Not Good Enough Workers at National Defence Speaking Out

Unionized employees at the Department of National Defence (DND) are not impressed with the government’s announcement of another review of personal and sexual harassment within the military and at the department. They are also coming forward with their own stories of personal and sexual harassment at the hands of the managers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

June Winger, National President of the Union of National Defense Employees (UNDE) said that the government already knows what the problem is. “We don’t need another study. It’s time to act now. We expect the federal government to make significant changes at the Department of National Defence to shift this dangerous workplace culture immediately.”

Members from across the country have been coming forward with horrific tales of bullying and abuse including one member who’s been waiting over 700 days for a response to her complaint. Virginia Vaillancourt National President of the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees (UVAE) which also represents some civilian employees at the department said that this is not acceptable. “We have members waiting almost two years for DND to deal with their situation and now we hear they are going to take another 18 months to come up with a plan. Members are mad and who can blame them?”

The union representatives called on the federal government for immediate action for victims of harassment at the department. “Employees from every region are now contacting their union representatives with horrific tales of bullying and abuse,” said Winger. “They have been silenced by fear of escalated abuse and retaliation but seeing the bravery of the witnesses and victims who are sharing their experiences with Parliament about the abuse faced by members of the Canadian Armed Forces, they want to share their lived experiences as well.”

The actions they call for include expediting all current active investigations, fully enforcing harassment policies and ensure those committing abuses face consequences and including all employees in any review of the current systems in place and create the systemic changes need to fix DND culture.

They also want the newly announced Chief Professional Conduct and Culture to be given broad powers to investigate and make recommendations for discipline of all managers at DND, whether they wear a uniform or not. “Unless this position is independent of the chain of command it will only serve as window dressing that cannot hide the scars and the damage inflicted on employees and lower ranked military members,” said Vaillancourt. “It’s time to heal our wounds and build a better Department for today and tomorrow.”

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Mike Martin