Welcome to the Next Three Years!

Welcome to the next three years! First of all, I would like to thank the delegates who represented the membership at our recent convention for their faith in my leadership. I heard what you said loud and clear. You want strong representation, fair collective agreements, strong communication and more training.

I pledged to do my best to deliver, and I will do just that. The thing is, I can’t do it alone. To accomplish all those tasks I need the help of many.

Over the last two terms, we have built an amazing team at Yukon Employees’ Union. Our staff is second to none, and it’s largely because of their efforts that so much of the work mandated by the 2014 Convention has been accomplished.

Delegates to the 2017 Triennial Convention have elected a strong Executive, too. I am really looking forward to working with this diverse group, and I’m especially pleased that they represent workers from many Locals, not only the largest.

What can you expect from the new Executive? Top of the list of deliverables will be worksite visits. We are also planning Rand drives – inviting dues paying but unsigned members to sign union cards. Rand drives help strengthen locals, since dues are remitted to the Local based on the number of signed members. Being “in good standing” allows members to fully participate in union business and to access all the benefits of union membership. More and more often we are learning that new hires are not being given union cards to sign by their Human Resources contact, and many don’t have any idea what the union is doing on their behalf. We mean to work on that, starting now.

We know that the challenges to our negotiated contracts are growing in step with national trends. All bargaining units can be assured that YEU is standing with your bargaining team every step of the way. If your collective agreement is due to be renegotiated, you’re in good hands. PSAC provides us with expert negotiators, experienced and strong. Fully resourced teams supported by their members have the resolve to stand firm in the face of ever increasing pressure from employers.

We want to make sure we reach you with our communications. Please take a moment to register to receive updates electronically via email. At present, we have email contact for just over half our members. We will never flood your inbox, and you can always unsubscribe at any time. Visit our website, https://yeu.ca and register for email updates on the home page. Seriously, we can’t grow our ability to communicate with you if you don’t subscribe!

If you’ve signed up for our emails help us out. You all know other Union members; encourage them to subscribe to the digital emails too. If each of you can encourage one friend or co-worker to subscribe, just imagine what we could do! Stay tuned for an announcement: we are planning an interesting little contest, soon to be unveiled.

As president, I hope to work with the new Executive to achieve a lot in the next three years, but I need your help. Please, become involved in your local – you don’t have to hold an elected position. Most Locals participate in community events or initiatives, and they have a budget that consists of a portion of your Union dues. Come out to your local meetings and have a say in how your dollars are spent. Is there an event or cause you want your Local to support? Say so, and then help to get others involved too.

Don’t think your collective agreement is fair? Want to see something different? Come to your bargaining input meetings, learn your collective agreements so you can put forth a proposal. Get elected to your bargaining team.

Consistent feedback over the last decade has been clear; members want education. We are about to begin the process of hiring a full-time education officer. We have commitment from both YFL and PSAC to work with us to provide more Local training.

We have always provided training, but we don’t always see a return on that investment. I hope our new training initiatives result in greater long-term involvement, and members using the training!

What kind of involvement? Well, you could become a shop steward or a training facilitator. Maybe you’re an amazing event planner, or you want to submit a column or article to our newsletter. You could write about labour issues, human rights, or areas you see the union needs to focus on. The point is there are many ways to engage with this vibrant organization, we’re saving a spot for you, in fact!

At the end of the day, I can’t make all of this happen without you. Neither can the YEU staff or the Executive. Together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. You are the Union and without your involvement we will not succeed.

Questions? Not sure how to do it? Not sure why you should? Call me and we’ll chat.

Steve Geick
867-336-2631
sgeick@yeu.ca

An Open Letter to Mike Nixon, Yukon’s Minister of Health

As a nurse,  I can’t believe your response to issues raised by ourselves and the NDP concerning the Community Nursing branch.  I’m amazed at your lack of understanding of the realities healthcare professionals face in our rural communities and I shake my head at your blasé attitude toward the health & welfare of rural Yukoners.

As Union President, I am now more worried than ever for the health of nurses in the communities who tell us they are struggling and suffering. Whether your recent comments were based on misinformation, naiveté, arrogance or indifference you’ve misrepresented and manipulated the truth.

Let me take a few moments to point out where you’ve missed the mark.

