Report of the Regional Vice-President Western Region – May 2021

It is with great pleasure that I am submitting my report that covers the period of September 2020 to March 31, 2021.

March 11, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization officially considering COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, Canada has had nearly 900,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 22,000 deaths. I would like to take a moment in remembering those who died from the virus and to acknowledge the health sector and other essential workers who have kept the country functioning during a worldwide public health crisis.

The uncertainty created by the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our collective mental health. The different stages of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns were and are hard on all of us, in different ways. Isolation from friends and loved ones, childcare, and many other challenges severely affected the mental well-being of many Members. Yet here we are, a year in. 

I think that it is perfectly normal to feel anxious and afraid while we deal with the effects of this pandemic. We know this situation is stressful for everyone. For me, the one positive thing that I can acknowledge one year into this pandemic is that I have a newfound respect for myself and more confident in my own abilities. I have made it on my own through a very isolating, difficult, anxiety provoking time and I remind myself of my own strength every day.

Your National Executive has been focused on the mental wellness of our Members and send out a Mental Health survey to see how everyone was doing. The survey results confirmed that I was not alone, and our Members are facing challenges as well.  I maintain that Mental health is important, it is important to be living a healthy, balanced life. We are continuing to bring this important topic to the forefront and to advocate for change to not only have the 699 Employee Leave Policy to include mental health leave but for the Employer to provide additional resources and support to our Members.

The survey also showed that our Members have faced discrimination and harassment in our workplace. While the most basic types of harassment are verbal and psychological, there are also more serious forms, such as physical and sexual harassment. All types of harassment have no place in the workplace. Members also have the right to be treated fairly in workplaces free from any form of discrimination. Everyone should be able to work in a safe and healthy workplace. The National Office and I will continue to engage in conversations with the Employer to address what is happening in our workplaces and to evoke change to ensure we have a health and positive workplace.

Working from home for some of us has come with challenges not only for our mental health but with logistics of having office equipment in our living spaces. I am continuing to work with the Employer to ensure that their legal duties under duty to accommodate are being adhered too.

The TBS has changed their guidelines around the use of 699 – leave with pay for other reason. Restricting the use of this leave for members who are unable to work because of the pandemic has had profound effects on our Members.

Members who need to pull their sick kids out of school or daycare, or workers caring for elderly loved ones are now expected to use up their vacation, family and sick leave because of circumstances out of their control. Members have a right to use 699 leave because we negotiated it into their collective agreements; it cannot be taken away arbitrarily by managers.

PSAC and UVAE will continue to fight this change so our Members continue to have the support and leave with pay they require during the pandemic.

Over these past months, I have been extremely busy with representing Members and attending meetings with the National Officers. I also regularly meet with the Employer Representatives to see if we can find resolve to situations. In addition, I have been presenting grievances at all 3 levels. The Western Region’s Local Presidents and I are having meetings every 6 weeks to share information and to discuss what is happening in each of their respective Local. These meetings have not only strengthened our team, but it also provides us an opportunity to look at solving problems that might be coming out of our region and to make decisions as a team on the best way forward.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Damian Dorschner, our new President for Local 20035 and all his new Executive Members.

I also would like to acknowledge Arlene Suzuki the Vice- President for Local 30029 who has had to step in and act for the Local President while they are currently away.

To the Western Region Local Presidents, Executive Members and Shop Stewards, thank you for continually supporting and aiding your Members.

We have had to say goodbye to 2 Local Presidents in the Western Region, Rachael Alva and Terri Phelan.  Rachael, since the day you took on the role of Local President your continued support is the one thing I could always count on. To be honest, I have never met anyone who is more kind-hearted, caring and supporting than you. I wish you a lot of success and all the best in your future endeavours as it is much deserved. Terri, working with you has been nothing short of a privilege. Thanks for being you. Your determination, motivation, and inspiration has been a welcome addition to our team. You make the workplace a little bit brighter and a whole lot of fun. Thanks for being the breath of fresh air amongst all the stress.

In Solidarity,

Lisa Nelson