I respectfully submit my report for September 2020 to May 2021.
As I write this report, we are nearing 400 days of the pandemic, it has been a roller coaster to say the least. We know that we all have a part to play in helping to stop this pandemic, however, we know that it has and continues to take a toll and have an impact on many in a variety of different ways.
This year has been a major year, we have had some difficult times, some ups and downs, however, we have had some gains as well.
We completed a secondary survey with our membership on the topics of Harassment, Discrimination and Mental Health in the fall of 2020. We then shared the results with the employer, including recommendations for required changes to help make the workplace a safe and happy place to work.
I have been working with our National Executive Officers and closely with our UVAE Mental Health Champion to raise our members’ concerns from our second survey on Harassment, Discrimination and Mental Health. We have had many meetings with the employer at various levels to raise the concerns and to discuss the recommendations put forward by our members with the employer. We have made lists of recommendations and demands and have prioritized these and will be having further discussions with the employer on next steps for change.
I have been having somewhat regular meetings with the ADM – SD where we discuss ongoing issues or concerns within the Service Delivery directorate. This process is very difficult, and it is hard to move the ADM off the single-minded focus on statistics which we know do not tell the true picture of what is happening inside the Department.
The bilats have started back with the DGFO and we will be holding the first one at the beginning of April. I am hopeful that the DG will finally deal with the numerous issues we have continually raised through multiple avenues.
From September to current we have raised concerns in the media around the Case Management numbers, need for more resources, and the systemic harassment, discrimination in our Department and the concern for our members Mental Health.
In April we submitted a Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (ACVA) which was studying supports and services to Veterans, Veterans’ Caregivers, and their families. This Brief, which was prepared with the active support and input from our UVAE Mental Health Champion, focused on the difficulties in providing front line service to the families and caregivers of Veterans under the existing regimen and attitudes by VAC management. We called for changes to their approach especially when it comes to mental health services for Veterans and their families and more supports for the many UVAE members who are directly impacted by these issues. We ended our submission with a call for VAC to become a Trauma-Informed Workplace, an approach that we are currently working on with the employer. Our Mental Health Champion will report further on this during his report.
We have started to work on a Federal Election Campaign plan with our Political Action Committee, we want to be prepared as possible before the Government calls for an election. Given the current climate in parliament, the impact of the pandemic on the country and the debate over the Federal Budget, we are not sure when they will call for an election. It is important for members to help lobby their future Members of Parliament and to help raise the concerns/issues of Veterans and the people who serve them at many levels.
National Office Operations Human Resources
No changes in National Office staff. The three employees are still working from home and continuing to provide services to our members. Some tasks are not ideal with being done from home however, we have adapted and found solutions to any needs including ensuring that the employees are set up and have the equipment they require.
I have been continuing to pursue negotiations with the employer on the liberation of our Regional Vice Presidents. The Deputy Minister has approved an extension of our liberation to the fall of 2021. This is huge for UVAE and continues to give the RVPs the opportunities to work with locals to help resolve concerns at the lowest level and mentor local executives.
I am still waiting to hear back regarding the extension to the agreement for time for the Locals. I have requested an extension of the agreement to at least December 2021 and between now and then I will continue to discuss with the employer the viability of having a permanent agreement in place. We see the benefits that this time provides to the Local Executives to work with their locals and still be able to have some work-life balance.
We have started working with our auditors for our 2020 year. Normally the audits are done in person with our auditors coming into the office to review the files in the boardroom. Working virtually, there is additional work required as items are scanned and then uploaded.
We continue to increase our communications to our membership through a variety of platforms within the Regions and Nationally. Communications are continuing through our website and making changes or updates as we see things that need updating or as things are brought to our attention. Regular updates through both our National and Equal Opportunity Coordinator Facebook pages are being updated by our NEVP. We now have the Human Rights Committee articles which are being sent out to our membership through UnionWare and being posted to our website and then updates regarding the survey results and where we are at with the employer and Mental Health Updates by our Mental Health Champion. All these communications are key for us to continue to engage our members and have more members involved in the greater challenges we continue to face.
Labour Management Consultation Committees (LMCC)
I attend a variety of LMCC’s including ones specifically for the Bureau of Pensions Advocates with our RVP Ontario, and for the National Client Contact Centre with our NEVP and then we have the National Labour Management Consultation Committee with the National Executive Officers and Senior Management.
