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In Solidarity – The newsletter for OPSEU Stewards and Activists, Fall/Winter 2010

In Solidarity Fall-Winter 2010

The real story behind the McGuinty wage freeze

Starting this year, the Premier of Ontario is asking one million provincial public workers to accept a two-year wage freeze. He says the freeze will protect services and save jobs. He says it will help pay down the deficit. He says provincial workers have had pay raises for too long.

The real story is very different. Here’s what you need to know:

The wage freeze is not a “freeze”

A wage “freeze” sounds like your family’s income stays the same. It doesn’t. A freeze means your wages are cut by the rate of inflation. Right now, that means a freeze would cost you two per cent of your pay in year one; it would cost you four per cent in year two.

This is not spare change. If you make $40,000 a year, a four per cent cut is $1,600. And even when the freeze ends, that amount will still be missing from your pay in the years ahead. You could be playing catch-up for a long, long time.

The wage freeze is not fair

Under McGuinty’s plan, a group home worker earning $25,000 a year will pay $1,000 a year to fight the deficit. The investment banker who made $12 million last year won’t pay one penny extra.

It’s simply not fair.

Another way it’s not fair? The wage freeze hits women hardest. For every dollar a man makes in Ontario, a woman makes 85 cents. Women make up more than 60 per cent of public employees (it’s 82 per cent in health care and social services). The wage freeze will push down average women’s wages in every Ontario community.

Ontario’s budget deficit was caused by a global recession, not your wages. It’s not fair to make public workers be the only ones who pay.

Public sector raises have trailed the private sector

Despite what the Premier says, your pay is not going up too fast.

Public sector wages have risen lately, but only after years of losses. Public sector wages (after inflation) dropped sharply in the 1990s. Wages did recover, but it took 16 years. The typical public worker earned the same pay in 2008 as she did in 1992. Public sector wage settlements since 1992 are four per cent behind those in the private sector.

YOUR money will pay for corporate tax cuts

If the money the government saved from the wage freeze were going to jobs, or public services, or even the deficit, that would be one thing. But it’s not.

Every single dollar OPSEU members give up through the wage freeze will go to the profits of companies like the Royal Bank of Canada, Rogers, and Imperial Oil.

The government will save $1.8 billion a year when the wage freeze is fully phased in. Big companies will rake in $2.4 billion a year from Corporate Income Tax cuts alone.

Why should a children’s aid worker, or a correctional officer, or a college admissions clerk pour money into a bucket with a hole in it? Why should she pay to line the pockets of bank executives and phone company CEOs? Answer: she shouldn’t.

Corporate tax cuts won’t create jobs

Corporations like to say that tax cuts create investment and jobs. But after 10 years of corporate tax cuts in Ontario, the rate of investment has actually gone down.

Our corporate taxes are low already, as the government admits. A 2010 study by the KPMG consulting firm shows that Ontario has much lower business taxes than the United States and our key competitors. And, KPMG says, taxes only account for up to 14 per cent of investment location decisions. That means things like an educated workforce and public healthcare play a key role in bringing jobs to Ontario.

In its 2010 budget, the government of Canada calculated how much “bang for the buck” it would get from different expenditures. Every dollar in corporate income tax cuts would boost the economy by 30 cents, the government said. Every dollar spent on “other spending measures” (public services) would boost the economy by $1.40.

In other words, the best investment for Ontario right now is public services.

Corporate tax cuts hurt Ontario

If corporate tax cuts don’t create jobs, what exactly do they do for Ontario? Here’s what they do: They reduce funding for health care and other vital services. They cut wages and jobs for working people. And they increase the provincial debt.

It really is that simple. Corporate tax cuts hurt Ontario.

It’s time corporations paid their share

The people of Ontario don’t support corporate tax cuts. Not now. In an August poll of 1,000 Ontarians by the Angus Reid polling company, a whopping 81 per cent said they support higher corporate taxes to pay down the deficit.

For decades, the people of Ontario have worked hard to make corporations rich. Now it’s time for corporations to do their part for the province.

”We all know Ontario today faces many challenges, and OPSEU members are always ready to talk about ways to protect public services and save jobs,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “But there’s just no reason why (for example) lab technologists or workplace safety inspectors should donate part of their wages to pad corporate profits and boost CEO salaries. If the McGuinty government is serious about protecting public services, saving jobs, and paying down the deficit, it should do the smart thing and cancel the corporate tax cuts. That’s our message to the Premier, his ministers, and every MPP.”

