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.

Sick Leave: Ours to Protect!

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Yukon School Bus Drivers… on the road to nowhere?

Yukon School Bus Drivers have been trying to meet with their employer Takhini Transport since last summer. The employer has flat out refused. Now they’re asking for your help. Please sign their petition; ask Takhini Transport to meet their workers at the bargaining table… they deserve a deal!
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Want to help? Sign the online petition; Ask Takhini Transport to come to the table and negotiate fairly with Yukon’s School Bus Driver’s. It’s time…

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Government of Yukon Workers: Bargaining Input is now open.

bargaining team mugIf you work for the Government of Yukon, your contract is due to be renegotiated. YOU can help craft your next agreement.

  • YOU help determine the priorities of your bargaining team.
  • YOU choose your Bargaining Team!

GET INVOLVED!

Is there something that has driven you crazy about your collective agreement?

Is there a clause in the contract you feel is flawed, lacking clarity or even missing entirely? Submit it!

Submit a Bargaining Input form that clearly spells out the changes you want to see in the next agreement. If it’s something you and your co-workers have talked about, make sure to have them add their signatures to your submission. The more members sign a proposal the greater the chance it will make it to the bargaining table.

YEU members employed by the Government of Yukon can expect a special issue newsletter in their mailbox at the start of May. This mailing will explain all the steps of the negotiation process including selection of your pre-bargaining committee and the Main Table Bargaining Team. All forms will be included in the special mailing.

Get involved in the Bargaining process… stay involved from the bargaining input stage right through contract ratification. The best thing about being in a union is that your working conditions come about through your own participation.

Download the Bargaining Input Form here (Download & print pdf)

Nominate someone to the Bargaining Input Committee here (Download & print pdf)

Stay connected through the blog (SUBSCRIBE TODAY) or visit us at our website!

Yukon Employees’ Union: Yukon, Born & Raised

In November of 1965, Yu1966-1kon’s civil servants were among the few remaining Canadian government employees lacking any form of unionized association. On a Sunday afternoon in late 1965, this union was founded by a dedicated few who sought fair equity and representation for themselves at a time when their government had not even recognized a union for its federal employees. November 21, 1965 saw the formation of the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association. At the Whitehorse Canadian Legion Hall, the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association (YTPSA) was founded.

YTPSA founding members included first President Bob Smith, Directors Jean Besier and Harry Thompson and Ione Christianson. Though initially intended to represent workers in Whitehorse, it was Ms. Christianson who advised that the membership expand to include the rural areas as well. The constitution adopted at the first meeting stated the union’s purpose was “to unite all employees of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the promotion of their several interests and to promote their welfare and the betterment of their economic and cultural interests.” By promoting “a spirit of amity, unity, loyalty and efficiency in the Public Service” and through affiliation as a component of the Civil Service Federation of Canada (CSFC) the group sought the right to negotiate Collective Agreements for their members.

The first order of business for the new union was a pay raise. Working conditions and very low rates of pay at the time contributed to a powerful sense of inequality with both provincial Government employees and Federal workers. President Bob Smith approached Yukon Commissioner G.R. Cameron requesting an immediate 10% raise in pay. The union’s strong argument defending the request was forwarded to Arthur Laing, then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. In April of 1996, thanks to the determination of the group and the “enlightened thinking” of Commissioner Cameron, the YTPSA and its members achieved their wage increase request.News-Photo-First-Yukon-Agreement-Signing1971

This was accomplished without the legal right to bargain collectively on behalf of the growing YTPSA membership. By early 1967, records show that the YTPSA was pressing the Commissioner to introduce Collective Bargaining Legislation. This was denied. At the time, the signed membership constituted less than the required 50% plus one of the eligible 380 employees. The YTPSA was by now a fully accredited Local of the newly formed Public Service Alliance of Canada (previously the CSFC) and it was this association that helped drive up membership numbers.

In 1971, the YTPSA celebrated their first Collective Agreement. The event was marked by the visits of PSAC President Claude Edwards and the PSAC Executive Vice-President J. K. Wylie.

Rates of pay in the 1973 Collective Agreement show that a Key Punch Operator’s wage range was from $6571 to $7607 per year, while a Lottery and Games of Chance Manager could expect a top salary of 16,524. Vacation leave (an important bargaining win) was offered in the sum of 3 weeks leave for the first 5 years of employment, 4 weeks of vacation from the sixth year and 5 weeks for those employees with 15 or more years of service.

There was no dental plan at the time though the employer was seeking a plan provider. Medicare costs were increased in the 1973 CA from a 50/50 premium split to a 60% payment from the employer. Maternity leave was in force; a woman who was pregnant was expected to take maternity leave starting 11 weeks before her due date and ending no later than 16 weeks after delivery. This was leave without pay, and was subject to employer approval. At any time however, “notwithstanding the above, the Employer may direct a female employee who is pregnant to proceed on maternity leave at any time where, in its opinion, the interest of the Employer so requires”. Male employees were offered a day of paid specialteamster-raid-cropsSHORT leave at the discretion of the Employer on the occasion of the birth of his son or daughter. We’ve come a long way!

