I have to say that looking back at the past year, as we marked 1 year of isolation, the time seems to have gone by surprisingly fast. All our lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From being confined within our homes, maintaining physical distancing, the sudden onset of telework and Zoom meetings, we all long for in-person interaction once again; but we need to be patient.
The Pandemic has left many people vulnerable. The impacts of the pandemic on our bodies and mind is different for all of us. Some are coping by reaching out to family members with the help of technology, talking to them more than ever. Some are more active taking walks, doing all those odd jobs around the home that have been on their to-do list for quite some time. Most people have found a silver lining in this surreal situation, but we cannot forget those that are not coping, and the depression and anxiety that is intensified during isolation.
The National Office and I have been working hard for our members to protect their mental health and ensure their safety. We take our role and our commitment very seriously and we continue advocating strongly to ensure the employer is taking care of our members. We are meeting with Senior Management on a regular basis where we can discuss issues and bring members’ concerns. We have had some positive results in certain areas but nevertheless the major issues are still items on our agenda that we continue bringing those forward until we get results.
Unfortunately, we have had almost no success on having 699 leave approved related to COVID. Our members’ mental health has been impacted by COVID and yet the Employer is failing in providing support for health or family related needs.
I hear a lot from our members on how the overload of work and expectations are affecting them in a negative way. Some have confessed that they work longer hours to keep up with the demands of their work. They also say that bringing this issue to management could affect their career path if they are labeled as a complainer. My role is to ensure that the members voices are heard by management at all levels. The subject of workload is an ongoing battle with the department, but we will continue pressuring the employer to address this issue and denouncing their inactions on the matter.
We, the National Executive Officers, continue having our regular meetings where we exchange information regarding the employer, current files, or committees to have a better understanding of each region’s reality and discuss solutions to better represent our members.
In the past year, I have been busy presenting grievances at the first, second and third level. With new local presidents, I have been involved with the locals responding to enquiries and supporting them with different situations that come their way. I have been involved in the locals’ Consultations Committee (LMCC) to support the new presidents and continuing working closely with management in issues reported and promoting the well-being of our members.
I work closely with the presidents of union locals and they are doing a great job on resolving problems at the lowest level with management by always advancing the interest of the members. However, there are circumstances that required other approaches to ensure the members’ rights and the collective agreement are respected.
I want to thank the Local Executives and shop stewards for their commitment and hard work to ensure our members are cared for and that their rights are protected.
We have had a few cases of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. We agree that one case is one to many due to the severity of the effects these circumstances can have on the person’s mental health.
As this last year has been a year like no other, our focus and action plan changed to reflect the new reality on issues that are amplified by the pandemic. Our members’ mental health took a front seat, workload burn out, discrimination and promoting diversity.
I serve on the UVAE Human Rights Committee. UVAE is determined to have a visibility where members feel that their union is the guardian of their human rights in the workplace. I am extremely proud of being a part of this team and contribute in any way possible for a change. I am also part of the Political Action Committee where I feel there is a direct connection with the Human Rights Committee mandate to hold VAC accountable for their promises and responsibilities towards our members while defending the members’ issues of concern.
- lead on the Pension Officer’s grievance process at the national level;
- Worked closely with the employer in accommodations cases;
- Union Joint Learning Program facilitator- I have facilitated in different departments several discussion series about the impact the pandemic has had on employees and their families;
- attended Webinars and courses related to mental health to better support our members;
- attended Webinars with PSAC Quebec on different issues, impact and solutions to better represent our members;
- Worked with PSAC on ongoing complex files with Sun Life, PSAC National Pensions and Disability Insurance Officer.
It has been an overwhelming year where my abilities of multitasking and my mental health has been challenged in a way that I have never experienced before. I will continue working hard to support the locals, strength the lines of communication and for our members well being because I believe in change.