In Support of A Living Wage

 

Yukoners who rely on minimum wage earn $11.51 per hour. And that’s before any tax comes off the top. Yukon workers deserve better than minimum wage – they need a living wage. Most minimum wage discussions tend to go down the path of cost, instead of decency. Let’s take a quick look at the cost side so we can better understand the argument for decency.

Let’s envision a worker putting in 60 hours a week at two different minimum wage employers (with no overtime). At the current minimum wage, and after taxes, their take home is just under $33,000 a year. Let that sink in for a moment.

Given the recent rent survey completed by Yukon Bureau of Statistics, let’s assume our worker is single and pays the average rent for all types of rental units, $1,184.00 per month. Over a year, that total comes to $14,208.00. Nearly half of our worker’s income is gone in rent.

I could go on, but I imagine folks can predict where this math leads. Come year-end, a worker with one full-time and one half-time job has been able to little more than meet their survival costs.

The decent alternative to the minimum wage is a LIVING WAGE.

In Yukon, a living wage is calculated as $18.26 per hour – a substantial jump from the $11.51/hr minimum wage. This figure takes into account the true cost of living in the north, factoring in the high rents, higher cost of living and realities of the northern economy.

The minimum wage was introduced in 1975 to prevent the exploitation of women and youth in the workplace. Over time and in practice, minimum wage has served to do the opposite. Most minimum wage positions are now occupied by adults, especially people of colour and new Canadians. Minimum wage earners often support families, working two or more jobs to do so.

The living wage is designed to lift individuals and families out of poverty and into a place of greater economic security.

Times have changed since 1975. Business interests have formed powerful lobby groups which are often given the same or greater rights as people. What has been lost along the way is the understanding that businesses exist to meet the needs of the people. If people can’t afford the costs of goods or services, then businesses will starve and die.

Making decisions on how much people should earn based on the cost to business, is indecent.

Providing workers with a decent income will result in greater financial freedom, and increased spending on goods and services. People who aren’t on the knife’s edge of poverty have a much better quality of life, lowering costs for our health care system.

The benefits to our communities would be many, and the businesses paying higher wages would benefit from a stronger economy – the positive effects of increased wages have consistently proven to outweigh the costs. It’s time for Yukon government to make the decent choice, and support low-wage earning Yukoners.

Justin Lemphers, President
Yukon Federation of Labour

Read the letter to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver sent by Northern Labour leaders.

Download a copy of the postcard petition in support of the #LIvingWageNorth campaign

Visit #LivingWageNorth web page

The Letter of Expectation: What Does it Mean?

Rob-Jones-Y010-President-2016

The fact finding meeting is over; you may never hear about the issue again, or the employer notifies you that they have come to a conclusion and you’re called for a follow up meeting.

During the meeting your supervisor reads out loud and presents a letter of expectation (LOE);  welcome to the performance management stream and the right of the employer to reaffirm the roles, responsibilities and accountability of your position within public service in Yukon.

Firstly, a letter of expectation is not discipline.  While it may feel like discipline (and trust me I know this feeling, having been through this process), it is not intended to be, nor is it a disciplinary action. 

A properly formatted letter of expectation should clearly outline the issues the employer has identified that need to be rectified, the changes they would like to see, the timeline for this change and the support and resources for assisting with process.

What happens after I receive this letter?

This is a shared responsibility; you as a public servant have been advised of your employment expectations and you should seek to meet the mark. It will feel like there is extra scrutiny on you and this is natural and actually accurate, but not in the “I’m gonna get you” way. 

After an LOE is delivered the employer is watching you, not to note your failure but to ensure your success.  It is incumbent on the employer to assist you in meeting the requirements of your position and the expectations that have been outlined. 

YTG (the employer) needs to provide access to support and resources to ensure you are successful.  Bear in mind  you are a big part of this success and it is incumbent on you to meet the requirements of your job contract with YTG. As the cliché goes it takes two to tango and for the most part you are the lead in the dance.

 How long does the LOE stay in my file?

As letters of expectation are not discipline they are not part of your file.  When it comes to your “file” you only have one and this is held at the Public Service Commission (you can make an appointment to see your file with PSC if you would like to review your public service employment file).  

Your LOE will be held by your supervisor and will not be in your “file” but will be kept for reference for the timeline provided in the letter.  An LOE will be deemed complete at your next PPP (Personal Performance Plan) provided the issues have been resolved and have not continued.  Now, if the behavior in the letter continues, this can open up the disciplinary stream (which I will cover in another post).  But we all know that this won’t be an issue……..right?

 A few other details….

