Happy Labour Day from YEU

 

Happy 124th Labour day, Canada!  From its humble beginnings in 1872, it was over 20 years before a National Holiday honoring workers was declared in 1894.  Canadian workers paid dearly with blood, sweat, tears and sometimes their lives to achieve a 58 hour work week – the first battle won by the early, newly organized labour activists.

As organized labour we’ve come a long way in 124 years – a relatively short period of time. With globalization and increasing pressures from the right, it’s more important than ever that we don’t forget the sacrifices made by a few over a hundred years ago. Let’s take some time this Monday to reflect on where we came from and how we can continue to make Canada a better place for all workers.

The Yukon is a pretty well-organized place, at least when compared to the rest of Canada. With almost 33% of our workers unionized, we boast the highest union density per capita and that density has been maintained for over 50 years. In many ways, Yukon is a big union town. This Labour Day, we want to thank everyone who works so hard to keep this territory and this country strong.

This historical photo shows Dawson’s Labour Day Parade in 1906. In the middle of the last century, Yukon’s workers began organizing in earnest. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 2499 was chartered in 1947, while the Yukon Teacher’s Association formed in 1955. The UA, or United Association of Allied Workers representing plumbers, pipe fitters and welders established a Yukon presence in 1958 and the Yukon Territorial Public Service Association (YTPSA) formed in 1965. The YTPSA was the first incarnation of what is now the Yukon Employees’ Union, or YEU/PSAC.

This year, YEU and PSAC are bargaining on behalf of members working for Yukon employers large and small. We are up against some serious challenges to the rights we have fought for over the years. Several of our bargaining units have been forced to prove their solidarity through strike votes and strike action. In these anti-union times, it’s not easy to hold on to what we have. We can’t rest on our laurels or believe that everything we have all worked so hard for is secure.

Employers have their own agendas, and it’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on, and protect the rights of Yukons’ workers, unionized or not.

We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate with our 24th annual Free Labour Day Barbeque in Shipyards Park. Each year our activists pull off one of the largest – probably THE largest free public meal in the territory, complete with fun kids’ activities and coffee provided by Midnight Sun Coffee.  We’ll also be collecting your donations for the Whitehorse Food Bank, building our 2nd Annual Mountain of Mac & Cheese! Hope to see you there!

In solidarity,

Steve Geick,

President, Yukon Employees’ Union

A Message from Chris Aylward, PSAC National President

I looked forward to my visit to the Yukon this summer because it gave me another opportunity to meet with members in Whitehorse, Pelly Crossing, Stewart, Carmacks and Dawson. It was great to chat with workers from Wildland Fire Management and to hear the concerns of volunteer community EMS workers. I always learn a lot when I can visit worksites and talk to members on the job.

I attended the KVA Local Y018 AGM – what an active and engaged local! Every position on their Executive went to an election, with three or four nominees named on each ballot. That’s impressive, and encouraging.

Speaking with Parks Canada members at the Dawson and Whitehorse community barbecues was a highlight of my trip, and an important reason I came north this summer. The PSAC is keeping up the pressure on our federal government to pay its workers correctly – every time. We have secured employer compensation for out-of-pocket expenses for things like banking fees or interest charges due to late or missed payments, as well as support for people on disability, maternity, and parental leave.

It’s important for members affected by Phoenix to know what we are doing to support them, and to hold the government to account. Critical to many affected federal workers is the emergency salary advance; an advance is to be made available within 24-48 hours of request by an underpaid worker. Those requests must be made through the employer, but please notify the PSAC to inform us of pay issues experienced by any federal employee in the territory. Please contact me directly at aylwardc@psac-afpc.com, or contact the PSAC’s National Executive Vice President Magalie Picard at picardm@psac-afpc.com

What is happening in Yukon’s Department of Health & Social Services is appalling. This is a department responsible for the well-being and care of children and youth! Their decision to fire whistle-blowers after promising safety illustrates the fact that they cannot be trusted. The dishonesty they displayed shutting down the ISSY office under completely false pretenses can’t be ignored. PSAC and YEU demand that any reports or recommendations arising from the current third party investigation be made public.

YEU has been calling attention to the lack of staffing and support for workers and youth in residential care settings for years, but the department didn’t take action until the press got involved. Now, the issue has gained national attention and the department’s actions are being closely watched around the county. We will continue to monitor the situation alongside Brother Geick and YEU and if needed, we will request federal intervention. If the results of the investigations are not made public, no-one will have any confidence in anything that department says.

