I am presenting the report on my activities from September 2021 to February 2022.
We have all been teleworking since the beginning of the pandemic and any concerns of productivity that the employer could have had are now irrelevant as employees have proven that teleworking is possible. I don’t think we could have predicted that living with COVID would be the new ‘’Normal’’. Resilience allowed us to adjust and move forward in our professional and personal lives.
Unfortunately, this resilience came with a price: our mental health. We all have had our ups and downs, but we are seeing an increase in absenteeism in employees due to mental health. The increase in workload, lack of support, constant organization changes plus adding personal life challenges to the equation makes it an excessive load to carry. The stressors and the symptoms that people are experiencing are exacerbated by the pandemic.
The National Executive is making a priority of our members’ mental health, not only for those who have self-identified as having difficulties in coping but also for those silently carrying the extra work generated by the lack of resources and unexpected absences. The National Executive is working in collaboration with the employer on employee’s mental health to mitigate negative impact and promote life balance. There is lots of talking and initiatives, but results are not coming fast enough. Our members are feeling tired, helpless, trapped, have decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
I find that some upper management, directors, and managers do not recognise, appreciate, or value the work of the Union. Therefore, we receive very little support when it comes to our own mental health. I’m especially talking about our Local Executives, and stewards that have the same workload as their colleagues on top of supporting members with issues in the workplace and carrying union duties.
We need to sensitize the employer that the local executives are first employees and not to forget that they are also affected by different stressors that can affect their mental health.
Union Locals are proving support to managers by being a resource to employees. They answer questions regarding procedures, staffing, human resources, pay, leave, accommodation, listening to concerns, advise on how to deal with situations, encourage members to discuss their issues and concerns with their managers, and the list goes on and on.
Most of the Union consultation with employees doesn’t end up on managers desk, saving them time to concentrate on other tasks.
These union ‘’volunteers’’ are giving their time and energy to help others with the hope to make a difference. They deserve recognition from the employer and the members they serve.
I have been working closely with Quebec locals providing them with my support. I have taken on tasks from the locals to lighten some of the workload while continuing to mentor and accompany them in specific files and situations. The Quebec region is fortunate to have great presidents that always have the members best interest at heart, and value good communication with the employer to promote a good workplace regardless of our differences.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Quebec Local Presidents for their hard work and commitment to their teams and members. Thank you for the essential job you do.
I have had consultations with managers on diverse subjects from ideas on workload distribution, changing office culture, and promote a positive work environment. I approached the six directors in our region that are responsible for our members to allow us to offer an activity to all our members hoping for a positive effect on their wellbeing. Directors granted an hour and half during working hours to Quebec locals to hold a special event fully sponsored by local 10007 and local 10042. The union had the pleasure to provide a conference with Canadian Paralympic champion Athlete; Ms. Chantal Petitclerc. Her story is one of Determination, perseverance, and positive attitude. The activity was appreciated by the members, managers, and directors. Thank you to Simon Renaud, president of locale 10007, for arranging this incredible event.
We recognize that employees are tired, and we encourage them to participate as much as they can to the activities offered by the Health and Well-being committees. Many of them tell us that they have a hard time taking the time because they have too much work and while attending, they just think of how much they must do. Unfortunately, the intent is good, but the reality of the work environment makes it that a minority take advantage of these activities. Again, excessive workload is the problem and needs to be addressed by the employer. That being said, employees need to take advantage of what is offered to them to help with their own mental health.
In the past months, the amount of consultations has increased. Before most interventions were on issues related to COVID, but now that we have been teleworking for almost two years the consultations are more of personal nature.
We can see that the workload increase has had a direct impact on employee’s mental health. The emotional and mental exhaustion that they are experiencing are making them feel drained and unable to function at work and affecting other aspects of their lives. When talking to members, I can feel their distress and that feeling of hopelessness as they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. This contributes to the retention problem the department is facing.
Not surprising that we are seeing an increase in discussions and interventions related to duty to accommodate due to mental health.
I worked with the National Labour Relations Officer on the Veterans Service Agents grievance referred to Arbitration by PSAC. We are still awaiting a response.
I have been involved in the locals Consultations Committee (LMCC) to support the Quebec region.
I consult regularly with local executives and members; research and provide information, mentor, facilitate consultations, and participate in meetings with the employer if required.
I mentor local executives on preparing and presenting grievances.
I have prepared and presented grievances at all 3 levels on harassment, discrimination, job descriptions and acting pay.
I worked on two discrimination grievances that I presented at all 3 levels. The two grievances were referred to arbitration; one was settled, and we are waiting for a response on the second one.
I’m currently waiting for a date to present the group grievance for the WP-02 pension Benefit Program Officers at the third level.
I attended regular National Officer meetings.
I Consult with managers, human resources and pay compensation when required to answer questions or for a specific file.
I attended the UVAE Eighteenth Triennial Convention held in September 2021. I was re-elected RVP Quebec for a new 2-year term.
I attended different Webinars related to mental health:
- Prevention of violence in the workplace under federal jurisdiction and amendments to Bill C-65;
- Trauma-Informed Union Leadership: UVAE/VAC Specific;
- 2 days Work organization and mental health.
I attended Webinars with PSAC Quebec:
- Demystifying the NJC Grievance Process;
- 2 days Regional Health and Safety Conference;
- 6 days PSAC National Equity Conference;
- Navigating the Post-Pandemic Workplace;
- Case law related to the impact of the pandemic on the workplace.
I sit on
- UVAE Human Rights Committee; regular meetings, provide content for newsletter and consultations on issues related to HR;
- UVAE Political Action Committee, attend meetings and consultations on related issues;
- Represent UVAE in one RSVP focus group; provide feedback.
These are some of many other things that I do. I also read anything that is relevant or transferable to what I do to be a strong leader and resource person to the National, local team and our members. I will conclude my report with this quote from an article I read about the 5 pillars of resilience:Self Awareness, Mindfulness, Self Care, Positive Relationships and Purpose.
‘’By strengthening these pillars, we in turn, become more resilient. Instead of experiencing an overwhelming downward spiral when we encounter stress in our lives, these five pillars work together to lift us up out of the chaos we are feeling’’ www.feelinggoodmn.org
Regional Vice-President, Quebec Region