President’s Annual Report
I wrote in my May President’s Perspective, how the spring flowers were beginning to bloom, the trees starting to bud and how the days were getting longer.
The YUSA office has been a whirlwind of activity since then, and I now write how the flowers are now beginning to fade, the leaves are falling, and the days are getting shorter. It seems we have come full circle as I now write my AGM report.
We have filed 54 grievances so far this year, which is a significant reduction from 106 in 2015. We still experienced a number of job closures in 2016, but this number was down from last year. Many of the day-to-day issues and complaints have been resolved either through discussions with the local managers or in a labour management setting. We have also been successful in resolving a number of grievances at the Step 2 stage before the matter is referred to mediation or arbitration.
We continue to work with the revised mediation/arbitration process, which does not involve lawyers, and have been successful in obtaining some creative and satisfying settlements for our members. As the process becomes more streamlined, we will be able to deal with a larger number of files in one day, and realize some significant cost savings in the future.
Mental health has been a hot topic this year. In June, our union officials (officers, stewards, job-e raters and health and safety reps) underwent an intensive 2-day Mental Health Awareness training. We all came away with a greater understanding of mental illness and are better equipped to provide support to our members who,may be in need of assistance.
In the spring, the employer attended one of our executive board meetings to speak about their mental health initiatives. We expressed our concern that while there seemed to be a number of strategies for students and faculty, there were noticeable deficiencies in what they had in store for non-academic staff. In response, we decided to expand upon the material that Giulio Malfatti presented to the Confederation of Canadian Unions in Charlottetown. Giulio authored a 6-part Mental Health Education Series that was rolled out to the membership in September and October.
It is my hope that YUSA’s Mental Health Series will raise awareness among our members; so they will pay attention to their mental well-being along with their physical well-being. It is as equally important to dispel widely held myths and associated stigmas where mental illnesses are concerned. It is also my hope that we will all work together to create a culture of understanding, compassion and empathy towards our colleagues who may be experiencing the invisible challenges created by mental illness.
In addition to Mental Health training we also organized a 2-day steward training July. Megan Reid, YUSA’s legal counsel provided an extremely informative session with the help of the steward training manuals provided by our CCU affiliates.
We’ve continued to hold lunch and learn or brown bag sessions at both Campuses where Job evaluation continues to be the main topic of discussion.
We attended the CCU executive board meeting in Charlottetown, PEI in June and stood in solidarity with NSUPE’s local 19 Blood Services workers who had been on strike for several months. They were fighting for a guaranteed minimum number of hours in order to remain eligible for benefits. While in Charlottetown, we proudly marched alongside this group of courageous women through the downtown core to not-so-quietly protest in front of the Canadian Blood Services Building. Local 19 has since settled their dispute and signed a contract on August 30, 2016.
At the end of October, we will be attending a COUSA conference, where we will have the chance to dialogue with other Ontario University Staff Associations. It’s a great opportunity to meet with our counterparts in other post-secondary institutions and discuss strategies since they are faced with almost the exact the same issues. Our experience with this group, so far, has nicely complimented our affiliation with CCU.
We are well underway to implementing Unionware in the office. We have set up training early in November for the full-time officers and the union staff. There will be a large learning curve for all of us, but I’m confident that this software will enable us to better manage the large amounts of information that we deal with.
On October 11, we finally met with the Employer and exchanged non-monetary proposals to begin the long overdue bargaining process for our Unit 2 membership. We have bargaining dates scheduled October 13, 14, 24 and 25. We will be updating the unit 2 membership at their AGM meeting. We will continue to elicit the help of Unit 1 to disseminate information. Bargaining combined with CCU, COUSA, AGM and with elections just around the corner has made things extremely hectic in the office. Our office staff, (in alphabetical order) Kerrianne Brown and Elizabeth Sankar, and Fil Weatherill has been instrumental in keeping things running smoothly. I can’t thank them enough for their unwavering commitment and support.
It has been an incredible year working with Mike and Dawn. Each of us brings a unique set of skills and experience to the table however, we are like-minded when it comes to dealing with the employer. There’s a strong feeling of comradery and solidarity – even though the hours are long, we are committed to supporting each and every member of the bargaining unit who asks for it. I consider it an honour to have the privilege of working with these fine individuals on a daily basis.
YUSA is your union. I can’t stress this enough. If you are looking for ways to get involved, give us a call, put ydur name forward to become a steward, a job evaluation rater, or serve on a committee. I look forward to seeing you at the AGM. In solidarity,