I respectfully submit my report for May 2021 to April 2022.
In September 2021, we held our Triennial Convention virtually and I want to thank all the delegates for their continued confidence in me as your National President. I work hard to ensure that the direction provided by the Convention delegates is followed through by UVAE. I will continue to represent all UVAE members with integrity, transparency, and leadership.
I don’t think anyone would think that we would be nearing a 2 (two) year mark of the pandemic. I know that this has taken a toll on everyone in some way though we are getting through this together. Our members continue to work hard for Veterans to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate services, benefits, and recognition.
We know that the pandemic is slowly starting to shift, and we will see the department start to have building re-entries across the country. I have requested to have discussions/consultations at the Senior Management level when discussions about the re-entry starts to happen. We understand that some members have been waiting eagerly to be back in the office environment since the pandemic started. We also understand that some members are having concerns about the re-entry into the office environment again and what that will look like for their work. Please note that UVAE has multiple representatives on the National Health & Safety Policy Committee, and they are working hard with other bargaining agents’ representatives to ensure that the employers building and office re-entries in all the country is done with the safety of everyone in mind.
It has not always been an easy road for our members and balancing work-life has been hard especially when work is on your kitchen table, or in your bedroom due to space. You stayed strong, persevered and continue to do an amazing job to work through what this pandemic has and continues to throw at us.
Even though UVAE is still working from home, we are very busy and as others can attest sometimes, we are going from one meeting to another with no break in between. When we worked in the office, we had time to get from one meeting to the next while enjoying conversations and smiles with others.
Remember to take time to do something for yourself occasionally.
We continue to follow up with the Department on the Survey results from our second survey on Harassment, Discrimination and Mental Health that were provided to them. UVAE’s Mental Health Champion Edwin continues to work very closely with the Department representative on our concerns and requests for changes. I am unfortunately still waiting for the official response to the Survey results and our recommendations/demands which I have been told would be coming. We will continue to push for the official response to our members’ concerns raised.
I continue to meet with Senior Management on various topics and concerns while working to build the collaboration and consultation between the Department and the Union at all levels.
We continue to put pressure on the government and our Minister through meetings, letters, and media to reduce the Case Manager case loads to an acceptable number without contracting out our members work. We did a press release in November 2021 calling on the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs to immediately order an independent and external review of Case Manager workloads at Veterans’ Affairs Canada. UVAE has also pledged its support for this initiative. However, the response from the Minister is one that was to be expected given the delays in getting responses back from the Minister. He noted in a letter to me on January 4, 2022, that – “The Department will carefully consider all of the recommendations put forward by the union. Rest assured that the Deputy Minister and the Department are working diligently to find and implement solutions.”
The Minister does not appear to be willing to have further discussion on our concerns and recommendations. Therefore, I have continued to have conversations with other Senior Management to see if they would join me for a presentation from an outside company that would be able to do the independent and external review of the Case Manager workloads. I want the department to see that this would be a beneficial move to join UVAE on this external review to show that they are truly concerned about the Case Manager workloads, their mental health and that they truly want to find solutions without contracting out work or pushing to have Veterans taken off the Rehab program.
I have also held meetings with various Members of Parliament to raise our members’ concerns including caseloads, mental health, and funding to keep terms who are working on the ongoing backlog within Centralized Operations Division (COD). At the time of writing this report, I had received a call from the Deputy Minister to advise that the funding had come through to extend the terms working in COD. It was a good news call as previously the department had only received funding to retain approximately 168 staff including Nurse Adjudicators. This additional funding for 2 (two) years will allow the department to retain the over 450 staff hired to assist with the backlogs. The unfortunate aspect of this funding and how the department did the staffing/ letters of offer is that these terms’ time with the department does not count towards the term roll over policy of 3 (three) years.
I will be presenting to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (ACVA) in late March regarding their current study that they are undertaking on uneven service delivery for anglophone and francophone veterans as well as for male and female and members of LGBTQ+ by the Department of Veterans Affairs. I was put forward as a witness by the NDP Veterans’ Critic. The ADM and DG of COD will be presenting on the same study in the beginning of March.
We have had several members raise concerns in relation to the RSVP Contract which is due to come into full implementation in early 2023. I have been meeting with Case Managers in 2 (two) regions to discuss their concerns about the contract and their current workloads. I have offered these meetings to the other regions if they would like to have a meeting. We have been doing them in the evening after work hours. I have been very active on reviewing the RSVP Contract. We had a researcher within PSAC working with us on reviewing the contract, the implementation, and next steps. More information will be coming to the Case Managers as soon as a few more meetings take place and next steps are confirmed.
We are taking a close look at the Case Management Renewal, Conclusion Pilot, Guided Support department and the new RSVP Contract. More information to come on these subjects.
National Office Operations Human Resources
No changes in National Office staff. The three employees are still working from home and continue to provide services to our members and to the National Office. I will be looking at a re-entry plan for staff and elected officers to the office in the coming months.
Our Audit will be starting the beginning of March with a completion around June. This year we have arranged for our Auditor to be on site to make the audit process a little easier and timelier.