 Letters of expectation do not always come from fact finding meetings. Employment behaviors can be noted and dealt with outside of fact finding meetings and delivered at the discretion of the employer.

  • Union representation is not required at the presentation of an LOE as they are not disciplinary, however, it is recommended by YTG that if it will be of benefit to the employee YEU representation can be in attendance.
  • As always, if there are questions or concerns call the YEU office at 667 2331 or call me directly at 334 4331, remembering there is a timeline for issues of approximately 20 days, so call early and get the answers.

 Yours in solidarity,

Rob Jones

rob jones

President, YEU Local Y010

 

 

The YG Fact-Finding Meeting; What to Expect

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It’s another day at work, everything seems to be going well and it’s shaping up to be a good day.  Then it happens; you receive a request to attend a meeting the following day and your supervisor advises that you are entitled to bring a union representative to the meeting!

What has happened? Why won’t they tell me what the meeting is about? What are the specifics? Aside from being frustrated that you can’t have these questions answered, being called to a meeting relatively blind is also incredibly stressful.

You have been called to a fact finding meeting.

Fact finding meetings are a very common and normal occurrence in Yukon Government workplaces.  When a supervisor or manager receives a complaint or incident report involving a staff member, they are required to investigate – this means they need to talk to you and get your version of the incident or event. If you have been asked to such a meeting, you must attend.

The fact finding meeting is based on the premise that there has been a problematic event or incident of some kind. The employer needs to ask questions to determine what happened. You might not be directly involved; you may have witnessed the incident or have information that may help to make the situation clear.

These sessions are not meant to be punitive, but should offer space for an open and honest dialogue on the event being discussed. These conversations can feel incredibly stressful for the employee and may feel like a cross examination, but that is not the intent. Your union representative will be there with you to protect your rights.

Why do I need a union representative?  It is incumbent on the employer to advise an employee of the need for representation if there’s any chance of discipline down the road.  Discipline is not always involved, but the employer cannot deny a member representation then dole out discipline after the fact; this goes against the principles of the Collective Agreement as well as the principles of natural justice.

Why won’t they answer my questions about the event or incident before the meeting?  Well, this is twofold; while they may state “we are going to be discussing event ABC” they cannot discuss the actual event outside the meeting. Firstly the employer would like to see unchecked, honest reactions to the questions posed.  Secondly if the employer engages in this conversation it may be construed as part of the fact finding session when the employee has not yet had an opportunity to secure union representation.

These meetings are usually less than an hour long, depending on the events and issues at hand.  During these sessions the employee, the employer or the union representative can ask for a break to have discussions or sidebar chats.  These meeting should be, and for the most part are, very respectful and smooth.

What can I say? What can’t I say during these sessions?  The intent of these fact findings is to bring the facts to light.  The employee is responsible to be open, honest and accountable. Your union representative is there to protect your rights and ensure proper process is followed, but they are not defense attorneys and will not be using legal gamesmanship to avoid the issues at hand.

This is a meeting about FACTS, not about what you may think of a situation. Avoid deflecting accountability by drawing others’ poor behavior into the conversation.  The employer may ask what others thought or said, but you should avoid commenting on how you believe others may think or feel about the incident or parties involved.

Do I get to have my say in the meeting? Of course – this is not a one sided barrage or cross examination.  During the meeting you will be asked several times if there is anything else you would like to add. This is the time where pertinent items to the event can be offered if they have not been addressed in the questioning.  This however is not the time to deflect accountability, point out others’ poor behavior or inject supposition or rumor into the meeting.  Your additions should be factual, pertinent and meaningful.

It is also likely that the employer will have investigated the issue by chatting with other employees named in the event.  These sessions are confidential and private, and employees are advised not to speak about these meetings outside of the HR/union/supervisory pathways.

How do I get Union representation?  Call 867-667-2331 as soon as you’ve been notified of the meeting, and ask for the intake officer.  They will ask you for the meeting time & location and ask whether have any idea what the meeting may involve.

Once this information is collected, YEU will make a call to the Shop Steward group to see who is available to attend your meeting.  Once the Shop Steward has confirmed their availability, the Steward will contact you to discuss the process and answer your questions prior to the meeting. Some Stewards will contact you well ahead of time while others, depending on time of notification, may make arrangements to speak with you just prior to the meeting.

What can I expect once the meeting is over? Timelines are usually established at the end of the meeting.  Your supervisor or the HR Representative will notify you of the timeline and might advise you that another meeting will be requested if more questions arise during their follow up.  Generally, the post-meeting fact finding time is one to two weeks.

What will happen to me? This depends on the incident and your role in what transpired.  One possible pathway is the performance management stream, another is discipline.  I will cover these topics in an upcoming performance management and discipline article on the blog; keep an eye out and have a read.

