Report of the Northern Alberta Geographical Rep to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the February 2016 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
Northern AB Geographical Rep
Prairie Region Council February 2016
Hello & Happy 2016!
We are in a new year with much to accomplish within the Union, your Union. And together we can get some needed work done in 2016 for the betterment of our work place(s), our locals in Northern Alberta & our communities we live in. Since my last report, I must say, I have been growing as an activist and also as an individual. I had some personal health accomplishments completed in the Fall of 2015, re-cooperated and now am back to help fulfill the tasks PSAC has for our membership to achieve. And I would like to thank all those members & friends for the kindness, support & encouragement over the last few months to my wellbeing. No one can say our membership is less than giving when the time calls for support.
I would like to firstly start my report by giving a warm welcome to our new Alternate REVP for the Prairies- Frank Janz. Brother Janz comes to us from USGE in Manitoba. He has been elected by the prairies this past November. After meeting with Brother Janz these past few months, I know he has the abilities & drive to give our PRC the needed leadership in his role as our new Alternate REVP. Welcome brother Janz!
Since my last formal report, I have attended the regional Health & Safety conference in Winnipeg on Nov 21- 22, 2015. The representation by membership from across the prairies was great & the concerns that many had pertaining to health & safety in the workplace we considerably similar. The few topics that seem to stem the most is defining Danger in the workplace, mental health identification & support, and office bullying amongst members but firmly from employer.
The goal of the conference was to give some foundation to strengthening Local Health & Safety committees. And also, give some guidelines to regular procedures that OHS committees should be maintaining within the workplace. The key to successful OHS committees are to understand the Canada Labor Code Part 2 and letting Local executive know they have an authority to the committees & to their worksites within the Local. Another workshop detail introduced at the conference was Medical privacy. It is the obligation of the employer & union to help membership protect their medical privacy to a degree. We have rights to medical privacy, and the employer needs to know based on the nature of the illness as opposed to diagnosis.
Some key elements to consider in the office workplace that brought some good open dialogue amongst the delegates at the conference- Asbestos being a topic of concern for many older buildings and offices across Canada. Members should have full understanding and knowledge of what is in your building. The employer may use terminology such as “tagging” areas in an office location as potential asbestos prone locations are not “OK”. Members should explore & discuss with OHS committees staff representatives to have information & official letters from the employer to guarantee the ratification of any asbestos elements in the workplace and filed with their workplace file for future reference. This is a clear indication of how important OHS committees are in a workplace. And said OHS committees are to be involved throughout the entire process of inquiries, inspections and investigations in a workplace.
Another important topic for many locals to start addressing is the new office work space 2.0. OHS staff reps should now bring this issue to their OHS committees and invest the committees to proper consultations to this new work space standard. The reason being, plain and simple, work space 2.0 is in violation with the Canada Labor Code part 2. When the initial idea of the work space 2.0 was placed upon members the employer was to have a full blueprint phase & consultation with committees of the work place standard, so that it places health and safety standards for all employees. And proper walk through and inspections need to take place by OHS on all levels to incorporate the work space setting. This has been a time commitment that has not been addressed by the standards of the Canada Labor code. A step that all OHS & Locals need to insure is being addressed for the safety our membership.
Our keynote speaker, Dr Leigh Quesnel brought so much great knowledge & insightful measures on office bullying & mental health. He has given us a step to encourage the cry for our Union to measure and fight for mental health practices. But most importantly, management bullying and harassment. This topic should not be shyed away as it inflicts stress on members, emotional & social intelligence, and mental wellbeing. It’s time to invest in anti-bullying in our workplaces.
On that note, PSAC is now launching a new campaign for our members to train from- Stop Workplace Violence. It will be launched to the regions this spring, in Edmonton region it will be April 2016. Please take the time to partake in this new course. The course is designed to help answer, what is workplace violence? And the course will support the methods and ideology to action plans and legislation in place to protect from bullying and violence in the workplace.
Our OHS committees need the support of our Locals and are a meeting place of equal representation between Employer and Union. An understanding of the Canada Labor Code can be a great investment for our membership to attain. And for our members to understand that the employer is responsible to protect the wellbeing of All employees, not just the many, but All employee’s health and safety.