This document was prepared by Ontario unions working together and made possible by the in-depth research and analysis of Liam McCarthy (PSAC), Toby Sanger (CUPE), Jim Stanford (CAW), and Erin Weir (USW).


Committed to social unionism


In 2010, Ethel Birkett LaValley was nominated and elected to be a Life Member at the NUPGE convention held in Vancouver British Columbia. Ethel Birkett LaValley has been a solid trade unionist, strong feminist and a First Nations leader for over three decades. She is a proud member of the Golden Lake First Nation.

She began her union career with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) in the mid 1970s when she was hired as a warden of Algonquin Park. She served in various positions within OPSEU including shop steward, local executive member, local president and Executive Board Member serving as the vice-president for Region 3. She is a founding member of the OPSEU/NUPGE Aboriginal caucus.

Ethel represented the National Union on the Executive Council of the Canadian Labour Congress from 1999 until 2008, and is the first ever elected Aboriginal Vice-President. She was also NUPGE’s representative on the CLC National Human Rights Committee and the CLC Aboriginal Working Group.

Ethel was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) in 1995 and was acclaimed for five terms until she retired in 2005. She was the first Aboriginal-elected member to the OFL executive council.

She has always been deeply committed to social unionism. Throughout her union career, she worked to ensure social justice issues remained a central focus of the labour movement’s agenda. She spoke passionately on issues such as poverty on reserves, the abuse experienced by residential school survivors, the struggles of American Native leader and political prisoner Leonard Peltier and violence against women and child poverty.

On National Aboriginal Day in 2001, Ethel attended a gathering at the Supreme Court of Canada for a symbolic reversal of the separation of Aboriginal peoples from their land.

In addition to being a champion for the rights of First Nations people, Ethel worked for women’s equality serving as President of the Women’s Committee of the Ontario New Democratic Party. The Committee helped develop on affirmative action policy to work to ensure that 50 percent of all riding candidates are women.

In her community she served as Reeve of Airy Township, Vice-President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and was the youngest member elected to the Northern Ontario Municipalities Board. Ethel also served on two health boards of directors – the Quinte Health Centre (QHC) and St. Francis Hospital – to build strong public health core services.

She currently is the Aboriginal Vice-President on the Federal Council of the New Democratic Party of Canada.


An injury at work, now what?

Lisa Bicum, In Solidarity

Getting hurt on the job isn’t something we like to think about. However, workplace injury is a reality. Last year in Ontario, there were 64,824 lost-time injuries, 133,308 no lost-time injuries, and 73 deaths from traumatic injuries or other immediate causes (WSIB, 2009). Shockingly, these statistics represent injuries reported only in the workplaces required to report to the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. Who knows how many unregistered workplaces there are in our province and country? Although we may individually be fortunate enough to avoid injury, these statistics show that the chances are good that we will at least hear of someone being hurt on the job.

In that light, it is important for each of us to know the proper workplace injury recording process in case a WSIB claim needs to be initiated by us or by one of our co-workers.

OPSEU Head Office has been diligent in preparing a series of WSIB fact sheets outlining several factions of the WSIB claims process. The following information is taken from WSIB Fact Sheet #1…it deals mainly with the reporting procedure for an injured worker, his or her employer, and his or her physician. Official OPSEU WSIB Fact Sheets can be obtained from Rachael Williams, Benefits Unit at rwilliams@opseu.org.

What do I do if I’m injured at work?

You must report your injury to your employer before you leave the workplace for the day. Injuries must be reported to WSIB no later than six months from the date of the injury/accident. If you suffer an occupational illness, you must report this with WSIB no later than six months from your diagnosis.

What if I’m unsure my illness or injury is work related?

Whether or not you can pinpoint the exact cause of an illness, if you have any doubt that it may be workplace related, file a claim with the WSIB so that you do not lose the protections offered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (health care costs, recouping of lost earnings, job security).

Who are the WSIB? What is their role?

The WSIB is an independent body who rules whether or not a worker’s injury or illness is work related thus ensuring benefits and protection to the injured worker.

What are the steps to filing a claim? What role do I, my employer, and my physician play in reporting?

Your first step is to report your injury or illness to your employer. From there, your employer MUST report the injury or illness to the WSIB if you, (because of the incident) need health care, will be absent from work, will face reduced hours or pay because of a modified workload, or will require modified work at regular pay for more than seven days. Your employer does not need to report the incident if only first aid is given and modified work at regular pay is prescribed for fewer than seven days.

