to meet operational needs and to allow the individual to continue working while recovery takes place.

If an employer suspects a medical condition may be affecting an employee’s performance, they have a duty to inquire. This means they may ask the employee if there are any medical restrictions or limitations, or if they have a medical condition they should be aware of.  This isn’t an invasion of your privacy just for the sake of asking; if you are asked, it likely means your employers have noticed you are struggling.

What can you do if you believe addiction is affecting your ability to carry out your duties?  Ask for help! Talk to your family or friends, consult with your family physician and tap into your employee assistance program.

If you believe you need a workplace accommodation, ask YEU for a union representative to help you talk to your supervisor.  Some employers offer financial support to attend treatment programs, follow up counseling or other rehabilitative programs.  All employers have a legal duty to accommodate an employee to the point of undue hardship.

If you’re in doubt about your responsibilities and your rights as a disabled employee or if you have any questions please contact YEU and your human resource branch. There is confidential support available and all levels can work together to help.  For your protection, it makes sense to make sure you have union support when you approach your employer; we will be with you every step of the way.