Finally, I sincerely hope you will get involved in your union. Be knowledgeable about the issues your co-workers face. I got involved almost 30 years ago when I worked as a member of the Union of Taxation Employees, and I’ve never regretted that decision. It’s one thing to complain, but unless you are willing to be part of the solution, you’re not helping anyone. It’s workers like you who make up the YEU and the PSAC – workers like you who make a difference.

In solidarity,

Chris Aylward, National President
Public Service Alliance of Canada

YEU is Hiring: Executive Director

Executive Director
Full-time, indeterminate (37.5 hours/week)
Salary $129,000-$152,000

Yukon Employees Union is seeking a visionary, dynamic, and driven leader to serve as our next Executive Director. The Executive Director is the sole managing director of the Yukon Employees’ Union and is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of all aspects of the operation.

Reporting to the President, the Executive Director has four key areas of accountability:

1. Labour relations services to union members;
2. Management of YEU budget and expenditures;
3. Planning, development and implementation of YEU’s strategic goals;
4. All aspects of Human Resource Management for YEU staff.

A competitive candidate will have extensive knowledge and experience in the areas of management, finance, administrative law, labour relations and conflict resolution. The level of knowledge and skill required is typically achieved through post-secondary education in business, law, labour relations, or human resources, and ten or more years’ experience in a similar leadership position. The Executive Director should have experience with collective bargaining/grievance processes and should have in-depth knowledge of the benefits and challenges associated with unionized working environments.

YEU’s Executive Director must be ethical, strategic, resilient and collaborative in order to meet the needs of nearly 5,000 members and the staff.

This challenging position is rewarded with a competitive salary, excellent pension, medical and dental plans, training opportunities and other benefits.

Applications and inquiries should be sent by e-mail with the subject line Executive  Director 2018 to:

Laura Hureau, Executive Director
lhureau@yeu.ca

Application Deadline: December 22, 2017

Finally! Yukon to Amend Human Rights Act & Vital Statistics Act.

On Tuesday May 16 2017 the Yukon Legislative Assembly voted to amend the Yukon Human Rights Act and Vital Statistics Act to explicitly recognize and protect the rights of transgendered Yukoners.
The amendments were first recommended to the Government of Yukon in 2008 by the Human Rights Commission who argued that although existing legislation cited sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination, it did not specifically protect against discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
Changes to the Yukon’s Vital Statistics Act will include, among other changes, the removal of provisions requiring proof of gender reassignment surgery, certified by two physicians before any change to the gender marker on official identification documents like birth certificate. This institutionalized discrimination speaks to a systemic disrespect that the new legislation will serve to change.
\We want to acknowledge and thank Trans Rights activist Chase Blodgett who has been absolutely instrumental in getting these changes made. Chase has challenged us to re-examine our personal biases, to check our privilege at the door and to stand and be counted as allies. The road to change is not an easy one, and it’s brave and fierce activists like Chase who have the courage to take it on the chin, taking on the system so others are spared the same indignities in future. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Injury: Hearing, Helping, Healing

ptsi-blue-sky-black-cloud

Jim Regimbal chaired the Yukon Employees’ Union’s recent Human Rights panel discussions of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.  As Dawson City’s Fire Chief, President of the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs, and Yukon’s Director on the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, he has advocated for improved services to first responders suffering from PTSI and has been instrumental in bringing the issue into focus in Yukon.  He provided powerful empathy and insight earned from his many years on the job. 

The first step is acknowledging and accepting that, whatever name it’s given, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury is real and that trauma significant enough to cause injury can’t easily be quantified. The science supports this, with mountains of evidence explaining the changes to brain structure caused by exposure to trauma. We can’t choose not to “believe in PTSI” any more than we can choose not to believe in climate change. The evidence is clear and the science is irrefutable.

PTSI can be the result of a sudden, dramatic incident but it is just as likely to develop invisibly over many years.  Its onset can come without warning, sometimes after a seemingly benign event.  Whitehorse Psychologist Nicole Bringsli used a water glass analogy; a glass can hold only so much liquid.  All it takes is one too many ordinary, inconsequential drops of water and the glass spills over.  We can witness and contain only so much pain and trauma before we reach our capacity to cope and, like the water glass, we risk spilling over.