Your employer is obligated to keep records of the incident and pay you for the day of the injury if you’ve had to leave early. Your employer must also allow you to seek treatment and must pay for transportation to a care facility. Finally, your employer is obligated to file a Form 7 (Employer’s Report Of Accident) with the WSIB within three working days of the incident and must give you a copy of a completed Form 7.

In addition, if you seek treatment, the attending physician is required to complete and submit a Form 8. This record can trigger a claim if no Form 7 has been filed. Forms 7 and 8 are vital to the initiation of a WSIB claim.

Once a claim is filed, will anything else be required of me?

Injured workers must consent to release of “functional abilities” information. This list of activities or limitations can help you and your employer deem what is reasonable accommodation upon your return to work. Refusing to consent can lead to a stoppage in benefits, so it is very important to note your consent in one of three ways: a signature on Form 7 (Employer’s Report Of Accident), a signature on Form 6 (Worker’s Report Of Accident), or through the completion of an FAF (Functional Abilities Form).

The FAF is completed by the physician treating your condition The form in no way gives access to your medical history. Finally, open communication throughout your recuperation between you and your employer should ensure that you return to the type of work that best suits your situation.

 All of these tips are essential if, down the road, you or someone you know needs to report an injury or initiate a WSIB claim. If you need further information, your local (especially your health and safety representatives) can help. Valuable information regarding injuries and claims can also be found at www.wsib.on.ca, and workplace safety information can be found at www.labour.gov.on.ca.

In our next issue, we’ll address the WSIB appeals process and how OPSEU can help you with WSIB issues.

B.C. says Facebook and Twitter okay on the job


THE B.C. government is opening the door for public workers to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter on the job.

It is creating new guidelines for the use of social media and is encouraging its use in everything from forest fire updates to citizen input on policy decisions.

Allan Seckel, head of the B.C. public service, says the province sees social media as a new set of tools to be incorporated into the working day of a worker, rather than banned or discouraged.

Seckel says social media is quickly becoming a big part of public workers’ daily work. While it can be unnerving for organizations to let workers use social media in the workplace, the government has decided not to impose restrictions merely to avoid perceived risk.

Seckel cited cases in which government workers use Facebook or Twitter to assist them in their work during the summer forest fire season.

The Collective Agreement: in bookstores near you?

Tim King, In Solidarity

Do people sit down during the evening and read the newspaper? Yes. Buy and read a good book or a great comic? Of course. Do people sit down to read a magazine to catch up on gossip or hobbies? Yes. We have tendencies to buy and read material that interests us: cars, fashion styles, celebrity updates, even marketing for retail products. It is normal; we all do it.

What about sitting down to a hot cup of cocoa, a roaring fire, your great snugly blanket, a bowl of popcorn and reading the single book that impacts almost every aspect of your life? Not so much.

This isn’t a life changing book bought at the local Chapters, Coles, the corner market, or the inspiring magazine that you “borrowed” from the doctor’s office. It is a subscription you signed up for when you signed your employment contract – your Collective Agreement. This book gives the information needed about your health and medical benefits, time entitlements, retirement and family goals and rights as a employee in the workforce. Even after knowing this, people still don’t sit down and read through the book that touches almost every part of their lives.

Why is that? Recipes are followed for a good meal outcome. Instructions are followed so your book shelf doesn’t turn into a coffee table, and road signs with a single shape dictate how we stay safe. A single word can keep a person safe, but a whole book of words…people put it on the shelf. Again – why?

Could it be the thickness of the collective agreement that’s intimidating? By no means is it pamphlet, but it isn’t as thick as Tom Clancy’s books or Sun Tzu’s “War and Peace” either – and those books ARE read. How about the size of print? Is readability a factor since font could be too small or the contrast of black on white? Definitely not – almost all books are printed that way; in fact, magazine print is even smaller. Two other possibilities come to mind: topic and language.

The first, topic, is of bargained employee-management rights. It is a contract storyline that sets out what employees are entitled to if they retire, have children, work seasonally, have orthodontics and how much financial compensation is received for work performed for the employer. Interesting? Could be. Compare this to mortgage and warranty agreements… they aren’t that interesting but are understood and followed..

The second possible reason: language. Even though the words are clear English and mostly recognized, the order of the words, the continual references to other articles, the perception of multiple interpretations with a sprinkling of “not-withstanding,” “may,” and “shall” thrown in for good measure can make it an impossible task. The language and terms used, with a little time and understanding, becomes clear to prevent loopholes, misinterpretation, equal protection to employee/employer and to clearly outline employee entitlements. Maybe if it was re-written in story-style, it would be easier to remember.

