No FAIR! The unfortunate race to the bottom for worker rights.

school-lunch

Imagine a school lunch room – hungry kids eagerly opening lunch boxes and bags, ready to dig in. Over at a corner table, a group of kids sit with meager lunches; some have nothing to eat at all. When you consider this image it’s not hard to imagine how you’d feel. Most of us would want to do something quickly for the kids without enough to eat.

Now picture this; the same lunch room, the same kids with healthy lunches and the same kids with little or nothing to eat. Imagine the lunch room monitor throwing away the nutritious lunches because others don’t have as much, saying it’s just not fair that some should eat when others are hungry.  If some have to suffer on next to nothing then everyone should suffer.

The argument that no-one should have more than the least fortunate of us is an increasingly common, divisive and destructive argument.

In this story, unionized workers are the kids with the healthy lunches. The more you hear from the right wing media the more you’ll believe that the economic difficulties faced by western society are all because of greedy union workers. The facts are that corporations have rights similar to those of individuals, that pay levels for CEO’s have ballooned & ballooned again over the last two decades and that powerful corporate lobbies influence and control our governments. We hear again and again how unions are too big, too strong, too powerful – how unions have destroyed the economy, ensuring that jobs are moved offshore, taking with them all hope for advancement and prosperity of the middle class.

The reality is that prosperity and the middle class came to be in North America because of unions. Collective bargaining secured the things we take for granted.  Those advantages will disappear completely with the destruction of unions and the labour movement.

Whatever your opinion of unions it would be difficult to imagine any corporate agenda that would choose to spend any more on worker rights and benefits than absolutely necessary. If unions would simply step out of the way and stop demanding health & safety provisions, liveable wage certainty & health care benefits, more profit could be earned for shareholders and CEO salaries could be even higher. Why would any employer choose to give paid vacation leave if it didn’t have to? Why ensure new mothers can take time off to care for new babies? Removing hard won benefits and lowering salaries in unionized sectors will only encourage private sector and non-unionized employers to continue the downward trend; offering ever lower wages, fewer benefits, part-time jobs and no pensions.

Unions protect workers. Unions create higher standards for all workers, whether they are in a union or not.

In a just society, we try to make sure everyone has what they need; we try to raise people up with dignity. The lunch room analogy is an illustration of the race to the bottom we see so much of these days – the argument that because some don’t have much, nobody should have anything. It’s a mean spirited analogy; a mean spirited belief. It goes against the core values of most of us in this country. When we stop to think about it,  is blaming unionized workers and trying to strip them of their rights any different than throwing out a lunch? Let’s try instead to make sure that everyone has access to a living wage, to health care, to dignity and security. It’s not a free lunch; it’s fair.

Employment Insurance in Canada; Hitting Rock Bottom

To mark the first contributions made to the unemployment insurance fund more than 73 years ago (July 1, 1941), the Public Service Alliance of Canada launched today “Employment Insurance in Canada: Hitting Rock Bottom”, a short animated video on the decline of the EI program over the last 25 years. Please share!

Share the video and find out more at http://weareallaffected.ca and http://notothecuts.ca

PSAC North Convention 2014: a Photo Gallery

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Thank you to the staff of PSAC North’s Regional Offices, those from National Office and from BC.  Thank you to all the delegates who committed their weekend to the governance of PSAC North, and thank you to all those who put their names forward to stand as nominees for elected positions. We are stronger for your efforts.

PSAC North Convention delegates elect new leadership

Congratulations to YEU activist and Executive member Jack Bourassa, elected Sunday as the PSAC North’s new Regional Executive Vice-President of the North. Jack will spend the next three years working in all three Northern Territories, representing workers from all three components.

Jack moves into his new role with the same commitment he brought to his union work with YEU. We look forward to working with our new REVP! Alternate REVP is sister Marie Buchanan, delegate from UNW in Yellowknife.

Jack at mike convention 2011      Strong Yukon labour leaders

Regional Director for  Yukon Debbie Paquette & Jack Bourassa

jack and family good

Jack with his wife Alysa and family.

PSAC North Health & Safety Rally Friday June 7

Rally and March to protect Health & Safety legislation for workers

PSAC will march in support of strong worker protection and Health & Safety legislation. Join us 11:45 am Friday June 7th as we march from the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre to a rally in Shipyards Park at the site of the new Worker’s Memorial.

