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

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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

YG’s Increased Vision Care Benefit: When does it kick in?

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The increased vision care benefit negotiated for YG members in the recently ratified contract is not yet in effect.  The union’s team reached consensus with the employer’s team on an increase to the benefit, HOWEVER it cannot come into effect unless and until it is authorized by the Yukon Government’s Minister of Finance.

LETTER OF UNDERSTANDING “X”

CHANGES TO THE INSURED BENEFITS PLAN

The parties recognize that the employee group insurance benefits plan (the “plan”) design is governed by a contract which covers all Government of Yukon employee groups under specified terms and conditions and that the process for recommending any changes to the plan is governed by the Joint Management Committee (JMC) pursuant to the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act.

The parties recognize that any proposed changes to the plan made pursuant to the JMC process will be in the form of recommendations, subject to the authority and final decision of the Minister of Finance.

  1. The parties agree that a recommendation be made to the JMC to raise the vision care maximum to $300 every two years, effective date of renewal.

What does that mean?

The approval will be sought by the JMC at the October 2016 meeting, and a decision returned by the Minister of Finance.

This is the first time we have sought such a change under provider Great West Life, we can tell you that changes can only occur to the plan at the yearly renewal date. That means no change will take place until April 2017. It is still tentative; although these recommendations from the JMC have never been denied in the past, it will not be official or in force until it is signed off by the Minister.

What should you do?

If you need new glasses & reimbursement now, submit your receipt in the normal way for repayment  of the previously authorized amount, $200.  If you can wait for reimbursement, you can also choose to hold off submitting receipts until after the change takes effect in April of 2017.

YEU will update you once we have more information to share.

Sick Leave: Ours to Protect!

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NO Politics with your paycheque?

marchIf you’re a member of YEU, chances are that’s an accident. You got a job in a “union shop” where workers had already decided to unionize, often many years before you were hired. As a new employee you were given a union card to sign and a Collective Agreement – your contract with those who write your paycheque.  Maybe you signed the card and mailed it to the union, maybe you didn’t. Either way, because of where you work you are unionized. You pay union dues and are protected by a collective agreement whether you think about it or not. Maybe you think it’s great to have a union job; better pay, better working conditions and probably a pension. Maybe you don’t give union membership a thought; you get a newsletter now and again and every few years someone tries to get you out to a contract ratification meeting. Whatever; sometimes you notice, sometimes you don’t.

What does it mean to be a union member if you don’t really care one way or another? Is union membership something you identify with? Do you consider yourself “union”? Many of our members don’t like to think of themselves as “union”. We’re curious about that. We’re curious about the kind of disinterest that allows some to accept all the benefits of membership on the one hand while disassociating on the other or worse, calling out unions as bad or selfish, greedy or political.  Most of the advantages we take for granted are the direct result of union membership. We’re not talking about the historical gains of unions long ago but the actions of your union representatives now – every day, every year and through every single round of bargaining. The contract you enjoy is the result of an ongoing act of will – a series of determined actions by colleagues whose names you don’t know. Maybe you do know who they are, in fact, but because they’re “union” you don’t associate too closely with them.

Look around the country at what’s happening to unionized workers at every level of the professional and pay scale. If you pay attention to what’s been happening in to the teachers in BC or to fast food industry workers, bullied and pushed around by huge multinationals making billions in profit you can see that those with the money hold the power. The tide of profitability will carry away workers who are not organized. Being organized, being in a union is the only real power available to workers. Solidarity is not just a song… it’s an adhesive force that allows workers the strength to hold on to what they’ve got. Don’t think for a minute that the benefits you enjoy as a union member would continue unchanged if unions suddenly evaporated. What would possess any employer to willingly eat into their bottom line with the kind of pay and benefits unions have secured?

If you disagree with labour’s political agenda it’s important to think that through. The labour movement IS political by its very nature. The labour movement has had to be a political force since the very first collective was formed. Then as now, no business owners wanted unions to gain a foothold. Intense pressure was put on governments to staunch workers’ power a hundred years ago and that pressure has only intensified.

Business interests, corporations, commercial advocacy groups and industry lobbyists work the political system hard to ensure their way is clear. Legislation is constantly being changed, tweaked or neutered so big business can keep making big money.  They have millions, even billions of dollars to advance their agendas. Unions have to fight back.

Labour will continue to be political; YEU/PSAC will continue to be political because it’s all we’ve got. We must push lawmakers and legislators to keep the needs of workers, of average Canadian families on their collective radars. We won’t tell you who we think you should vote for. We WILL support candidates and parties whose platforms promote workers’ rights. We WILL call out and challenge those parties & officials who ignore the rights of Canadian workers. If Labour stepped out of politics completely, the loudest voices governments would hear would be the strident and insistent demands of those who already have all the power in this country; the corporations.

Maybe you feel your dues shouldn’t go to support any political activity by your union. Maybe you don’t want to read about it in your newsletter or see your union involved in political action in the community. We respect your opinion. We also respect your right to a strong Collective Agreement, to collective bargaining rights and to a decent pension. So we will continue to agitate, advocate and work on behalf of Canadian workers. Labour will continue to push against laws that strip away protections and undermine the ability of unions to ensure our members jobs and lives are protected.

You may not be “union” but if you enjoy a union paycheque, union benefits and the security of a negotiated contract, guess what? Even those members who aren’t “union” – we’ll keep right on fighting for you too.

Treasury Board bargaining; Why it matters to you.

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The Public Service Alliance of Canada and its 100,000 Treasury Board members are at the bargaining table with their federal employers. There are greater than 250,000 public servants represented by 17 unions, all united in a solidarity pact; no one union will give in to the federal government’s concession demands on sick leave. The power of many will be needed to fight the intended assault on negotiated benefits.

Tony Clement has come out swinging, spending Canadian tax dollars to damage the credibility of the opponent….workers like you.  Clement has made it clear he wants to dismantle negotiated Sick Leave provisions and replace them with a new short term disability model. That means contracting out the administration of earned sick leave to a commercial, for-profit organization whose interests will be very different from those of the workers they are meant to serve.

PSAC & PIPSC have filed formal bad faith bargaining complaints against the government for sending “misleading and false” communications to employees.  Rather than bring any demands to the bargaining table, the government announced publicly that it was introducing a short-term disability plan as the key pillar of a new “wellness and productivity” strategy.

Everyone is watching what happens in this tense round of bargaining. If Harper’s team continues to press hard and kill the negotiated sick leave, they will be in conflict with labour law. Sick leave is a negotiated benefit; it can’t be withdrawn from a contract and arbitrarily decided upon by either side.

Treasury Board bargaining seems far, far away and not very important until you consider their contract becomes a benchmark for subsequent negotiations nationwide. Labour can’t afford to stand down on the issue of sick leave; unionized or not, all Canadian workers will feel the effects of the contract between the Federal Government and its public servants.

Yukon Employees’ Union lends our voice to the chorus of support for the bargaining teams and professional negotiators beginning this round. It sounds like a battle is brewing and we know you are up to the challenge. Thank you.

This article by Kathryn May explains it very well, including the clever way the government stripped unions of bargaining power in the last term by slipping anti-union legislation into budget bills.

Read more here from PSAC National President Robbyn Benson.