Like any genre of book, there are those who will read anything… in this case – the union stewards. But for the mass population – they want the Coles Notes version or rely on others to “just tell me what happens next.” People take control over their vehicle, mortgage and utility contracts, so they should add their “life benefits” contract. If everyone knew this book a little better, the storyline and ending would be a lot happier.

Have you read a good book today?

Membership room dedicated to Jim Tait

Dan McKnight, President Local 270

On November 2nd, 2009, the Niagara Area Council (NAC) held a ceremony to dedicate the OPSEU Fonthill membership room to Brother Jim Tait. About fifty OPSEU Activists attended the ceremony including Region 2 Board members, local presidents, retirees, and Jim’s widow, Lynn, and other family members.

Jim Tait was a long-time Labour activist who was instrumental in creating OPSEU in 1975. He is greatly respected by OPSEU members for his many years of dedicated service.

Jim began his labour involvement in the Mariners Union in Britain. He came to Canada and worked as a clerk at the Ministry of Health. This is where Jim became active in the Civil Service Association of Canada (CSAO), the fore-runner of OPSEU. Brother Tait became the Toronto OPSEU Staff Representative in early 1978. He later moved to Guelph office and then to the Niagara OPSEU office as staff rep until 1997. Jim retired in 2006 and passed away two years later.

Jim was known as one of the “four horsemen” who was instrumental in turning CSAO into the member-run union that OPSEU is today.

In recognition of Jim’s many contributions to OPSEU and his service to members in Niagara, the NAC dedicated their Fonthill membership room in memory of Jim Tait as a lasting tribute. Serge Valcourt, NAC Chair, presided over the ceremony where members spoke about their memories of Jim.

Brother Michael Grimaldi, Region 2 Vice-President, spoke about Jim’s dedication to OPSEU members and how his hard work was legendary. Michael spoke how Jim drafted OPSEU’s Constitution, and kept valuable records on how our Constitution was developed. It was very important to Jim that OPSEU be a membership-driven union. He wanted the members to decide the direction and policies of their union through a democratic process such as local meetings and OPSEU’s annual Convention. “We should always remember it is people like Jim we should thank for the great democratic union we have inherited today” said Grimaldi. 

Next, I was honoured to speak about my experience with Jim in my role as a local president. I first met Jim when I started with Local 270, as part of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) relocation to St. Catharines in 1995. Jim always gave great advice on how to deal with the many contentious issues that would come across a local president’s desk. I’ll always appreciate Jim for his wise advice.

Jim preserved a lot of OPSEU’s heritage. Jim installed door handles with the OPSEU logo on them to the Fonthill OPSEU Office. Jim told me he had salvaged the handles from OPSEU’s first head office building in Toronto. Without Jim’s efforts this unique OPSEU heritage would have been lost forever. Now these doors mark the entrance to the very membership room that bears his name.

Jim’s widow Lynn spoke how Jim put OPSEU members first and how he worked long hours serving those members. Lynn told a story about how Jim was called in to address an issue at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre. The inmate overcrowding situation was out of control and the guards needed to take back the jail. Brother Tait was dispatched to the institution to ensure the safety of the guards and to assist in any way he could. Brother Tait was the “last man standing” at the institution. He stayed until the guards had taken back control and didn’t leave until after the last guard had left the building safely.

Lynn also contributed a photograph which is the last picture taken of Jim before he died. It now hangs at the front door for all to remember him.

The very best compliment I can say about someone is that they are a really nice person. I can certainly say this about Jim,. He was always there to help a brother or sister in need. It was not just a job to Jim – he truly cared about the welfare of OPSEU members. He had a heart of gold, and nerves of steel to deal with the pressures of his leadership positions. He will be sadly missed.

It’s often said that nice guys finish last. Jim’s life is proof they can finish first. Jim’s photograph and dedication plaque hangs at the front of the OPSEU Fonthill membership room, and it is a fitting tribute to Jim as he’s the very first person we think of who dedicated his life to helping his brother and sisters. Jim Tait, a great activist to remember.


Activists of the highest order

Terri Aversa, OPSEU Health and Safety Officer

This issue recognizes Catherine Fenech, Local 528

What were you doing in the year 2000? While many workers were looking towards a new decade, OPSEU member Catherine Fenech was starting Repetitive Strain Awareness Day. Recognition of this day spread across Canada and internationally, and now every year on the last day of February workers, unions, and organizations call for action to address debilitating musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Catherine wanted just one day for everyone to focus on these injuries, so Feb 29 was decided upon, the only day of the year that is non-repetitive (on non-leap years, RSI Awareness Day is Feb 28).