The Auditors will review files on site and work directly with the Financial Administrative Officer and they contact me when needed.
We continue to send communications to our membership through a variety of platforms within the Regions and Nationally. We encourage all members to provide their personal email addresses to their local executive so that we can maintain an up to date and current list to be able to update all members on important things.
The Human Rights Committee has been working throughout the year writing articles, obtaining members to write articles for our newsletter and finishing up on their logo contest. More details on the 2022 logo contest will be coming out from the Human Rights Committee in the coming months. The Newsletters are sent out to our membership through UnionWare with posting to our website and Facebook pages. Thank you to Zarina and Rosa for all their work on the UVAE Human Rights Committee.
Communications are key for us to continue to inform and engage our members. We must work together to get more members involved in the challenges we continue to face within the workplaces. Working together we can effect the changes that are needed.
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. In our National Labour Management Consultation Committee (NLMCC) with the National Executive Officers and Senior Management we are still waiting on the employer to schedule this which was requested in August 2021.
The department has been looking to amalgamate our separate NLMCC with the other 4 bargaining agents within the department. UVAE has been clear that as per legislation UVAE is entitled to have our own NLMCC and that is our want. The department sees it as a benefit to meet with the other bargaining agents at the same time. Though there may be a few items that can be done jointly with the other bargaining agents like the department’s directorate updates, Health & Safety and some facets of Mental Health, UVAE has some unique situations/ concerns that are specific to our members, and we will continue to push for our own NLMCC to be scheduled. Next steps will be to look at a legal challenge.
I am still waiting on the department to come back to the table to discuss updating the Guidelines for LMCCs as the current ones are from 2011.
Throughout the pandemic we have continued to meet with the department holding Covid specific LMCC’s, this 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.
Essential Services Agreement (ESA)
Recently, the Department has advised me that they will not be identifying any positions in the SV or TC groups as essential if we are ever in a strike position. UVAE represents members in the EB, SV, TC and PA groups. I will be continuing work with the department on determining any essential positions being identified in the PA and EB groups. There is no timeline from the department on this work to date, however, as bargaining continues there will be direction provided to the department by Treasury Board (TB) on when they must have all their ESA agreements in place. When this date is provided by TB, the ESA file work will increase.
Health & Safety
We have continued to see some changes within the Health and Safety Portfolio within the department over the past year. UVAE was able to appoint another representative to the National Occupational Health & Safety Policy Committee (NOHSPC) this year. I appointed Amanda who is a Local President and Alternate RVP Atlantic to the committee. I want to thank Amanda for agreeing to be appointed. I know that the 4 (four) UVAE Reps on NOHSPC will continue to work together to increase the Health & Safety within VAC and to hold the department to their responsibilities under the Canada Labour Code Part 2. Thank you to Edwin, Toufic and Jody for their work over the past year on the NOSHPC.
UVAE had our National Executive Officers attend 2 (two) separate sessions on Trauma Informed Leadership. Some of the Department Senior Managers joined us in June 2021 for our first session. We then asked the department to offer the training to their supervisors and managers across the department to help them understand what Trauma Informed Leadership which in turn is will help make VAC a better place to work when more people understand what trauma is and how everyone reacts to trauma differently. The second session in December 2021 was for the NEO and it was tailored directly to UVAE and the work that we do. We will be offering a session on Trauma Informed Leadership at our upcoming Presidents’ Conference in the fall 2022.
I want to thank all our members across the country for their continued dedication and service to Veterans.
Thank you to all the Local Executives across the country for your continued activism to help make the workplace a better place to be and for the work that you do to ensure that members’ rights are being protected.
We have sadly lost a few members over the past year some of whom were activists in their locals. We send our condolences out to all who have been affected by the loss of a colleague or loved one.
I want to thank the NEO for all your support and hard work. We have completed a lot of things as a team and within your respective regions. There is more work to do and as a team we will continue to accomplish the work and affect the changes that are needed for our members across the Country.
The work that we do is not always easy with challenges faced when working on specific files or trying to collaborate with the department, the many legislations, policies, and jurisprudence to review, members who are in difficult situations including terminations seeking immediate support. We all continue to work with perseverance to ensure that members are supported and that they have the representation when needed.
As I was finishing writing this report, I was advised that Lisa our RVP Western would be stepping down as RVP at the end of March. I want to thank Lisa for all her hard work within the Western Region and with the NEO since 2016. The Western Region saw many challenges over the years and Lisa met those with steadfast dedication and persistence. I want to wish Lisa all the best in her next endeavors, and we know that Lisa will continue to support and uphold union principles in whatever work she does. Lisa, thank you for all that you have done for UVAE.
With Lisa stepping down, a by-election will be held within the Western Region over the next couple of months. In the interim, I will be working with the NEVP Toufic and the respective PSAC Regional Offices to support the Locals in the Western Region where needed. I will provide further verbal updates to my report at the April NEO.
I am proud and honoured to represent all UVAE members.
I look forward to continuing to provide leadership within UVAE and to move us forward in the days and months ahead.