Remember, fact finding meetings are a normal part of any workplace and your YEU representatives are there to support you through these meetings.Rob-Jones-Y010-President-2016

In Solidarity,

Rob Jones

President – Local Y010

 

Isn’t it Time for Gender Free Union Solidarity?

gender freeDear Friends & Comrades:

For years, the terms Brother and Sister have been used by unionists to call together our community. Continue reading

Feeling silenced? As a public servant, how outspoken can you be during this campaign?

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This Federal Election is unlike any we’ve seen before. It’s the longest campaign ever but it’s also taking place during something of a communications revolution. Sure we had Facebook  during the 2011 Federal Election but we hadn’t yet hit the user density of today and we hadn’t yet heard of things like Snapchat & Vine. Few Yukoners were tweeting in 2011 and we still naively believed that our privacy settings guaranteed us some degree of…well, privacy!

A lot has changed. Most of us are skeptical about how private our posts are, and we should be. What we say online in our off-work hours can have a profound negative impact on our careers. The recent suspension & subsequent retirement of scientist & public servant Tony Turner after his protest song Harperman went viral is a case in point. To be fair, it’s not only public servants who are felled by their online activities; in this election we’ve witnessed a never ending parade of disgraced candidates whose tweets and status updates have made short work of their political aspirations.

Bruno Thériault, director general of Justice Canada’s workplace branch recently sent a memo to the employees in his department. The memo, heavy handed and intimidating, sends the message that public servants should avoid using social media altogether during this election.

“Recent memos being sent to federal public service workers seem designed to discourage our members from exercising their legitimate rights”, says Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada PSAC). Read Ms. Benson’s blog post “We shall not be zipped” here.

Union members and all employees have a right to freedom of expression protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even if they work for the federal government.  Expressing political opinions or sharing political content on social media is a form of political expression and is protected by the Charter. Online political expression does not benefit from any greater or any less protection than other forms of political expression. You have the right to share political content on Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts as long as you do so outside your hours of work and you don’t use the employer’s equipment.

These rights are not absolute, so please consider the following carefully before you post, share, or tweet.

1. Don’t identify yourself as a government employee or include information or comments that suggest you are a government employee. Make sure your social media profiles don’t list your place of work or employer.

2. Consider your level of visibility and influence. Are you a supervisor? A public face of your organization?

3. Are you a union representative? Union representatives have greater freedom to engage in political activities however union representatives cannot make any comments about their employer that are reckless, malicious or dishonest.

So what’s the bottom line? Speak your mind, have an opinion, engage in the democratic process and be involved. While you’re at it, be wise, prudent and circumspect. And above all else, VOTE. Self censorship is only necessary in an atmosphere of mistrust and fear. Elect a government you do not fear.

Straight Talk: The Independent Medical Examination or IME

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If you have an illness, injury or disability that impacts your work temporarily or long term, you may require an accommodation, need extended leave and/or disability benefits. Accessing any of these requires documentation, including proof of your medical circumstances. If your employer requests an Independent Medical Examination or IME, there are a few things to know.

What is an IME?
An IME is an examination by a medical professional who does not have a therapeutic relationship with the patient. Often, the IME doctor is a specialist chosen by the employer, and there is a contractual obligation to provide a report to the Employer on their findings.

When is an IME requested?
Your employer may request information to determine that your illness or disability is genuine and the impact it will have on your attendance. As a last resort and where the Collective Agreement allows, your employer may require you to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME) at their expense.

Why can’t I just provide a Doctor’s note?
Doctor’s notes that say “Can’t attend work for medical reasons” or “off work for 30 days” or “patient needs new supervisor” are not well received. The Union often hears of employees denied access to their sick leave benefits because their medical notes are seen as insufficient to prove they are or were unable to perform their duties because of illness or injury. Similarly, notes that reflect numerous restrictions may compromise the employer’s ability to accommodate the employee.

When a medical certificate is requested, it should confirm a bona fide medical condition, provide information about the nature of the condition, explain your prognosis as it relates to the workplace and your return to work, and list any restrictions or limitations on your ability to perform your duties. Ideally, your medical practitioner will provide objective medical evidence about your limitations as they relate to your job so that your employer can respond with a reasonable accommodation or help you access disability benefits.

Do I HAVE to provide an IME if they ask?
You can refuse to attend an IME, but this may result in delays returning to work or denial of sick leave and other benefits.

When an employee is dealing with multiple or chronic medical conditions, a mental health issue, a substance use issue, workplace conflict or when there is a mix of culpable and non-culpable behavior, it can be more difficult to identify the medical restrictions without breaching the employee’s privacy.