Since that day in 2000, Catherine has toiled on behalf of thousands of workers to raise awareness of RSIs. Yet in 2010, Catherine notes that Ontario still does not have a regulation to compel employers to take steps to prevent RSI injuries. 

There is no doubt that repetitive strain injuries are hugely expensive…for everyone. Not only does the Ministry of Labour say that RSIs compose over 43 per cent of all approved workers’ compensation claims, but MOL records indicate that between 2003 and 2007 Ontario workers missed a total of 2.5 million days of work due to RSIs, with direct costs of more than $314 million. It is estimated that from 2003-2007, Ontario employers paid more than

$1 billion in direct and indirect costs related to these injuries. So why then does a lone worker have to spend her days and nights organizing events to inform the government and employers of something they already know?

Catherine Fenech would tell you that it is because not enough is done to prevent these injuries in Ontario. “Unfortunately, we have flawed rebate programs that encourage aggressive claims management by employers, and reward them for injuring workers, and then push the costs onto taxpayers,” said Catherine in front of a crowd at CAW Hall on Feb. 28, 2010. “There is also the strong employer lobby that will vigorously fight any attempt to get ergonomic regulations. But another part of the problem is us. We don’t want it enough. We aren’t fighting hard enough. How do we expect the government to take this issue seriously when we don’t? Where is the leadership on this issue? These are the largest category of workplace injuries but there is no concerted effort to deal with them.”

Catherine also demands that labour make it a priority and dedicate resources and run campaigns to address this issue. Always a strong voice for injured workers, Catherine says, “Labour needs to include the injured worker community in this fight, as those who suffer from RSIs know better than anyone why we need to prevent it. We need to engage all our allies, particularly those in the research community and the medical community. We can’t keep dealing with this in silos. We need to come together. We need to work together. Too many lives are being destroyed.” 

Catherine knows firsthand the devastation that these injuries cause; she is open about the fact that she has been living with RSI since 1994. She has struggled and continues to struggle with pain, with WSIB, with discrimination, with obtaining appropriate accommodation, and with the poverty that accompanies devastating injuries. Yet she still holds an active position on her local joint health and safety committee, lobbies the government, organizes RSI day, assists and participates in research projects, and appears as a guest speaker across Ontario to advocate for workers. Why does she do it all? It’s simple. Catherine told everyone why at RSI Day 2010, “I don’t want anyone to have to go through this. I know that many injured workers are much worse off than I am. Many lose their homes, their families, everything.”

OPSEU is proud to call Catherine Fenech a member of Local 528, a member of her joint health and safety committee, a brave woman who speaks out about her experiences to save others from debilitating injuries, and a health and safety advocate of the very best order. Thanks to Catherine for advocating for others while facing injury herself. Thanks for being a beacon for injured workers everywhere. Thanks for helping to remind us that prevention and compensation are two pieces of the same puzzle.

To honour Catherine best, here are her own words to challenge us all. As always, never worrying about herself, but rather calling for action to end RSIs like she has done ever since 1994, Catherine asks all, “So what are we waiting for? RSI isn’t new, it was first written about in the medical literature in 1713, almost 300 years ago. Even the term RSI, which is considered relatively new, is almost 30 years old. How many workers do you think have been injured since 1713? Every year we wait, the body count goes up. More than 35,000 will get injured next year according to the government. Who wants to be next? Who wants to volunteer? I’m already injured. Will it be you or you? Who do we want to sacrifice? Your husband or wife or perhaps your son or your daughter? Who will it be? Unless we want to sacrifice another 35,000 workers, then now is the time to act. If not now, when? When there is no one left to injure?”

Challenges of an aging workforce

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

The demographics are clear: the Canadian workforce is aging and older workers are making up a greater portion of the workforce. With the large number of “baby boomers” born after World War Two now aging, it is estimated that by next year, approximately 41 per cent of the working population will be between the ages of 45 and 64 (up from 29 per cent in 1991), and this percentage will continue to increase over the coming years.

What does this mean for employers?

With a large part of the workforce being middle aged or older there is an immediate need to understand and address the issues of this quickly growing group of workers, to keep them healthy and safe at work. In addition, employers could face a labour and skills shortage with the loss of older workers through early retirement, and fewer people entering the workforce. For employers to meet their labour needs, it is important to retain their skilled older workers. Accommodating the needs of those older workers can play a key role in that retention.

