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

Bargaining, Dissent & Democracy

dissent

Working together is not always easy – it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about family relations, getting along with colleagues, working well with managers, or maintaining positive union connections. It can be hard to see eye to eye. Sometimes it’s even harder to remember we’re all on the same team, working for the same goals.

During bargaining, these relationships can get especially strained. Colleagues might not agree on what’s important enough to ask for at the bargaining table, negotiating teams may disagree on the best approach at the table or on the mandate the members have given. Union representatives walk the line between what the members demand and what the employer will give, trying to get the best deal for the bargaining unit without causing irreparable harm to the ongoing workplace relationships.

The thing is, sometimes there’s no easy way to get from a place of conflict to a resolution. Communication helps, in fact it’s often the only thing that really does help. Sometimes though, you don’t have the freedom to communicate the way you’d like. Sometimes you try but there are too many barriers in the way.

Unions negotiators are in a unique position. They may have information that they can share with the bargaining team but not the membership at large. If confidential details from their discussions at the table leak out, the entire process of bargaining could be jeopardized and the negotiations could be stalled.  Members of a bargaining team are required to uphold the confidentiality of the information they acquire at the table, and the consequences of breaching that trust are enormous to the members.

Each workplace is different and each round of bargaining takes on its own personality. What can members do if they don’t understand what’s happening? How can you register dissent if you are not happy with the process, the outcome, the messaging or the agreement your team has reached?

Put yourself in the shoes of the bargaining team, first of all. Recognize the time and effort they have put into the process on your behalf.  It’s hard to face down your employer at the table. You don’t have to agree with everything the team puts forward, but it helps if you can recognize the work, and their good intentions.

If you don’t understand what is in a tentative agreement or don’t think the team has gotten close enough to the deal you’d hoped for, speak up. Vote against the agreement at a ratification meeting and state why on the back of your ballot. Have a conversation, write a letter, make a phone call, ask the questions. In short, participate in the process.

You don’t like the direction your team is going this round? Step up. Provide bargaining input next time. Nominate yourself or someone else who shares your values to the bargaining team. Unions are democratic organizations. You can complain all you want, you can be pro or con, but unless you get active and engage, you’re not making anything happen, for good or for ill.

Recognize too that your team does everything they can and your negotiator takes the employer as far as they’re willing to go. It’s not in a negotiator’s  training to leave money on the table, to let a question go unasked or to fail to try for everything the members have requested.

Democracies are uncomfortable, crunchy places sometimes. Open dialogue and discussion is not always smooth sailing but it’s necessary and important. If you are happy, great, let’s talk about that. If you’re not happy, let’s talk about that. Like any kind of conflict, you have to take your concerns to the right place. Facebook, the coffee room… maybe that’s not the right place. Sure it feels good to vent, but what difference are you going to make, really?

Got a problem? Have a question? Like what’s happening, don’t like what’s going on? The right place is right here. Give us a call. 867-667-2331, 1-888-YEU-2331, contact@yeu.ca.

We’re listening.

Steve Geick, President of YEU

The Boss Wants your Medical Records? Call the Union …Quick!

your-medical-history

All of us at YEU are concerned for the privacy of YG employees and the protection of their personal & private medical history.

Sometimes workers must provide their employer with medical information to access a workplace accommodation or receive benefits. The right to privacy is quasi-constitutional, meaning it can’t be set aside or trumped by other policies or rules, so any exceptions to that right must serve a legitimate purpose. Any information shared has to be handled with extreme caution. An employee’s medical condition must have a genuine impact on their work, affecting attendance or creating performance issues. Without a significant impact, the employer does not have a right to medical information- period.

Employees seeking a medical accommodation are obliged to provide some information to the employer; we don’t dispute that. The information must be limited to prognosis and limitations or restrictions that would affect your ability to perform your job. Often though, there is uncertainty about what the employer is entitled to, and how they should be using and protecting this information. Your diagnosis is your business, not your employer’s. Requests for information or history beyond what is genuinely needed are invasive;  employees can never be sure who will see their private information once it has been provided.

We know of many instances where the Yukon government has collected extensive medical information on employees, far beyond what is required to access benefits or develop an accommodation plan. In several cases, information about other family members has been collected and shared – clearly without their knowledge or consent. Over time, these reports have been copied, e-mailed and viewed by many people in various government departments as well as other service providers.

This should never be allowed to happen; it can be very distressing for the workers involved, and is a significant concern for the union. Many employees do not ask for the union’s help at the beginning of the accommodation process, and end up providing a lot of unnecessary and deeply personal information to their employer.

An employee should share medical information only when absolutely necessary, and only the information absolutely required to reach an accommodation. Any general requests for medical records should be refused. The employee should also refuse to authorize any employer representative to speak with their doctor directly. A reasonable alternative is to have the employer write their questions out so that the employee can discuss it with their doctor and consent to specific disclosure.

YEU has asked the Privacy Commissioner to examine Government of Yukon’s processes around collecting, using, sharing and retaining medical information related to the disability management and accommodation process. In the meantime, we can help employees navigate the inquiry and accommodation processes and support employees in protecting their privacy.

Employees should contact YEU before agreeing to share any medical information. Call 667-2331

Trans at Work; Dignity & Discrimination in Yukon

Trans-at-work-Dignity-&-Discrimination

This week we have seen discrimination at its ugliest, its most vile. We watched in horror as news broke from Orlando Florida of the hate-inspired murder of so many at a gay nightclub but this is only the most recent in a long list of attacks.  While we may try and label those as random acts committed by crazed killers, the truth is that systemic discrimination and inequality maintain an environment where such hatred can flourish. The fact that media is hesitant to call this a hate crime illustrates the pervasive discrimination this community consistently faces.

