Non-Profits & Yukon Employees’ Union: A Note from the President’s Desk

Steve new camera

 In the last few years YEU has seen a marked increase in the number of workers employed by non-profit groups who wish to organize their workplaces.
YEU does not have an organizing budget or organizing staff and we don’t go out into workplaces looking to organize them. Workers come to us looking for information, for support and assistance. Sometimes those organic internal organizing drives are successful and we sign a new bargaining unit and sometimes the workers aren’t interested or ready to unionize. Either way we’ve learned a lot from our new non-profit groups.

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Teegatha’Oh Zheh Bargaining Team

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to unionize a non-profit. After all, those who work in such organizations often choose to do so because the organization’s goals align closely with their own belief systems.  Few pursue a career in a field populated by non-profits and NGO’s because they expect to make a lot of money; that decision is usually driven by a deeply held conviction or interest. The truth is these organizations often have precarious budgets and suffer from lack of long term financial certainty.

So how on earth does bringing a union into the mix help a precariously funded not for profit organization? Well, there are lots of reasons to unionize and money isn’t always top of the list. In fact it’s almost never the main reason groups decide to organize.

Many of our new smaller units are governed by volunteer boards. A Board of Directors provides oversight and direction to an Executive Director (in some cases), who manages staff. The problems we see often stem from the challenges created when well-meaning directors attempt to make human resource, policy and management decisions without a background in human resources, policy development or NFP management. Decisions made for financial or ideological reasons can impact staff in ways that are unexpected and negative.

Inviting a union in helps to establish a structure that benefits all parties who contribute skill and energy to the function of the NFP. A well-crafted contract ensures the needs of workers and management are met, and roles and expectations are clear. It also creates a fair and predictable workplace – an enormous advantage in what is often an otherwise unpredictable environment. And a secure workplace means less turn over of staff, which is more economical.
Last weekend I attended a Talking Union Basics course. It was exciting to see so many people taking this union fundamentals course and especially rewarding to see members from our newer locals attending union training.

The one thing that stands out for me about our Union is that we are a truly democratic organization. That commitment to democracy is evident from the moment employees decide they want to organize and join YEU; a majority of workers must sign cards to be granted union certification with the federally regulated Canadian Industrial Relations Board. From that moment on,  decisions like what goes into their collective agreement, whether to accept or reject that collective agreement are in the workers’ hands.

 

I want to recognize the workers of Help & Hope for Families, Teegatha ’Oh Zeh and Skookum Jim Emergency After Hours Outreach Services for devoting endless hours to an organizing process that can feel extremely frustrating at times. To you and to those groups quietly working toward union certification, I say congratulations & welcome to YEU.

Steve Geick, President

Yukon Employees’ Union

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.