If you are asked to provide consent to the employer to speak with your doctor, you should preview the questions the employer wants to ask and limit your written consent to those questions. Do not consent to open questions such as “please explain…”. 

ASK QUESTIONS! Who will get to see my information? How will my information be used?

You are not obliged to consent to release medical information (medical/family history, test results, diagnosis) to your employer. You have the right to alter any consent form to protect your privacy. There are benefits to an IME, but also some important things to keep in mind to protect your rights and privacy:

Pros:
•Access to a specialist more quickly
•Comprehensive medical exam and report for your treatment provider
•Clarity around your medical condition, treatment and restrictions

Things to think about:
•An IME can be invasive and should only be requested as a last resort, where other appropriate medical queries have not resulted in sufficient information to explain ongoing absence or develop an accommodation.
•Many Collective Agreements oblige the employer to follow the recommendations in the report, which may not be consistent with your preferences.
•You are entitled to your privacy. Your employer does not have the right to information about your diagnosis, test results or your medical history.
•The employer does not have the right to share your medical information without your expressed, specific consent.

When medical issues affect you at work please contact us. Let us help you navigate the system and protect your rights.

Why Are YOU Voting This Year?

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In the 2011 Federal Election, only about 61% of Canadians went to the polls. Stephen Harper & his Conservatives were able to claim a majority victory and form Government with only 41% of the vote, which translates to about 25% of the population of Canada. That’s not a real majority in any sense of the word. If an election is decided by those who choose to show up, it’s equally true that the outcome can be decided by those who choose to stay home.

Choosing not to vote does impact election outcomes; in fact it’s often the same as casting a ballot for a party you don’t support. Taking the time to educate yourself may feel like a hassle but voting is a right that many have struggled to gain. Whether or not you believe your vote matters on the national scene it surely matters in the Territory.  Ryan Leef was sent to Ottawa on the strength of 131 votes. Those 131  votes made a huge difference.  In our small Yukon riding even a very few individuals can have a profound impact on the outcome of an election.

In October of 2015 we urge you to vote. Who gets your vote is up to you; we hope you ask tough questions and consider the good of working people and families, of the environment and the social fabric that we hold dear as Canadians. We also hope you take the time to review the platforms of the candidates and their parties.  41% of Canadians should not carry the future of this country. It’s up to all of us to join in and move Canada forward.

Look for YEU at the Fireweed Community Market Thursday afternoons in August; we will have our voter registration kiosk set up. Not sure if you’re on the eligible voter’s list for the 2015 election? Please stop by and check. More than 50% of those who stopped by on July 30th discovered (to their shock) that they were NOT registered, despite having voted in many previous federal elections. It’s worth checking out. If you won’t be at market, make sure you visit www.elections.ca and check for yourself.  Enumerators are NOT coming door to door this election to make sure you’re on the list… it’s up to YOU!

Download the poster and print it out for yourself. Why are YOU voting?need-change

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
Abraham Lincoln

You and I Will Keep Each Other Safe

DOM 2014 April 28 is the Day of Mourning; a day we remember & honour workers killed and injured on the job.

According to the Yukon Worker’s Compensation Health and Safety Board, 5 workers were killed on the job in 2014. Since 1984, 58 Yukoners have lost their lives at work.   These workers were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, friends, and loved ones who died because they were trying to earn a living. Work shouldn’t hurt.

It’s not just workers being killed in jobsite accidents. People develop diseases after years of exposure to harsh chemicals and dangerous substances. Asbestos exposure is one of the main causes of diseases developed by workers. According to Workers’ Compensation Boards from around Canada, asbestos was responsible for 41% of all workplace fatalities in 2013.

You have the right to refuse unsafe work. You have the right to know what substances you are working with and the right to take an active role in keeping your workplace safe. Use your rights to help make workplaces safer and reduce exposure and risk for everyone. The PSAC Health & Safety Committee meets monthly and welcomes all members of YEU & PSAC. Contact the PSAC at 667-2331 to learn more.

On April 28 we come together to remember our brothers and sisters who did not make it home from work. We renew our commitment to safe and healthy workplaces. When you go to work in the morning, you should come home safe and healthy at the end of the day. We need to remember to be watchful and vigilant all year, & not just April 28th when we renew our commitment to all workers.

Please join the annual Day of Mourning Ceremony, Tuesday April 28 2015 at 12:30 pm in the Yukon Government Main Administration Building Lobby. Together we will keep each other safe.

Black candles DOM 2014Day-of-Mourning-circle.ai_

Each black candle represents a Yukon worker who died on the job in 2014.

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.