Report to the 2020 Convention presented by Lisa Nelson Regional Vice-President Western Region

There has been much change since our last convention in 2017. One of the things I have learned in these past 3 years is change is inevitable, and sometimes change is what we need to become stronger. Sometimes change may not be what we want, but it might be what we need in order to grow.

My report to our 2020 Triennial Convention provides you a summary of my activities over the last three years. I must say it has been an honour and privilege to have been elected as your Regional Vice-President for the Western Region.  My achievements are not alone, they are a result of the combined effort of our Local Presidents and their members. Every movement forward was because of their support and activism.

During my tenure, I was able to attend several Annual General Meetings for the Locals in the Western Region.  I am proud to say we have welcomed Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Secretarys and Treasurers into Locals in our region. We have also been successful in recruiting Chief Shop Stewards and Stewards.  I would like to formally thank the Western Local Executive members and their Stewards for continually supporting and helping our members. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our previous Local Executive who worked hard and tirelessly for our members.

Over the past 3 years, I have presented several grievances, from level 1 to level 3. With each grievance I present, the more I learn and the more I realize we need to continuously be courageous and bold to fight for our members’ rights.  We need to continue to stand up to the Employer to ensure our rights under our collective agreement are being respected by the Employer. We have a duty to protect our members from harassment and to remove any workplace discrimination and barriers.

In October 2018, I was able to attend the PSLREB Staffing Tribunal Advanced Representation Training. This training provided me with the ability to represent the membership before the PSLREB Staffing Tribunal. It enhanced my tools to facilitate case preparation, scrutinize legislation, regulations, polices and precedents necessary to represent before a Tribunal. In addition, I attended the PSAC National Leadership Training in Ottawa in November 2017. The information provided in this training reflected on what makes a good leader and it provided an opportunity to practice these leadership skills. Both opportunities enhanced skill sets I use not only when presenting grievances, but when I work with management to find resolve to situations affecting our members.

During this time period I attended several Field Operations, NUMCC meetings (National Union Management Consultation Committee) and meetings with management to address topics such as staffing levels, accommodations and mental health.  I was honored to be our members’ voice at the national table.  We need to continue to advocate for more resources in our offices; for example, when the employer does not backfill positions. This type of management not only impacts the morale in the offices, but more importantly, our members’ mental health. The employer needs to recognize the importance of acceptable workload numbers for our Veteran Service Agents and for our Case Managers. As well, making the recruitment for Case Managers and retention of these members a priority.

Every member should be able to go to work knowing their organization recognizes the importance of psychological health and mental well-being in the workplace. I am committed to ensuring the Employer provides a safe and mentally healthy workplace by continuing to raise the topic in multiple forums in order to guarantee staffing levels. It is imperative that mental health remains a priority for the employer. Together, we can accomplish many things to support our members, I believe one of those is continuing to have open communications and discussions with the employer to ensure our members’ concerns are being heard and being addressed. It is with mutual respect and working together we can accomplish many things to support our members, in turn this makes the department a workplace of choice.

When completing a three-year report, you reflect on situations that you wished had a different outcome. I was among one of the RVP’s who traveled to attend a rally on July 4, 2018 in Winnipeg to show union solidarity for what the members at Deer Lodge Centre were facing due to the Pallister Government and Bill 29.  The Bill forced the amalgamation of several health care bargaining units in Manitoba and as result of this process, sadly on August 22, 2019 we lost our members at Deer Lodge Centre. UVAE may no longer represent the members at Deer Lodge, however they will always be a part of our union family.

In July 2018, I represented UVAE at the WP subcommittee for bargaining. We discussed many topics to ensure our WP’s pay reflect the safety risk, vicarious trauma, high caseloads, work tasks and demands they are undertaking daily. I am hoping the hard work we do will be respected and be reflected in our next Collective Agreement. 

I attended our National Local Presidents’ Conference that was held from May 31, 2019 to June 2, 2019 at the Delta Hotel in Ottawa.  What an amazing event, our agenda was packed with information, training sessions and amazing speakers.  It was a great opportunity to meet all the Local Presidents from across the country and get to know them and the issues/concerns each local/region has and what they are doing to actively engage their members. 

In November 2019, I was selected to attend the PSAC National Occupational Health and Safety Conference. The conference raised my awareness of new legislative, policy and regulatory initiatives for harassment, bullying and violence in the workplace. It also increased my knowledge of our rights and our role when we come across the impacts of addictions, the legalization of cannabis and the opiate crisis we are seeing in our communities.

During my three-year tenure, I was assigned to the Finance Committee. Our role of the Committee is to provide financial oversight and to protect our organization’s finances, which I feel we have achieved. We have created our terms of reference, made recommendations to the National President and the National Executive Officers when requested, reviewed/audited expenses, assisted in the creation of policies and created a new three-year budget for 2021 to 2023. We were also tasked to price out the events associated with the National Presidents’ Conference and the UVAE Triennial Convention. We have also presented reports and financial planning to the National President and to the National Executive Officers. I would like to thank all the Finance Committee members for their commitment and for all the hard work they have done.

Sadly, the Phoenix pay system continues to remain a debacle. The system continues to plague, financially harm and cause mental anguish to not only our members, but to thousands and thousands of PSAC members as well. To still see a pay system in place that is continually affecting the health, well-being and the livelihood of our members is unlawful. We need to remain vigilant and continue to further advocate and lobby to have the system removed and a proper/functional pay system put in place that will pay and support our members.  In addition, we need to remain strong in seeking compensation from the Treasury Board for all the pain and suffering our members have endured.

In the future, I would like to continue to address the contracting out of our services and benefits to Medavie Blue Cross. The “blue tape” needs to be cut and the jobs that were contracted out need to be returned to the department, so our members can serve our Veterans with the dignity and respect they deserve, not by an insurance agency.

As I write this report, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, which has resulted in countless changes to our daily life, such as schools being closed, travel being banned, countries/cities on lockdown and people self isolating only able to access their communities for essentials.

Our Union has been working hard to protect our members’ heath and safety during these unprecedented times. We want to be proactive in helping to stop the spread of this virus. We have advocated and ensured our department is following the recommendations set out by the Treasury Board which permits our members to work from home, allows our members to be able to decline home visits and for members to stay home with pay, that either have pre-existing conditions or who have been impacted by day care and school closures.  I am proud to say that our continued activism, has had positive results that is ensuring the health and safety our members.

Once again, I would like to thank my Local Presidents, most sincerely for all their support over the last three years and while I settled into the role of Regional Vice-President. I am truly appreciative for everything you do for your members and I am honored to call you my friends. I would also like to thank my RVP colleagues for the information and advice you have shared over the past three years. In addition, I also want to thank the staff in the National Office for your dedication to our members and for the work you do to support us. To our National Vice President, Toufic El-Daher, thank you for all the support and encouragement and for helping me realizing my strengths and potential.  To our National President, Virginia Vaillancourt, thank you for listening to me, supporting me, encouraging me and mentoring me, because of your guidance I have learned so much.

As we start our 2020 Convention let’s celebrate all we have achieved and commit to keep the activism and momentum going. Let us also use this convention to make new plans and strategies and keep our engagement and solidarity in motion.

In Solidarity,

Lisa Nelson

Regional Vice-President Western Region