The YTPSA faced many challenges during its first decades. A determined first raid effort by the Teamsters saw the resignation of the entire Executive in 1975, and was followed by another attempt several years later. There were struggles with the PSAC and internal conflicts amongst elected officials of the YTPSA. All the growing pains however happened alongside the continued strengthening of the Union. As the years passed, new Bargaining Units were certified and the membership grew to exceed 5000 members and more than 20 different employers.

We’ll be telling more of the history of YEU over the coming months; we hope you’ll check back. If you were part of the story please contact us toUnion-Boss-Survives-1985 share what you remember. There are many gaps in our records of those early years.

YEU, YGEU, YTPSA has a proud history. We were born in the Yukon, raised in the Yukon. Our story is not one of a group of workers “organized” by any big outside force. We did this for ourselves, by ourselves. YEU developed largely independent of the guidance and structures that were available to other unions.   Our leaders were hardworking and flawed without a doubt, but they pressed on through mistakes as they learned how to achieve their collective goals. We are grateful for their solidarity.

Call your Union…it’s really OKAY!

call your unionWe often hear fear in peoples’ voices when they phone the union hall for the first time. There’s a hushed voice at the other end of the line, reluctant to make the call, afraid of negative repercussions. We ask for a name and there’s a pause… a beat while the caller considers whether it’s safe to give their real name. We are accustomed to getting just a first name.

When we ask for details about the problem, we have to be patient. Sometimes the story comes out in tiny, vague pieces. Afraid of giving too much away, details are disguised and identities are masked. While we may get to the real story and names eventually, it requires careful listening and a lot of reassurance. There is fear that by calling your union you have set in motion something you can’t control.

There are a few things you need to know.

  • You are allowed to talk to your union!
  • Your information is confidential.
  • We will never, not ever, contact your employer without your express permission.
  • If you have a meeting with a Shop Steward, they are bound by the same rules of confidentiality that we are here at the Union Hall. They are trained, knowledgeable and discreet.
  • Sometimes the problem you are experiencing at work is not grievable; that’s a fact. Your union rep will help determine whether or not there are grounds for a grievance. If there are, the decision to proceed is yours.
  • If, after discussion with your union rep you choose to file a grievance, the process will be explained to you fully before any action is taken. You need to be comfortable with the way things progress. No grievance will be filed on your behalf without your consent & participation.
  • If you choose NOT to file a grievance or proceed with any action, that’s okay too. Sometimes all you need is someone objective to help you see things more clearly.
  • If you are called to a discipline meeting with your employer, you have a right to union representation. Call us as soon as you are told of a meeting and we will make sure you don’t go into it alone.

Your Collective Agreement is a big document. It may seem daunting but it’s worth a read. Your workplace probably has a Shop Steward or union representative who can take some time to go through things with you if you’re not sure. If you don’t know who to call, then please call us. We’re here to help. If you are a YEU member in the Yukon, you can call us at (867) 667-2331 or visit yeu.ca to find our toll free number. And of course you can always email contact@yeu.ca.

YEU Celebrates 50 years; 1965-2015

News-Photo-First-Yukon-Agreement-Signing1971“It is time for an imaginative, courageous, and positive approach to salaries, [and] working conditions.”

Bob Smith, YTPSA President 1965

On a Sunday afternoon in late 1965, a group of Yukon civil servants gathered together in the Whitehorse Legion Hall. Having long felt they were not offered the same treatment as their federal colleagues, the Yukon workers wanted change. They met to adopt the constitution of an association uniting the collective interest of all Yukon Territorial Government employees.

Living standards were dropping as salaries failed to keep pace with the rising costs of living in the North. Salaries fell victim to inflation with a difference of over 40% in food costs between Whitehorse and Edmonton. The results, especially in communities outside of Whitehorse, were evident. Public Service morale in Yukon was down and staff turnover was constant. Looking to improve the lives of all YTG employees and their families, the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association was founded.

In the early months of the YTPSA,  documents note the Union’s immediate goal was to achieve a pay increase of 10%. Although lacking collective bargaining rights, they sought through their negotiations to provide a higher standard of living for their members. In a letter addressed to then Commissioner G.R. Cameron, YTPSA President Bob Smith wrote that it was time “for an imaginative, courageous, and positive approach to salaries, [and] working conditions.” By April, 1966, they were successful in achieving their wage recommendation.

This is the first in a series of articles sharing the history of the Yukon Employees’ Union, now celebrating 50 years. Follow http://www.theunionbillboard.com to receive regular updates.