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

Myths & Inaccuracies: An Open Letter to RYTS Manager Mike Healey

Steve Geick June 2016Mr. Healey:

Last Friday you held a press conference as part of your media blitz in response to YEU’s June 8 Risk at RYTS media release and blog post.  You expressed confusion and told the press that my worry for the safety of staff & residents is based on nothing more than “myths & inaccuracies”.

Myth:  noun| Definition: a person or thing existing only in the imagination; a popular belief that is not true.

Inaccuracy: noun| Definition: a statement that is not correct: an error or mistake

You told the press you don’t know where I got my data, and you don’t understand why I am raising the issue at this particular time when your staffing numbers are so high – you have over 120 full time staff members for the 7 Whitehorse RYTS homes, with an additional 46 AOC workers.  That’s both true and untrue.  Of the 46 AOC staff on your roster, only 23 of them have been deployed in the first months of the quarter.   It is INACCURATE to suggest that the numbers on your roster reflects the number of staff in any RYTS home on any given shift.

The data you questioned was provided to me by the Public Service Commission (your employer), when I met with them over the weeks prior to our news release.  I had many discussions with the Director and new Acting Director of Labour Relations at the PSC, both before and after they met with you to discuss the union’s concerns. It was INACCURATE to tell CBC you knew nothing of our concerns.

We became aware of the issues at RYTS over several months, as staff approached the union with grave concerns. Feeling helpless, threatened, & anxious for the well-being of their charges, many feel the needs of everyone involved are being ignored by management. Worse, they feel management has made the callous decision to value economy over safety.

Recently, more than 20 employees came to YEU for an emergency meeting; many others submitted concerns by email and phone. Most wish to remain anonymous for fear of putting their jobs or their colleagues at risk.  We have many stories from workers working alone in high risk situations with intoxicated and violent youth. Thankfully, few compensable injuries have occurred in the last year.

“Our staff and our youth are not put in unsafe situations at any time”. That’s a quote from your June 13th interview with CBC’s Sandi Coleman.

RYTS workers have catalogued a great many instances proving the exact opposite of that statement is true. I’m not sure whether to categorize your assertion as MYTH or INACCURACY, but it isn’t FACT. I’d call that statement laughable, but I’ll let you decide what you want to call it.

While your staffing stats show 46 AOC workers, you know as well as I do that it’s the House Log Books that tell the story of how frequently the homes are single-staffed. Sometimes the single-staffing is the result of an absence by an employee. If a worker calls in sick, no effort is made to fill the gap by calling in another worker. Workers are frequently required to move from one home to another mid-shift, sometimes more than once, creating instability and inconsistency for the children.

 “One night I had started a shift with two youth when I was pulled from the house to a different one in need. I had to immediately stop a game with the kids and leave. The youth left behind did not understand and were visibly upset. These are little forms of re-traumatization for youth with a history of abandonment/attachment issues.”

Workers are often scheduled to move from house to house mid-shift. This puts workers at a huge disadvantage. As one worker says, “you do not know what has gone down earlier in the day, and arrive at a house late at night where there is an intoxicated and/or violent youth with no understanding of what you are walking into”.

Mr. Healey, you mention process & procedure, including risk assessments. You say that supervisors do assessments on every scheduling situation using a comprehensive Hazard Analysis – ongoing, daily situational risk assessment.  While that may be the goal, we’d like to point out the following:

  1. Few of the staff we spoke to were even aware of these ongoing risk assessments; it seems reasonable that the staff would be consulted to assess risk, and advised of risk levels.
  2. These “daily assessments of scheduling situations” take place in the abstract. When on-the-ground realities change (a worker calls in sick, risk levels change in the home) there is no reassessment or recalibration done; additional workers are not reliably called in to keep staffing at intended levels.
  3. Only 2 of the 7 active supervisors will come in to assist when they are on call. The supervisors rotate nights on-call a week at a time. That means only 2 weeks in each 7 can staff rely on the certain availability of the on-call supervisor.
  4. If an urgent situation arises, supervisors advise calling another house for support, or calling RCMP if things get out of hand, refusing to authorize AOC hours.

Suggesting unsupported workers leave another house under-staffed or call the RCMP is an abandonment of responsibility. RYTS staff do everything possible to avoid calling the police. They know the RYTS home is often the child’s last chance before youth detention.

Mr. Healey, when you and I exchanged emails a couple of weeks ago, I asked for 6 months of minutes for the joint Health & Safety Committee meetings. These meetings are meant to be held with management and staff representatives.  Based on the minutes sent to me by your assistant, only 4 Health & Safety Committee meetings have been held in the last 9 months. That does not illustrate a meaningful commitment to safety in the workplace. I bring it up because you mentioned on air that these meetings are an important part of your safety process. Myth?

Rather than consider how to ensure staff and the children in their care feel supported, you have “invited” them all to attend meetings with yourself and ADM Brenda-Lee Doyle.

Your words: “The intent of these upcoming meetings is to listen to your concerns and ensure you have an understanding of the processes and factors that pertain to lower staffing levels. Although this is never ideal, I want to assure you that during times when the human resources are difficult to balance, your health and safety is our priority.” 

I translate that as “We will listen to your concerns then make sure you understand why they don’t matter. Sucks but hey, we’re here for you.”   By your own admission and in direct conflict with your public statements, your email recognizes that RYTS homes currently face lower staffing levels, and you are concerned for their safety.

So please clarify, Mr. Healey; were your comments MYTHS or INACCURACIES?  I’ll let you decide.

Steve Geick, President

Yukon Employees’ Union

It’s Summer, and that means ROAD Trip!

Dawson-Road-Trip-Scrolling-AdPSAC National Vice-President Chris Aylward and PSAC’s Regional Executive Vice-President for the North Jack Bourassa will join YEU President Steve Geick for a fairly epic summer road trip. They’ll be visiting all points between Whitehorse & Dawson, meeting Union and community members wherever they stop. There are AGM’s planned for Dawson City and a repeat engagement of the ever popular YEU Summer Bbq at the YOOP Hall.  If you’re in Dawson please stop by for a burger and a chance to talk with PSAC National leadership.

Come down and introduce yourself, find out what the union has planned for the next year and enjoy a great meal. Because really, what could be better than burgers and dogs in Dawson in June?!

Once the dogs and burgers are done and the BBQ has been stored away for another year, the intrepid union gentlemen will head up the highway, over the Top of the World and down through Beaver Creek, Destruction Bay, Burwash… you see where this is going, right? If you’re along the route, please make time to come out and say hello. We’ll let you know when to expect them in each location.

AGM’s will be held for Local Y033 (City of Dawson) and Y018 (KVA) workers on Wednesday June 24th at the YOOP Hall, so if you are a member of either of those Locals, make sure you come out the night before the bbq to your union meeting.