Shannon Blum Report November 2018

Shannon Blum

Persons with Disabilities Rep

Prairie Region Council November 2018

 

I often struggle with what to submit to these PRC reports. I recognize that there are specific reporting requirements of PRC council members, which are necessary, but I wonder what an average member would prefer to see. Thus I’m going to minimize the list of activities that I’ve participated in, and instead focus on what I feel our members need to know from the lessons I’ve learned over the last year.

Regarding activities, I have been involved with several training opportunities, both through PSAC and through my component USJE. I’ve had the privilege of participating in leadership training and forums, Health and Safety committees at local, regional and national levels, participating in the steering committee for informal conflict resolution within CSC, the distinct privilege of representing the Prairies in PSAC’s new Members Story phoenix video as well as news captions a few times and most importantly I’ve had the pleasure of working with individuals in several different locations, components and

DCL’s to offer advice in accommodation and return to work. To date I believe I’ve been involved with approximately 25 cases directly and several more indirectly through offering advice and materials to local executive.

With very few exceptions, accommodation and returning to work after illness or injury is a hardship for the individual. Our employer stressing inclusion and treating each other well, but doesn’t display these traits when dealing with employees. Much of the cause of this, in my opinion is systemic policy which is distinctly difficult to manage when employees are differently abled. For example, the new CSC policy on Duty to Accommodate feels the need to “advise” the employee on more than one occasion that they may not be happy with their accommodation, and that the right to provide employment options within your limitations lies exclusively with the employer, regardless of the fact that many studies have conclusively proven that working together, and allowing the employee to provide knowledge of their abilities is much more effective.

Another challenge is the continued “musical chairs” that has occurred at many work sites among senior and middle managers and supervisors as a result of career and succession planning. These individuals are “acting” and often have no training in duty to accommodate, or very little. While I don’t find that most are actively malicious in their lack of accommodation, I do find that they are working off perceptions of what they “feel” is correct. This often results in unclear direction, misunderstanding as to what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, and even occasionally breaches of privacy as they discuss disabilities with coworkers, colleagues and the next “actor” that will be filling the role after them. I worked on a case where the individual has had a new supervisor every 4 months. Not only did they have to explain everything each time, there has now been so many individuals from the worksite in that role that there is no longer even the illusion of privacy for that individual.

Far too often a phone call to the union comes from the employee and then only after much heartache and sometimes even further injury. I would like to encourage anyone going through an accommodation process or who is returning to work, to reach out to their union at the start of the process. That way you have both an advocate to fight for you in the time when you are most vulnerable, and someone to stand beside you as you face the challenges of your reality. Also in the coming PSAC - Prairies drive to collect home contact information, please, check the box saying your information can be shared with me! It would be ever so helpful to know whom I’m representing and have a way to communicate with them directly!