For years, the terms Brother and Sister have been used by unionists to call together our community. Continue reading
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 Sick leave is a negotiated benefit; it can’t be withdrawn from a contract and arbitrarily decided upon by either side.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.
What is the “duty to accommodate”? Human rights legislation protects the right of all workers to be free from discrimination on the basis of a disability. In the workplace this means an employee has the right to be “accommodated” so they can continue to work despite restrictions or limitations.
Have you ever wondered how it’s possible for someone to be “appointed” to a position you thought or hoped you might get at work? Was there an opening coming up, a possible promotion or new challenge you wanted to take a shot at, only to find the position filled without a competition being run? It may have been an “accommodation”.
What is an accommodation? Simply, in terms of a worker with a disability, an accommodation is an adjustment to the employee’s job, duties, workstation, tools, schedule or hours that allows the worker to maintain employment. It is an employer’s duty to accommodate an individual suffering from an illness, injury or disability which might make it impossible for them to perform some or all the duties of their substantive position.
What is an accommodation NOT? An accommodation is NOT a handout. It’s not favoritism, it’s not an abuse of the system and it’s not cheating. It’s not something being done TO the co-workers of the accommodated worker and it’s not something done in conflict with the Union. Everyone at the workplace has a responsibility to support an accommodation.
In a unionized workplace, the employee, union and employer have duties and responsibilities in the accommodation process. The employer has a duty to inquire when there is a reason to believe the employee may have a disability. This duty may be triggered by changes in behaviour, performance or attendance. The employee has a duty to disclose that they have a disability that may need an accommodation, and to provide sufficient medical evidence on their restrictions and limitations to support the process. The union has a duty to support accommodations; they may need to authorize adjustments to hours of work or exemptions from the usual hiring practices.
What is the role of co-workers in an accommodation? Union members are obliged to treat their co-workers with respect and to cooperate with accommodation efforts in their workplaces. While it can sometimes appear someone has been given preferential treatment in terms of duties, equipment, flexibility or exemption from competition, it’s important to understand there may be an accommodation in place. A work environment with supportive and accepting colleagues helps disabled workers feel safe. It’s also important to remember that co-workers are not owed full disclosure about an accommodated workers’ medical condition or issues. All workers can expect their privacy to be respected.
A successful accommodation requires the active participation of the employee; they are obliged to maintain communication with their doctor, employer, disability manager and union. The employee must accept that the accommodation will be imperfect; a role will be found which suits their skills and knowledge as closely as possible.
Experienced workers provide enormous value to any workplace; they hold tremendous corporate memory and organizational intelligence. Workers with disabilities, injuries, addiction or illnesses do not cease being valuable when they face personal challenges. When you think about it, it’s good to know that accommodations will be made for you, should you need them.
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.
Rally and March to protect Health & Safety legislation for workers
There has been a lot of talk about convention delegate selection lately. Do you wonder what that means? Who can be a delegate? We asked Loralee Kesler, YEU’s Vice President and a long term union activist about the convention delegate experience.
“The first time I was nominated I was really nervous; as a first time delegate I worried I wouldn’t understand the process & wouldn’t represent my co-workers well. After convention, I felt really proud of the work that we did. I’ve now attended 5 YEU Conventions, 2 PSAC North, 4 PSAC National conventions and 2 at CLC National.
If you’re member in good standing you can be elected at a meeting of your local. You will receive a delegate information package about a month before convention to help you prepare for the sessions. Although it’s a confidential document you can ask your local or the YEU office for clarification. You will easily learn the rest as we go along.
There are many times that new delegates have stood on the convention floor and, with fresh eyes have made very solid suggestions for the betterment of all. I’m sometimes asked if you have to be an “activist”? What is an activist? Our activists come in all shapes and sizes – if you feel a kinship to what the union stands for, then you’re an activist.
Before convention we a hold training session to help new delegates understand parliamentary procedure and rules of order. My first couple of conventions I was confused about some of the “convention speak” – once you understand it, things get easier. YEU has accepted a clear language resolution which makes a big difference!
I love conventions; we decide the direction the executive committee will take in the next term, and they are accountable to the membership at the next convention. If someone out there is curious but unsure and their local hasn’t had delegate selection yet – I encourage them to call me with their questions.
Delegates give direction to the component for the next term; it really is a grassroots, democratic organization. This is your union, your leadership needs your direction for the term. It’s important for locals to fill their quota so there is a fair representation of your local at the convention. Consider this, in a local of 2000 members, do you really want only 10 delegates there representing your interests when you could have 40 delegates speaking out?”
That’s a pretty good point. If you haven’t already considered the possibilities of union involvement, maybe it’s time!
This 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.