Impact of aging on workers

The impacts of aging on a worker are as varied as the individual who is aging. Generally, older workers may experience physical, sensory and cognitive changes that can accompany aging. On the other hand, they may also accumulate experience, knowledge, and insight as they age, making them a valuable resource for their organization.

In general, while older workers may work slower or make decisions less quickly, they tend to be more accurate in their work and make better decisions. Studies report that older workers generally have lower turnover, more dedication to the workplace, and positive work values.

Older workers also tend to have fewer injuries, but when they do get hurt, their injuries are often more severe and may take longer to heal. Younger workers tend to get more eye or hand injuries, while, in general, older workers who have been working for many years report more back injuries. Many workplace injuries are related to repetitive motion injuries that develop over time. An older worker who has been working longer may report more musculoskeletal injuries since the condition has had more time to develop.

There is a risk for injury when anyone, regardless of their age, is pushed to work harder than they safely can, which underscores the importance of preventing illness and injury in the first place. Today’s older population, besides experiencing personal and health issues that can come with age, may face additional challenges, including evolving family responsibilities as they care for their families, spouses and elderly parents.

How to accommodate an aging workforce

A well-designed workplace that matches workstations and job tasks to the needs of the individual employee benefits all workers, not just those who are older.

  • Adapt the work environment to better meet the needs and comfort levels of older workers by considering lighting, heat, and ergonomics.
  • Adjust workstations and match job tasks to the needs of the employee taking into account the physical capabilities and limitations of individual workers.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements such as job sharing, flexible hours, part time jobs, the option to work from home and other kinds of reduced work schedules to help workers better balance their responsibilities at work and at home.
  • Design and provide appropriate training programs to help older workers learn, keeping in mind that training may have to be more "practical". Older workers may take longer to train and may also need more assistance or practice than younger workers.
  • Stimulate employees’ interests and creativity in their work by broadening the range of work experience. Workplaces can draw on employees’ years of experience by encouraging them to mentor younger workers or facilitate training of other older workers.
  • Provide workplace wellness programs that give workers access to services such as Employee Assistance, fitness, and nutrition programs.

By taking steps now to help all workers stay safe and healthy at work as they age, and addressing the immediate needs of older workers, employers will benefit from an experienced, dedicated pool of employees. Most importantly, the workers can work in an environment that meets their changing needs and enables them to work comfortably and safely.

*** Source: Health and Safety Report, (volume 8, issue 8), Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), 2010. Reproduced with the permission of CCOHS, 2010


Proposition: Boycotts are an effective tool for social change

‘A boycott is something everyone can take part in’

Ryan Walker, Chair, Provincial Young Workers Committee Local 249

Boycotts are an effective tool for social change because of the awareness which they create. For most, to think of a boycott as successful, it is expected to crash company sales of a product or a completely stop the boycotted product or service from being sold or provided. If this were to happen that would be great, but for a boycott to be an effective tool it does not solely rely on this.

Awareness of the issues around the boycott is most important. All opportunities need to be taken advantage of to ensure the boycott is effective. For example, OPSEU has openly boycotted Coca-Cola products.

With Coca-Cola it was never expected to have them go bankrupt from a loss of sales, because with a company like this that would be near impossible. What was expected was to maybe affect their sales just enough to get us on their radar and create awareness around the issues. Coca-Cola isn’t worried about OPSEU lowering their profits or sales drastically with a boycott…they’re worried about us telling everyone about the crimes they commit around the world.

As individuals we can help by educating people why we are supporting a boycott; in reality most people don’t know about the issues.

When I am in public and order a soft drink, then refuse it because it is a Coca-Cola product, people wonder why and ask my reason. At first they may just assume it’s a preference of taste, but this is an opportunity for me to shed some light and create some awareness of the issues with the company.

When a boycott is used it is usually a last resort with the intent of achieving some sort of change. It’s not to say Coke makes a lot of money and we need to cut them back, or Wal-Mart has the most profit and that’s not fair. It’s more along the lines of, Coca-Cola kills people to maximize profit and I’m not going to support that company, or Wal-Mart exploits young workers and I’m not going to stand for that and shop there.

A boycott is something that everybody can take part in if they so choose to and most that do aren’t necessarily doing it for themselves.

Myself, I’m not exploited by Wal-Mart at work but I don’t shop there. I don’t buy Coke products and I’m not subject to the violence they inflict on people. Companies and people need to understand that we won’t stand for any exploitation or inequities and to boycott is an effective way to show them we care and want a change.

I do it because that’s what I feel is right and to make things change for the greater good for EVERYONE.

