Report of the Regional Vice-President Western Region November 2020

It is with great pleasure that I am submitting my report that covers the period of April to September 2020.

I have to say that the last few months have been a blur, as I write this report, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, which has resulted in many changes to our daily life.

As the number of cases were announced, streets became empty and events were cancelled. Many of us were and are still at home from work and school in the name of social distancing to flatten the curve. While those who must venture out do so with masks on, a bottle of hand sanitizer and being prepared to stand in lines while we ensure that we are maintaining our two metres apart.

It all seems so surreal, I remember the surprise I felt, walking into a local grocery store a few days before the lock downs and social distancing measures went into effect, and finding almost the entire household essentials section cleaned out.  Cleaning products, masks and hand sanitizer were scarce because of the pandemic but who would have thought that toilet paper would be difficult to come by.  This all being said, I know that we have never faced a situation like this before, however we will get through it together.

The National Office and I have been working hard to protect our Members heath and safety during these unprecedented times. 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 and for Members to stay home with pay that have been impacted by day care and school closures.  There have been many meetings with Senior Management, Labour Relations and grievances filed since April and I am proud to say that our continued activism has had positive results that is ensuring the health and safety of our Members.

For some of us, working from home is a new reality and there are times when working from home can come with some challenges. For the most part obtaining the equipment such as a laptop and phone from the Employer went somewhat well. The reality of not having your ergonomic equipment sent to your home placed unnecessary physical demands and injuries on/to our Members.  An Employer has a legal duty to accommodate employees with an illness or disability that makes them vulnerable up to the point of undue hardship.  The National Office and I have been working hard to ensure the Employer is adhering to their legal duty by safeguarding policies and processes they have created are not placing our Members at risk and that the Members have the required equipment to work safely at home.

While doing some research on how the COVID-19 pandemic will result in consequences to our mental heath and wellbeing and after discussions with our Members, the reality is that our Members’ mental health have been impacted by COVID and the Employer is failing to not only provide them with any support, they are also declining 699 leave for mental health.  Mental health is important, it is important to living a healthy, balanced life. I will continue this fight to bring this important topic to the forefront and to advocate for change to have the 699 Employee Leave Policy include mental health leave.

Over the last couple of months, I have had Members reach out to me about harassment in the workplace. Everyone should be able to work in a safe and healthy workplace. I continue to work with each Directorate Deputy Head and Labour Relations to ensure that preventive activities are in place to foster a harassment-free workplace. If workplace bullying and harassment is not addressed, it can lead to lost productivity, anxiety, depression, and time away from the workplace.

Since the middle of March all RVP’s have been liberated, we were able to achieve this status due to the hard work of our National President. With the liberation in place, the National Executive Officers have been meeting up to 3 times a week via Skype. We have been debriefed on discussions and topics that were discussed at the Emergency Operations Committee and topics/items that the National Office has been working on with the Employer. In this team environment we also engaged in discussions on a variety of different topics that were coming from each region. These weekly meetings have strengthened our team and we are committed to defending our Members’ rights.  

I am pleased to announce that UVAE has been able to secure a Memorandum of Agreement with the Employer that permits our Local Executive Members to access paid time so they can continue to support our Members during working hours. This will eliminate the need to have to do all the work that they do on the side of their desks. This new agreement with the Employer will also permit our Locals to meet on a regular basis on Employer time.  I have been advocating for this for many years now and I could not be happier.

In June of this year, we had our first NLMCC via Skype with our Deputy Minister and VAC Senior Management. The meeting was spread out over 3 days.  Your National Executive Team spoke to the Employer about making changes/improvements in areas as, workplace of choice, mental wellness, mental health in the workplace, +COVID-19 impacts to Members, workload management, Trans Inclusive workplace environments, positive workspaces and selection process.  It is with mutual respect and working together we can accomplish many things to support our members.

Over these past months I have been busy presenting several grievances at the first, second and third levels.  In addition, I have been actively supporting our Local Presidents by responding to their inquiries and assisting them with situations that come up in their Locals. I have also been actively working with Area Directors and Senior Management to achieve resolve to situations.

I would like to acknowledge and say thank you to our Local Presidents, their Executive Members and Shop Stewards for continually supporting and aiding their Members. I would also like to say thank you to Shane Polak for your work as our EOC Officer and to welcome Debi Buell into this role. Thank you to our Members, who in their spare time took part in our UVAE National Surveys and thank you to our Component staff for their assistance.

At the time of this report, no date has been identified of when we will be in the office environment, the Department is currently working on the beginning stages of easing the restrictions. The working relationship with UVAE will be critical as our Department builds plans for the reopening of our worksites. Ensuring the health and safety of our Members is a top priority of mine and our National Office. 
In Solidarity,
Lisa Nelson