What constitutes trauma?  There’s no easy answer. Trauma that affects one individual very profoundly can sometimes be borne by another, or can be overcome with access to the right kind of support at the right time.  Bringsli reminded us that each individual brings their own history and sensibilities to their work, and each person responds differently to similar circumstances.

What occupations or events are likely to lead to psychological injury?  Combat veterans, first responders like firefighters, police officers, EMS providers, dispatchers and corrections officers witness things they can’t ever forget, scenes and calls that will affect them forever.  A career of running into burning buildings, delivering terrible news or fighting to save lives takes an enormous toll on the heart and psyche.  There are many lines of work that put people at risk, and it’s important to recognize the danger so we can provide appropriate resources to all those who need them.

Many caring professions are occupied predominantly by women, and many struggle silently with the emotional impacts of that difficult work. Though rarely labelled PTSI, the ongoing emotional trauma has the same impact on quality of life and mental health. It’s time to consider how broadly affected both men and women are by their work, and how many professions are high risk for psychological injury.

Social workers face heartbreaking situations in the line of duty. Removing children from dangerous homes, denying parental access and leaving vulnerable children in foster situations takes a terrible toll. Sheena Larose, a former Child Protective Services worker from Ontario recently wrote “Unless you are in the trenches, people don’t understand that child protection work can be among the most intensive, heart-wrenching and volatile work one could ever encounter.”

Social workers counsel child abuse victims and must bear witness for their frightened and confused young clients. When we talk about social workers’ emotional health, we often say they have “burned out”… we don’t consider PTSI as a likely outcome.  Vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue – whatever we call it, the results can be life altering and career limiting.

Front line workers in shelters for domestic violence victims face recurring trauma – imagine the daily challenge of maintaining a healthy outlook when you’re immersed in the pain of others.  How hard must it be to turn a woman away when your facility has no space, knowing she and her children have no choice but to return to a dangerous home?  These workers must also remain anonymous to protect the security of those they help, and so they often have no choice but to struggle in silence, without recognition or support.

Prevention is more valuable than cure; our panel members spoke again and again of the urgent need for effective critical incident de-briefing practices, currently almost non-existent in Yukon. They talked of the need for trained peer support, for non-judgemental listening and for access to counselling services. Other jurisdictions have comprehensive supports we haven’t even begun to consider here in the Territory. 

When our panel was asked for a wish list to help combat Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, there was consensus on the need for critical incident debriefing, for pro-active discussion and peer support. More funding is needed to ensure local mental health service providers are resourced to provide care when it’s needed. Employers must prioritize worker safety and be as diligent in protecting the minds and spirit of their employees as they are about their physical well-being.    

Jeannie Dendys, Yukon’s new Minister responsible for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Board offered her commitment to supporting PTSI prevention & treatment.  YWCHSB Chair Kurt Dieckmann stressed the role of the employer and the value of prevention.  It’s important to make sure protections are built into work environments likely to experience critical stress and trauma.  Normalizing help-seeking behaviour will go far, he says, to de-stigmatizing PTSI and making work safer.

How we respond to our injured colleagues, neighbours and family members, is an indicator of how likely they are to heal.  Forcing sufferers to convince us of their injury, prove its cause and defend their need for help adds insult to injury and creates barriers sometimes too great to overcome.  During the recent Territorial election campaign, new Premier Sandy Silver promised to amend the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Act to include presumptive provisions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD/PTSI) in first responders. That commitment was echoed by Minister Dendys at our event.  At YEU we believe presumptive provisions must cover first responders, but that other high risk worker groups must also be included if the system is to protect those at greatest risk of harm.

Our community is compassionate; we are quick to help families in need. We support our sick, injured neighbours when there’s a fire, a death or catastrophic illness. That empathy must extend to the helpers, not just to the victims. 

We invite you to watch the full video recording of our two panel discussions.

Watch The Nature of Things for PTSD: Beyond Trauma

 

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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

 

 

RYTS Caregivers and Youth-in-Care at Risk

Risk at RYTS bannerUnderstaffing puts Vulnerable Residents & Workers at Risk

Kids-in-care have faced more trauma than most of us will experience in a lifetime, most with first-hand exposure to violence & addictions.  Many have been subjected to instability, uncertainty and the absence of caring, consistent authority figures. Ensuring an environment that provides stability, nurturing and structure is no easy task.