‘Boycotts hurt local communities but have no impact abroad’

Karrie Ouches, In Solidarity Committee Member, Local 340

Long ago, boycotting, or collectively refusing to offer patronage to a particular manufacturer of goods or services to protest something or to force action, was effective. Back then, the labour movement and other types of active organizations could take this action with a great deal of success. However, today the effects are lost on multi-million dollar organizations with offices and plants around the globe.

In the early days of the labour movement, manufacturers and service providers operated on a smaller global scale and were tied closely to the community they were operating in. Their primary customer was within that local community. If a large populace of that community were involved in a boycott, the manufacturer or service provider would certainly be financially impacted. The point of the boycott would be driven home, forcing them to take action to protect their business or to cease operations.

Today, manufacturers of goods and services are substantially larger and have offices and plants all over the world. They’ve gone global. Boycotting in one community to protest the working conditions within another community would only affect the community where the boycott was taking place. And, because we are now dealing with corporations making millions and billions of dollars, there is no financial impact. The point of the boycott is lost and may actually have a negative effect on the communities we are boycotting.

Take, for example, Coca-Cola. Agreed, human rights tragedies occurring in Columbia are horrible and shameful and Coca-Cola should be held accountable for allowing these deplorable conditions to exist. However, how does boycotting in Ontario, Canada impact Columbia? If it has any effect, it is on those workers in local bottling plants here in Canada. It is unlikely the impact would trickle to the plants in Columbia. For Coca-Cola, it is business as usual for them.

Any impact though, is tempered with the fact that Coca-Cola is a multi-billion dollar, global corporation. A small faction of organizations boycotting their product would have no real financial impact or consequences; merely pennies in a bucket if any impact at all.

Boycotting in today’s world is an exercise in futility. There is no financial impact to multi-million dollar, global businesses. Further, we cannot hold front-line workers working at plants or offices within our communities responsible for travesties that are perpetrated by companies operating a half a world away


Breaking free of the mental illness stigma

Karrie Ouches, In Solidarity

Isaac Newton, whose greatest mathematical discovery was the calculation of gravitational pull, was known to have fits of rage and several nervous breakdowns. By today’s diagnosis, he may have suffered bipolar disorder.

Abraham Lincoln, former President of the United States, suffered from severe bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts yet through sheer determination became one of the greatest American leaders.

Vincent Van Gogh, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Trudeau, Robert Munsch and Jim Carrey are a few more famous people who have suffered from mental illness.

While I don’t report to share in the creative or intellectual genius of any of the people I’ve listed, I do have something in common with them: mental illness.

I have suffered from bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts all my adult life. There have been times it has been debilitating…affecting my work, my family and other relationships.

For many years, I kept my condition to myself, afraid of what others thought or how they would react if I were to disclose it. It has taken years for me to realize that a part of my recovery, if you will, is to be honest about the illness and to allow others in to help me when I am having “dark days.”

I believe that there were signs in my early childhood that indicated I was mentally ill. I often felt isolated and ostracized. I never really fit in with my peers, opting to spend time alone because I felt so different. I was the fat kid. I didn’t wear the same clothes. I didn’t have to really study to get good grades. I was the teacher’s pet because I never caused any trouble. Throughout my early and late teens, I suffered from headaches and obsessive-type thoughts, severe mood swings and battled with an eating disorder.

My first “breakdown” was when I was 19, following several severe losses. My second breakdown was at the age of 29, following the suicide of a close friend. And my third in 2009, having lost many things I thought were important and learning of various medical issues.

I have been through day-programs, have been hospitalized, have tried different medications and counseling sessions. The biggest obstacles I have faced are two-fold: 1) stigma surrounding mental illness and 2) me.

Mental illness does not mean that a sufferer needs to be committed to a hospital psychiatric ward. It is estimated that one in four Canadians suffer from some form of mental illness. The hospitals would become quite full real quick. Mental illness does not mean that the sufferer is not intelligent. On the contrary: many of the most brilliant minds in history suffered from depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar disorders.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers cannot discriminate based on a disability and have a duty to accommodate. A sad reality I have faced is that employers don’t seem to know how to accommodate someone with mental illness. Because mental illness is an invisible disability, there are no ergonomic assessments or tools that can be provided unless the mental illness is manifesting physical symptoms. Employers don’t understand that things like setting personal attendance thresholds, providing flexible work schedules, modifying duties or job bundling and use of simple aids, like tape recorders during meetings, can go a long way in assisting the employee with feeling valued, respected and dignified.