 

 

What’s Happening at the Bargaining Table?

bargaining team mugThis is a busy year for contract building, with many of our bargaining units at the table now. We have recently ratified the first ever Collective Agreements for Help & Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake, while Many Rivers Counselling & Support Services workers are voting this week on a tentative agreement reached in early May.

  • Members at Yukon College ratified their three year CA late in 2013. An Education Fund has been established to financially support members wishing to further their education. A joint classification committee has been established to review job descriptions for all levels of college staff.
  • Negotiations at the City of Dawson are well underway. The next bargaining meetings are scheduled for mid-June 2014.
  • Flight Attendants have been in negotiations with Air North for almost a year. The next set of bargaining dates are scheduled for the end of May. Some of the key issues for this group include scheduling and hours of work.
  •  Yukon Hospital Corporation bargaining input call has recently gone out for workers in Yukon’s hospitals. Members have been invited to submit their bargaining proposals and will be electing a bargaining team in early June. Their Collective Agreement expires August of this year.
  • Negotiations with the Yukon Energy Corporation began last year. While considerable progress has been made on a number of issues there are still some key items outstanding. The Union applied for mediation in early spring which did not resolve the differences between parties. The Union and Yukon Energy Corp. have agreed to proceed to arbitration.
  •  Many Rivers Counselling & Support Services voted on a tentative agreement May 15th.  The negotiations were respectful and built on a renewed spirit of respect following the 2012 strike.

If you are a member of YEU and would like to be kept informed about the bargaining process make sure to provide us with your email address (personal, not your address at work) so we can add you to our update list.

Vote NOW on Canada’s new UNFair Elections Act

Stop by the YEU Booth at the Yukon Trade Show for your copy of this postcard.

Visit the YEU booth at the Yukon Trade Show May 2 – 4th and pick up your copy of this postcard. Send one to your MLA and one to Mr. Harper; let them know how you feel about this proposed legislation.

 

 

Auxiliary on Call; a Tough Gig

It sounds great;  work when you want & take time off when you need it – plenty of flexibility and the freedom to make work fit your life. It’s a great arrangement for some, but working as an Auxilliary-On-Call or AOC for the Yukon Government can be tough and unpredictable.
Over 700 men and women work in uncertain positions across all departments of YG. Their schedules and lives are governed by the telephone; they often don’t know if they’ll be on duty from one day to the next. With no way to predict work schedules, family life and sleep patterns are often disrupted. Many AOC’s work in justice and health care and the shifts can come at odds with a regular work rotation. It’s not uncommon to finish a night shift, sleep a few hours and be called in for a day shift the next morning, followed by a few hours’ sleep then another night shift.
When AOC’s are posted into longer term positions, they work alongside permanent YG employees, but don’t enjoy the benefits or advantages of regular employment. There is no sick leave for AOC’s, and vacation pay is added to each paycheque. That means the extra pay is usually absorbed into the costs of living, and time off work means living without a paycheque.
Medical and Dental coverage is very different; unlike regular employees, AOC’s are paid a flat sum twice a year based on hours worked as a contribution toward their extended health care costs. That means that while a regular employee can submit receipts for orthodontia, physio or glasses and receive reimbursement, an AOC must absorb those costs; the twice yearly payment is not a reimbursement. There’s a big difference at the pharmacy counter as well; the cost of prescriptions isn’t covered as it is for other YG employees.
For many AOC’s there’s the added challenge of always being the new kid on the block, learning the rhythm of new colleagues and new team dynamics each time you go to work.
AOC’s fill an important role in government workplaces, providing on-call relief when employees call in sick or must take unplanned leave. Though terms should be hired when there are longer leaves planned, AOC’s are more and more frequently being called on to backfill positions of many months’ duration. While the work and regular pay is welcomed, the inequities between AOC and regular employee benefits becomes more noticeable in these longer posts.
YEU is committed to making sure Auxiliary workers aren’t being misused in positions that should be filled by regular or term employees. LOU “S” in the new CA ensures the employer and union will meet every 6 months to monitor YG’s use of AOC’s. Where possible we want to encourage YG to hire more regular employees to fill the gaps AOC’s now fill.