President’s Report (Condensed Version)

Ratification Vote (Impact on Local Financial Reserve)

The Local had 84 RAND members and that number had to be reduced to almost nil in order for them to be allowed to vote.  The turnout for the vote and the eligible voter list was essential to success.  Our Local ended up with the most successful vote in the NCR.

Local Endeavours 2009, Outstanding or Closed Cases

Duty to Accommodate:Mediated Settlements (with union support/intervention):

Acting Pay, Statement of Duty, Classification Grievances: 18
Discrimination Grievances: 4
Duty to Accommodate: 2
Mediated Settlements (with union support/intervention): 14
Toxic Work Environments: 2
Formal Harassment Complaints (in process): 2
Union intervention (outside of legal process): 5
Union Counselling: 30

As a result of the union counselling program, the Local has provided friendship to members in such unlikely places as rehabilitation residences, hospital visits and home visits.

Employee Assistance Program/Local Counselling Program

Over the past few years, the Local became more and more aware that our members were looking for support outside of grievance representation and we have worked very hard in the past year to develop programs and services to meet those needs.

The Local is filling the gap where no service is available.  We offer someone to talk to (no advice, no judgements) and support members through personal times of trouble with (again) no advice and no judgement.  The response has been overwhelming to the program.

The Employee Assistance program provides professional assistance but it is much more impersonal and it is a contracted service with limitations on duration.

2009 Issues (Directly affecting Members)

LWOP Legislation Change

Legislation was changed to allow for the transition of a member from LWOP (usually for medical reasons) to Priority for Disability (1 year instead of 2).  The expiration of the Priority period would be accompanied by termination.

A very large number of our members on LWOP for medical reasons received letters that indicated their positions were being backfilled permanently.  The members contacted the Local and we negotiated a strategy with management that has resulted in none of our members being replaced permanently to date.  The members will have the opportunity to gradually return to their workplace if they are able.  Priority members have all been offered full-time positions in the department (albeit not their previous one).

Transition Assistance

Employees/members who have been absent from the workplace for long periods of time find returning to work complex and challenging for a multitude of personal and professional reasons.

Transition coaches are the professional answer to the dilemma.  The Employer has no Return-To-Work protocol or specific transition officer and they may or may not be able to put such a program in place in the future but our members are both protected and supported at a time of their lives when they are vulnerable.

Advanced Leave

In the NCR, a number of members reported that they had been advanced the maximum days of sick leave according to the collective agreement and then the Employer would insist that they attend Health Canada for an assessment of their health before they could return to work.

For the period of time preceding a “fitness to work”, the member is on LWOP and this is an avoidable hardship.  The benefits that we all pay should be introduced long before the financial hardship is imposed.

The Local has negotiated (as part of the management training courses provided by Labour Relations) a module on managers monitoring leave more closely and recommending, at an earlier stage,  courses of action outside of advancing leave.

The Local is trying to get (as part of the LWOP module) a commitment from the management team that the member will be advised (in writing) to contact their Local officer when a sick leave bank is either depleting rapidly or has depleted to 10 days remaining.

Classification

Fisheries and Oceans has an enormous backlog of classification files (some outstanding for more than 2 years).  This is unacceptable and the Local is contemplating action to grieve the length of time it takes to process a work description.  Additionally, in NCR, the department appears to be establishing a ceiling of AS-03 for job descriptions.  The Local contacted other departments to acquire work description models that were essentially the same but classified higher and we have had success in that endeavour.  To date, 8 grievances for “another look” have been allowed.  This is an incredibly work intensive exercise but, through the exercise, we have been able to convince HR in NCR that a pattern may be emerging and, because of this, we may be able to establish the need for a more reasonable or logical outcome in terms of classification.

Harassment

This particular issue deserves its own section in the report as it is an ongoing issue in the NCR, Fisheries and Oceans.  It’s no secret that the employee survey for the Public Service indicated that a large percentage of employees in NCR had experienced harassment or were experiencing harassment.

The Local has always supported members through the harassment process even before the PSAC distributed their recent guideline for harassment representation.  The guideline firmly places the burden for harassment support in the Local Officers sphere of responsibility.

There is a worrisome trend for the department to introduce the notion of repercussions for “vexatious” behaviour when harassment issues are brought forward.  The local response:

Vexatious Behaviour

Definition of Vexatious

vexatious adj

1. vexing or tending to vex

2. vexed

3. (Law) Law (of a legal action or proceeding) instituted without sufficient grounds, esp so as to cause annoyance or embarrassment to the defendant vexatious litigation

Conclusion re: Harassment

The burden of proof for harassment complaints in the NCR is not an easy one to meet.

Incident reports have columns as follows:

Incident Date, Details of Incident, Witnesses/Evidence

The last report that the Local read talked a lot about vexatious conduct on the part of the victim (even though two incidents in the same report were founded).  This tells the Local that intent exists on the part of the Employer to pursue vexatious allegations in situations where there is not enough evidence of harassment and it concerns us.

The Local’s position on harassment is that the victim may not be able to provide witness testimony or evidence since people who harass seldom leave a bread crumb trail.  What about the person (this would, of course, refer to sexual harassment) where someone is groped out of sight of others?  Because there are no witnesses or evidence, does that translate to the incident not happening and would the allegation be vexatious?  Should the victim remain silent to protect themselves from discipline?

Local Opinion

No witnesses and no evidence should not equate to vexatious behaviour and we hope that this Employer opinion can be refined through discussions with management.

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