During the pandemic we have been holding Covid specific LMCC’s, there is one that takes place with the other Bargaining Agents and Senior Management which is a platform to discuss Covid specific concerns related to VAC. We have also been meeting with BPA management more often during the pandemic and have continued those discussions given the hiring and changes that are taking place.
We held a NLMCC in November 2020 with Senior Management, which went fairly well, however, the meetings appear to be more of a one-sided discussion of the Union raising our concerns and management stating they will get back to us. We will continue to work with the employer to change how these discussions are taking place. I would like to see the employer engage in fulsome two-way discussions about the concerns raised versus relating back to statistical data which we cannot confirm or negate the validity of the numbers given system changes and our members working within a variety of systems or telling us that they will get back to us and then we are most times waiting until almost the next NLMCC 5 – 6 months later to see updates or responses to concerns raised.
The discussions with relation to updating the Terms of Reference/Guidelines for Labour Management Consultation Committees will probably not take place until after the fall as the employer is wanting to trial a pilot of a joint LMCC with the other Bargaining Agents within VAC. These meetings are scheduled in mid April and we will see how these meetings go and in my next report I will provide an update on the pilot from the Joint NLMCC’s. The pilot is to have agenda items that are mutual for all Bargaining Agents to be discussed during the joint meeting including the Branch Updates. Then the Bargaining Agents will hold their own respective NLMCCs as well to handle the concerns that are related to their respective memberships.
Essential Services Agreement (ESA)
Further to my previous report, I had advised that I had responded back to the Employer in August 2020 with relation to their additional ESA requests from the last round. As of this time, the employer has not responded back in relation to their additional queries on the Essential Service Agreements and the Union’s response to these. Notice to Bargain has been served again and therefore, we will start the process of working on ESAs shortly. As we have seen many changes within VAC since 2019, additional hires, people leaving, I will be reviewing all requests again once received from the employer. Currently, I am just waiting for the joint training that Treasury Board and PSAC will be arranging with Departmental Representatives and Component Representatives. Once this training takes place and Components receive directions, I will start the work with our Department again on these agreements.
Health & Safety
We have seen some progressive changes within the Health and Safety Portfolio within the department over the past number of months. I continue to work with our OSH Policy Committee representatives to make effective and required changes to the employers thought process on the OSH Policy Committee’s participation within the OSH Portfolio of the Department. Unfortunately, this is still one of the outstanding issues with the Employer. Another outstanding item that is being looked into, is the number of Hazardous Occurrences, Security Incidents and Injuries on Duties that happen without the proper documentation being completed by the Employer. Frequently, they will note that the forms are not required to be completed, or that they are an ‘overkill’ to be done.
I have raised concerns that the Department has not been bringing incidents of violence or harassment to the OSH Policy Committees attention as per the CLC and other legislations/policies. There are over 600 confirmed incidents of violence or harassment that were not brought to the OSH Policy Committee’s attention for their review between 2017 and September 2020. I am still waiting for a response from the employer on why the proper processes were not followed. In the interim while we wait for the employer to have the process followed at all levels, we will continue to remind members to file a VAC329 Hazardous Occurrence Report or VAC405 Security Incident forms. These forms should be filled out for any incidents or injuries that happen in the line of work including any psychological injuries.
Another report written during the pandemic world; I hope that you are all staying safe from this COVID-19 attack on our world. I know this continues to be a challenging time and your hard work and dedication to Veterans is paramount, however, it is imperative that you take care of yourselves. Our Veterans deserve the best service we can provide, and I know you have that covered.
Thank you for your activism work in support of protecting members’ rights in the workplace. Thank you for doing your part in helping to curb this pandemic. Thank you to all UVAE Members for your continued service to our Veterans, thank you for all the support you provide to your fellow members in your office and across the Country.
I would like to thank the NEO for all your continued support and hard work. We have completed a lot of work as a team and within the regions. We have had ups and downs, we have faced many changes and challenges though as a Team, We Stand UNITED; We Stand STRONG; We continue to communicate strongly and continue to work towards effecting positive changes for all our members.
I am proud to represent all UVAE members.
Thank you for all your continued support and dedication.
I look forward to continuing to provide leadership within UVAE and to move us forward in the days and months ahead.