  1. Nurses in communities are leaving their jobs or choosing not to return to Yukon for new contracts. Your response that you’re “working with the YRNA on recruitment & retention” tells me you haven’t done your homework. Have you investigated why there is such a high rate of turnover? Your numbers were wrong as well; 2 nurses have chosen to retire and another 3 have simply given up…quit; not your stated 1 retiree and 1 resignation. Sure, turnover happens but the spike in resignations and retirements with more certain to come should have your alarm bells ringing. Community Nursing is in crisis. In my opinion, morale is the lowest it`s been since the service was devolved from the Federal Government.
  1. Nurses worked alone in rural health centres for 182 days from March until the end of August. In one community, the health nurse worked alone for 52 days over the busy summer tourist season. Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada which allows a nurse (and a community) to be placed in that dangerous position. Working alone places nurses at greatly elevated risk of injury, violence and fatigue and increases the odds of error, putting patient safety at risk. No other first responders are expected to work alone; no firefighter, no RCMP, no-one.
  1. You assert that Yukon nurses have never worked alone in a community for longer than five consecutive days; not true. That’s the result of flawed accounting of the true hours worked. The clock stops after five days; weekends aren’t counted–even when nurses work through the weekend-and stat holidays aren’t calculated. And though you may not be counting weekends, you’re certainly paying for them as overtime costs skyrocket.
  1. Although you stated (incorrectly) that YG employs 40 community nurses, your staff corrected that number to 32. In fact, there are only 22.5 staffed nursing positions to serve the needs of rural Yukoners. Although there are 4 “float” positions to act as backup staff, those positions haven’t been filled for years. You tell us there are currently 11 vacant positions; that means the Yukon Government needs to hire 50% more nurses simply to meet its own required staffing levels. That’s not normal turnover; that’s a critical failure to manage operational needs.

Putting the numbers aside, there are problems in Community Nursing that need scrutiny. In my opinion, high turnover in such a critical area indicates serious systemic malfunction.  Prolonged position vacancies, chronic recruitment/ retention problems and the departure of committed long-term employees mean something is wrong. I suggest you take a look at how things are working at Community Nursing and get things fixed before something awful happens.

Our members are talking. They’re talking to each other and they are certainly coming to talk with us. There are real problems in Community Nursing that this letter cannot address. You need to show some leadership and make it possible for these exhausted and under-resourced professionals to continue to provide the high quality care they are trained to provide.

One more suggestion: If you genuinely care about your employees and the health of rural Yukoners, get out from behind your desk. Travel to each health center – I’ll even drive you myself. Have open and honest conversations with the nurses. Allow them to speak freely without fear of reprisal or recrimination. I think you’ll be surprised at what you learn… unless of course you already know but are choosing not to act.

Steve Geick, President, Yukon Employees’ Union, Proud Community Nurse

YEU Human Rights Speaker Series 2014

We are very excited to announce this year’s Human Rights Speaker Series. December 9-12 we offer noon hour presentations addressing human rights & social justice issues which impact our communities every day.  Please join us for lunch as we explore these topics with panelists who really understand the issues.

December 9: Dating Violence: Red Flags & Resources

This discussion will focus on the reality of violent teen and young adult relationships.  We’ll hear some statistics, consider some red flags and talk about what resources exist in our community. How do you tell if your relationship is healthy? What do you do when a friend is in trouble or you suspect your friend is a bad date?  We welcome an outreach worker from the RCMP, a youth worker from BYTE and a representative of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre.

December 10: Housing & Homelessness: What’s at stake, what can we do?

The effects of precarious housing are far reaching. Homelessness is not exclusive to those we deem hard to house, and it affects people across our societal spectrum. We welcome your input in a discussion of the challenge of homelessness. This is not a problem that affects only those who struggle with homelessness; a community that can’t offer its citizens safe and affordable housing cannot grow to its full potential. We’ll have Kate Mechan, an expert from the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, Charlotte Hrenchuk of the Yukon Status of Women Council and the insight of a Whitehorse resident who has lived the experience of being without secure housing.

December 11: Who Feeds Us? Yukon Farmers, Yukon Food!                                                       2014 has been named “Year of the Family Farm” by the United Nations.

Food Security is a buzz phrase we hear often, especially when a highway goes out or a truck breaks down on its way to us; Yukoners depend heavily on food from “away”.  There is a growing movement toward improved sustainability and local production. We welcome pioneer organic farmer, Yukon’s Farmer of the Year for 2014, Mary Girouard of Rivendell Farms.  Tom & Simone Rudge of Aurora Mountain Farms will also be at the table.  As well as his efforts at the family farm, Tom Rudge is a passionate advocate for a GMO Free Yukon, while Simone’s research at the Yukon College’s Northern Research Greenhouse will inform Yukon agriculture for many seasons to come. Matt Ball  is a professional agrologist with the Yukon Government Agriculture Branch. He works closely with many of the farmers in the territory on aspects of soils, fertilizers, growing conditions, research, and market opportunities.  Matt has spent most of his life in the Yukon and drives to help build the agriculture industry so we have local food on our plates and a diversified economy.

December 12: Strong Women Take the Lead

We invite you to a great round table chat with some strong women leading the way. Whitehorse United Church Minister Bev Brazier, Kate White, MLA for Takhini-Kopper King, Educator & advocate for aboriginal youth Marilyn Jensen, and entrepreneur & community leader Patti Balsillie and  will share some of their experiences and ideas on leadership for women. Each representing entirely different types of leadership, we look forward to an interesting and active discussion.

These events are FREE & open to everyone. Seating is limited as our meeting room has a capacity of 45. We are pleased to offer a complimentary simple lunch each day provided by the Bird House Bakery.  If you have any questions please call us at 667-2331.

If you plan to bring a group PLEASE let us know in advance so we can ensure there is adequate seating available.

All presentations will take place in the YEU Hall, Lucy Jackson Training Room downstairs.  Please, join the event on Facebook and we’ll see you there!

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.