I also attended the Unionism On Turtle Island gathering on Dec 12- 16, 2015. This gathering is a representation of our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members coming together to learn & share knowledge of what it is to be an Aboriginal person in Canada. The group spent a great deal of time at looking at the historical timeline of Aboriginal people, to activism and stories of unjust happenings inflicted on Aboriginal people in the past, and present. And what the future looks like for Aboriginal people, especially with topics and issues arising from land rights, the truth and reconciliation report, residential school survivors, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women. I took the time to share and present what I led in our region with the Edmonton Human Rights committee on our walk for missing and murdered Aboriginal women- A Path of Light. And many members shared their stories of what it is to be Aboriginal persons in Canada. There were times when delegates got emotional with sharing stories and experiences, I being one of them. We watched a video of a young school girl and her mother being ridiculed and teased on a bus by a group of youth, because of the little girl’s long and beautiful braided hair. And the actions that the little girl did to herself to wash away her identity by cutting her hair short because of her embarrassment of what she is. This short moment of insecurity in the film hit home & memories of my own past growing up. At the end of the day, after watching that film, I shared my memories of growing up with our circle. I shared my stories of being put down for what I was by others, rather than celebrated as a Cree person in Canadian society. And the impact it had on me to respect myself and my culture in the teenage years of my life. Aboriginal cultures are placed with respect to the land, and to our connection to the land. The effects of language loss in most Aboriginal societies have impacted the understanding to our traditions and practices. The hope is that more Aboriginal people and members take their traditions and languages back. And with that action, we can give all Aboriginal people a fighting chance for generations to come here on Turtle Island. One moment from the gathering that has brought a great moment of recollection was when we viewed the documentary “Kanesetake”- the Oka crisis from 1990. The reason I mention this, it was the point in my boyhood that I realized others in Canada do not submit to the same morals & respect of Turtle Island as I do. It was the moment I became an activist for human rights, and for my family. I give thanks to all the participants, leaders & facilitators who participated in Unionism on Turtle Island. Together we have created a network of support & knowledge that we can provide to our membership across the prairies. We now can network and help each other and our other Aboriginal members invest in our Union. Aboriginal people, we know what solidarity means. Generations of our people lived and continue to live it. Solidarity is in our spirit.
This past month, PSAC has hosted a meeting asking membership on new ideas & concerns we have with the production of Union education & training. Unfortunately, I could not attend the meeting to voice my opinion but I do encourage members to contact our Edmonton Region office if they have questions or ideas they would like to see accomplished with Union education & training. I believe, each members opinion to the needs of education should be heard and with each idea we bring to the Union creates a positive change for the betterment of our understanding. Education is power and growth.
These last few months our local PSAC committees have continued to meet in the Edmonton region. Area Council has just recently announced their new executive. And the same is said for the Edmonton Human Rights committee and Women’s committee. Each committee is currently working on their year of events & working budget for 2016. I do encourage members who are interested in participating in one of our committees to please contact your local executive and/ or myself & the Edmonton PSAC office for further information. Our committees are always looking for new and vibrant ideas and member’s participation to succeed each year.
This February our Bargaining teams are back at the table with the Treasury board for our new collective agreement. I ask each member to take the time to show your support to our Bargaining teams, as we are meeting on a new level of bargaining ideas because of the change in the Federal government. PSAC has recently announced and are asking members to participant in supporting our Bargaining teams & lobbying your local MPs to address important Union & Public service values. Our region will be announcing upcoming training & information sessions to help members to understand the methods of lobbying and what key elements we need our local MPs to address in Parliament. Please keep updates with the PSAC region website for future details & our local Edmonton PSAC office.
As we are approaching convention years, please start getting you Locals ready for upcoming news of the Prairie region convention. This year locals, committees and members at large should be investing their time to resolutions they would like to address to the regional convention. Resolution courses will be coming up soon in PSAC training so keep an eye on the PSAC website for dates, time & locations. But Locals should know that the next prairies convention will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba April 21- 23, 2017 at the Fairmont Winnipeg. Now is the time to start preparing your Local to the upcoming convention as there are timelines in place for registration & participation.
As 2016 has arrived so has the list of continuous tasks that we each have to fulfill within the Union, in our workplaces and in our homes. Make the effort to enjoy some of that time as well. We are a society that revolves around time so much that we forget about our wellbeing. This year make the time for yourself in your schedule. By making time for you you’re serving the self-respect each one of us deserves and maintaining good mental health. With the strain on the economy, a change in governments, fighting for our collective rights we each need to stop time for a brief moment and reflect on our achievements, our family, our communities and our union. And breathe. Please take the time to be a part of your union. But also take the time to contact me as your Regional Rep & the Area Council Rep- Ben Lemon to start working together to bring solidarity & the union community together. Let’s be the voice. Let us stand together. “Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing act.” –Dr. Seuss.
Murray K Pruden
Northern Alberta PRC