The Government of Yukon operates 7 homes for youth-in-care in Whitehorse housing children from younger than 10 to 17 years old. These Residential Youth Treatment Services facilities (RYTS) are staffed around the clock by a group of dedicated workers, employees of the Department of Health & Social Services.  

*”Some children in residential care have complex problems. They have physical and mental health needs and can have multiple diagnoses.

Often these children have histories characterized by instability, abuse, neglect, and rejection. In some cases these children can act out violently and there is increased risk for addiction and risk taking behaviour.

Typically, children in residential care are angry, they are depressed, and they act out. For some youth, their placement into residential facilities is their last chance at social services before a move into the juvenile justice system. For younger children, a successful placement in a group home setting could prevent them from transfer to a more institutional setting.”

RYTS staff try to meet the physical, recreational and emotional needs of the children while making sure they attend school, medical and other appointments. The role these caregivers play is equal parts parent, tutor, counselor and guide. The staff provide the consistent presence of caring adults who do their best to maintain a calm home life despite the semi-institutional setting.

The Yukon Government is failing children in care and their caregivers through chronic understaffing and inadequate safeguards.

In homes occupied by traumatized children and youth, workers struggle to maintain a safe environment when they are forced to work alone. There are many clear and obvious dangers, including the threat of residents harming each other or violence directed against the adult caregiver. RCMP or social services also provide requirements for some of the youth; frequently, staff are legally obligated to maintain “line-of-sight” contact with more than one resident simultaneously, even when on duty alone. If a resident returns to a home intoxicated or aggressive, there is no back-up if a violent incident erupts.

RYTS workers have come to the union because they are concerned, even afraid. They report a dramatic increase in the number of shifts where only one worker is scheduled. RYTS staffers are expected to work alone overnight with residents who require specialized attention or care. While two staffers may be scheduled, if someone is ill or called away to another understaffed home, there is no effort made to bring in replacement personnel to fill the shift.  This creates a high risk environment for the worker, for the young people and exposes all parties to a heightened level  of liability.

Caregivers know the importance of maintaining a healthy and safe environment for these kids. A heavy burden of stress is carried home when that objective is compromised.                                                                                                                                                 

Frequent assaults on workers inspired the YWCHSB to conduct a safety audit in 2013. The recommendations of that audit, though not shared with the affected workers, have resulted in no significant changes in the unusually high risk workplaces.   

Chronic understaffing is one result of management’s  decision to reduce staffing costs, including costly overtime. These cost saving measures have also resulted in a series of incidents which put both workers & youth in danger.

In residences housing children who are likely to self-harm or cause harm to others, the safety net provided by a shift-partner is critical. When an at-risk occupant is escalating and violence is likely, who maintains the safety of the other residents? Who calls for help if a caregiver is working to maintain calm or has been injured?  

The Government of Yukon has a duty to provide a safe work environment for its workers while they do everything possible to provide a safe environment for the children they work with.

When a home is understaffed, programming that is scheduled and anticipated can’t take place. While the kids may have been promised a soccer game in the back yard after completing their homework, the lack of a shift partner can result in disappointment instead of reward.
 
The Department of Health & Social Services has been saving on wages at the expense of the youth in their care. Rather than hire more employees to ensure appropriate coverage, they have chosen to slash the number of Auxiliary On-Call hours by over 2000 in the past quarter. 2000 hours is equal to over 166 12-hour shifts UNSTAFFED; 166 shifts that were regularly staffed just a few months ago.

166 unstaffed shifts means recreational programs are not reliably maintained.
166 unstaffed shifts  means outings are cancelled.
166 unstaffed shifts  means increased tensions
& stress in the RYTS homes.
166 unstaffed shifts means higher risk of violent assault by traumatized house-mates.
166 unstaffed shifts suggest Whitehorse’s Residential Youth Treatment Services homes are being managed to serve the bottom line, and not to meet the needs of Yukon’s most vulnerable children.

We ask the Government of Yukon to show leadership and staff these homes appropriately, right now.

These children have faced enough uncertainty, instability and danger already. Let’s help them to rebuild, to develop their innate resilience and find hope.

“My concern is that they do not seem to have any regard for the children – we are a protection service for youth who come from horrendous, traumatic pasts and yet we don’t make decisions based on what is best for them but on what is best financially.

*Security Review, Residential Youth Treatment Services (RYTS) Prepared by Paladin Security, 2013 for YWCHSB

Read YEU’s Press Release HERE

Information Backgrounder HERE