It's a very tense time for many, with concerns about return to work, frustration with the Yukon government's pandemic pay plan, and questions about what your union has been doing to protect your rights. Added worry about the impacts of ongoing business and border closures, financial strain and anxiety about what's next have put us all under pressure.
RETURN TO WORK PLANNING:
I sent a letter this week to all our employers expressing YEU's expectation to be part of the RTW planning process. We've seen several instances where no plan has even been shared with the employees and this is unacceptable. A lack of information and responsive communication between employer and workers will lead to fear, and a natural resistance to re-enter a work environment that feels unsafe.
Whatever plans are drafted, employers must consider their duty to accommodate workers under protected grounds including family status, child care, medical issues within the family and so on. Any efforts by employers to overlook or ignore these or any safe reintegration obligations will lead to a swift response from the union.
As well, YWCHSB should be doing inspections of the buildings before people return, and not only reviewing the paper plan. BC hired 80 people to do just that, and this responsibility needs to be prioritized. If resources are not available, they must be secured before we move forward with any return to work plans. You can review the YWCHS' RTW guidelines HERE.
If the plan is not safe, contact us. We're ready to step in and grieve whatever needs to be grieved to make sure you're brought back to a safe and healthy workplace.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES PAY/PANDEMIC PAY:
The Government of Yukon last week announced a wage top-up for SOME low-wage essential workers, but with many strings and loopholes and trap doors. Quite frankly, it was something of a bogus non-announcement in my opinion.
To qualify for the Yukon's top-up, workers must earn less than $20/hr, must be deemed essential and can’t collect (or have collected) the CERB. That's a lot of exlusions, and most workers who might have qualified will be ineligible thanks to this list.
As far as YEU is concerned, if you were expected to show up to your workplace through this pandemic, you are an essential worker. In fact we've had many discussions with employers throughout this crisis. We will continue to demand compensation for workers taking on the additional risk of leaving their homes to work while others are asked to Stay Home, Stay Safe. That double standard is not acceptable, and we demand equitable treatment.
Most private sector service workers will soon lose the wage subsidy offered by their corporate employers. The wealthy corporate directors and shareholders would prefer the wage top-up to come from your taxes rather than their dividends. This is appalling, and it's something I hope we all fight, together.
Finally, the Yukon wage subsidies or pandemic pay will be paid to employers - we want to know what kind of oversight will be in place to ensure the money makes it to those who have earned it.
To reiterate, the Yukon Government's $4 wage subsidy is designed to be nearly impossible to get. It's available to only a fraction of those who deserve it, and there is not enough transparency about its implementation and oversight.
If you were expected to show up to work during the pandemic, YOU ARE ESSENTIAL. If you want to discuss your specific circumstances, get in touch with our Intake Advisor or send a message through our website. You can also email me directly and I'll make sure your question or concern gets to the right person.
HERE'S WHAT WE'RE WORKING ON:
We've had many successful negotiations with Employers to avert Covid-19 related layoffs, and many individual Letters of agreements were signed with employers, keeping good union jobs for Yukoners.
Many individual interventions have occurred on behalf of members with specific medical/ family status and other accommodation issues. Again, the employer's duties have not changed.
We've made workplace visits (safely) to ensure that CMOH rules protecting vulnerable workers and the public were being observed. We made recommendations and held follow-up discussions. Ongoing OH&S Committee work is taking place to ensure open dialogue, and continued diligence.
We've worked with employers to make sure those workers who've been reassigned receive adequate training and appropriate PPE. As well, we've been fighting to make sure all reassigned and travelling workers are paid appropriately - that means overtime, per-diems and travel status where it ought to be paid.
We have had 82 unique COVID-19 related inquiries and grievances filed since mid-March when this crisis hit. Shop Stewards have been doing incredible work and our staff have supported members remotely through conference calls, zoom meetings and streamed hearings. It's a lot of new ground to cover, but we're adjusting.
We hope to get back to work soon, but are taking the time we need to create a safe return-to-work plan for YEU employees. If you need to reach any of us, please visit our website for direct email links.
A union is a living, breathing, evolving thing. It is formed of committed volunteers, a few elected rank and file members and the staff who implement the decisions of the elected leadership. If you have questions, issues you want addressed or problems you think need solutions, reach out. Use the site's contact tools or call us at 867-667-2331, 1-888-YEU-2331 from Communities.
Let's work together to build a stronger union, and a stronger Yukon.
Steve Geick, President
Yukon Employees' Union