The Liberal Government has introduced legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination and hate crimes. The bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender expression or identity. Prime Minister Trudeau stated “Far too many people still face harassment, discrimination and violence for being who they are. This is unacceptable”.

YEU has been working alongside our trans and gender non-conforming members, urging employers to ensure difference does not preclude employment, workplace safety or dignity. A system designed without thought for those outside the strict male/female binary ensures trans workers face discrimination at every stage of their employment journey.

Within the corporate structure of YG, workers regularly encounter incidental discrimination in the form of old policies, language and practices established before anyone considered inclusion as an objective. That type of discriminatory practice and language is not difficult to remedy, if the will exists.

From the moment an employee receives their offer of employment, they are forced into a system that makes all gender identities besides male and female invisible.  To accept a job with YG, individuals must log in through an online portal and select a gender from a drop down menu – the options are Male, Female and Unknown. For a worker who is clear in their gender identity, “Unknown” is an affront. This is gender-based, systemic discrimination.  Even the forms required to access medical leave or to request accommodation offer two gender options; male & female. In cases where a trans worker is seeking accommodation, the forms required for accommodation cannot be completed.

Some expressions of intolerance are more overt.  Trans or gender non-conforming workers are afraid to be themselves in the workplace for fear of bullying or jeopardizing career advancement.   The workplace culture permits supervisors to use their own personal discomfort with others’ gender presentation as a reason to restrict access to training, to promotion, to employment itself.   In strict gender dichotomous work-sites, the need to accommodate workers is seen as too great a burden and employees are at risk of being performance managed out of work. Of course other reasons are given officially, but it’s easy to see prejudice at play. A tranPULSE study from Ontario notes that 13% of transgender people report they have been “constructively dismissed” for being transgender.

Some employers are doing a better job. The City of Whitehorse has initiated required LGBTQI Welcoming Workplace training for all staff in an effort to create an equitable work environment and to ensure clients don’t experience discrimination when accessing City services.  Yukon College has taken steps as well through Transgender Remembrance services. Private employers like Starbucks have policies & literature educating employees on the sensitive use of pronouns, and are quick to act in support of a worker who faces discrimination from colleagues or a supervisor.

Until the Human Rights Act is amended to explicitly include gender identity and expression as protected grounds, trans and gender non-conforming Yukoners are covered under the protected grounds of sex.  Employers must respect that trans workers need to be in safe and appropriate work situations. Forcing them to identify gender at every step of their process, demanding doctor’s verification of gender identity, encroaching on dignity through intrusive and unnecessary procedural systems is a violation of the Human Rights Act.

Yukon Employees’ Union invites the Government of Yukon to act as a model employer. Create gender neutral washrooms and remove the need to identify gender. Entrench policies and procedures which recognize some workers are gender non-conforming, trans, inter-sex and 2 spirited. Work collaboratively with the trans community to identify where gaps exist and how best to bridge them.

Recognize that accommodation requests from trans employees are not intrinsically medical in nature and stop demanding medical certificates for non-medical issues. Acknowledge your responsibility to protect workers, no matter their gender identity, under the Human Rights Act.

Yukon Government is re-launching a diversity training program through the Yukon Women’s Directorate entitled GIDA, Gender Inclusive Diversity Analysis. The GIDA documents state “Good public policy works toward ending discrimination in Yukon society and creating a society that includes everyone.” Sadly the document refers to intersectionality & inclusion while only ever referencing women and men, boys and girls. There is not a single reference to trans or gender non-conforming individuals nor any mention of those who exist outside the binary. Even this training program, designed to help identify & eradicate discrimination, discriminates.

An authentic culture of inclusion will benefit our Yukon community far beyond the workplace doors. We challenge you to create a new standard of equality and inclusion to help diminish hatred and violence.

PTSD & Work: The Link is Clear

ems parkas.jpg

It’s time for Yukon’s legislation to catch up.

The Ontario legislature has unanimously passed a bill making it easier for first responders with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Under old Ontario legislation (similar to current Yukon law), first responders diagnosed with PTSD were required to prove to the WCB that they had suffered either a specific traumatic event or a number of cumulative traumatic events that caused their PTSD.  This process involved reliving the events to prove they were traumatic enough to cause PTSD.  The WCB or employer would often ask intrusive questions about the worker’s personal life to see whether the PTSD might have another, non-insurable cause.  The process could be long and emotionally destructive, leading to delays in treatment and worsening of symptoms.

This new legislation will change all of that.  Ontario’s new bill ensures that if a first responder is diagnosed with PTSD, the WCB presumes the PTSD is caused by their job.  This will save injured workers from having to relive trauma  and should provide more timely access to support and treatment.  The bill is an important step toward removing the stigma carried by first responders suffering from PTSD.

Finally, governments are recognizing that first responders are real people with normal reactions to the sometimes devastating things they face on the job.  They are required to attend scenes of injury, violence and death, occasions of destruction and loss. They do what most of us cannot even imagine.

It’s time to recognize that our firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, dispatchers, Correctional Officers, Youth Justice Workers, Community Nurses and others face difficult and traumatic events regularly at work.  We need to show our support, and pressure the Yukon Government to amend our Workers’ Compensation Act. Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta have amended WCB legislation to include presumptive Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder language and New Brunswick is close behind. It’s time for the Yukon to show our first responders that we see their struggle.

Add your voice to the story; email Minister Mike Nixon, Minister Responsible for Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Board  and ask him to bring this issue forward.

Farewell, 2015

V2-steve_for_cartoon27

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

photo-YEU-Dec-2015-Newsletter-cover-page-for-email