While counseling, therapy and medication are the best tools that can be accessed from the medical professionals, it is the understanding, acceptance and patience from family, friends and peers that are critical to support a sufferer of mental illness.

It wasn’t until I learned to accept my own diagnosis and treatment that I have learned to become well. The stigmas involved aren’t always from outside influences but from how I feel about myself.

What have I learned? It’s okay to be me. I’m not perfect, but who is? I recognize that not every day is going to be rainbow and roses, that there are rough days ahead. For those days, I have developed a support system and strategy to get through, including seeing my specialist, my counseling and taking medication as prescribed. I’ve taken responsibility for learning my rights in the workplace and am empowered to enforce them. I will continue to be honest with myself about my condition and will stay focused. I am determined to live my life to the fullest and help as many people as I can along the way

Embracing the art of writing e-mails

Some excerpts from “E-mail writing for results” by Bruner Business Communications

Electronic mail (e-mail) is a fast and easy form of communication. However, it may be too fast and too easy. The intricacies of planning and sending hand-written letters are overlooked, as are the interpersonal advantages of face-to-face or telephone communication.

Remember: e-mails are public documents. Never write an e-mail that may come back to haunt you later.

  • Complete the “To:” field last. You don’t want to send out an e-mail before it has been properly written and edited.
  • Consider your audience. Are they familiar with the subject matter? What is your relationship with the reader? Do you need to adjust your tone? The reader cannot rely on visual clues from body language or from the tone in your voice to determine your true intent.
  • Make a plan. What is the message you want to convey? What actions are you hoping the e-mail will generate?
  • Organize your ideas. Put your bottom line upfront and the least important details at the end.
  • Make it easy for your reader to respond. Frame your message as a question. For example, instead of asking for feedback, ask if the reader agrees with your proposal.
  • If you are replying, use a quote for a previous message. Instead of giving a “yes” or “no” without any context, quote the part of the previous e-mail you are responding to.
  • As is true with most forms of writing, use short paragraphs and lots of white space.
  • If there is more than one item being addressed in the e-mail, use lists to break up the information.
  • Write great subject lines. This will draw the reader’s attention to your e-mail. Make the subject line information rich. Use positive trigger words. Use a verb.
  • Don’t flame. Be positive. It is never good to respond to a sensitive issue when you are upset. Cite the problem, but provide a solution.
  • Use plain language. Use short words and avoid business clichés. Be concise.
  • Use correct grammar and punctuation.
  • Use mix caps. Using all capitals is perceived as yelling whereas using all lowercase may be perceived as ignorance.
  • When writing an e-mail, keep in mind that it is intended as a quick form of communication. For any lengthy details or reports, it is more appropriate to add as an attachment versus being included in the body of the text.
  • Those listed in the “To:” field are expected to respond. Those listed in the “Cc:” field are receiving a copy of the e-mail for their records and a response is not expected. Blind copies, or “Bcc:” should never be used. The reader has a right to know who is being copied on the correspondence.

Workplace excellence versus union activism:

Are these mutually exclusive?

Dallas Takeuchi, Local 533

I am honoured to have been president of my local for over twelve years, and in this time, I have had opportunities to further my career both at the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and in OPSEU. People often shy away from union activity fearing it will hamper their career advancement. My career path shows that a person can do both.

My current job is at the Ministry of the Environment inspecting drinking water testing laboratories across Ontario. This job requires me to travel all over the province. In addition, as an activist in Region 5 of OPSEU, I have been asked to be a member mobilizer for bargaining, a mobilizer for campaigns, have been elected to the Ministry of the Environment Employee Relations Committee and have been a Member Development Trainee. I have been recently asked to be a mobilizer for the NUPGE “All Together Now” campaign.

I have been working for the Ministry for over 23 years. I started in the MOE’s London Regional Laboratory and it was here where my government work and union activism first collided: I vividly remember being required to work on the “Day of Action” as I had little seniority, and I refused to cross the picket line. I ended up getting a couple of hours docked off my pay, but I filed a grievance and I won back the pay with interest.

I also remember taking my first educational course in grievance handling when my daughter was about two years old. She is now 19 and in her second year of nursing. Since then, I have taken many OPSEU educational courses, have attended OPS Divisionals, Convention and many other meetings. I was also awarded the Region 5 Activist of the Year Award and the David Milliard Award in 2006.

However, the union learning curve was often quite steep. When I was elected president of Local 553, I was pretty much a nerdy scientist. I didn’t have any public speaking skills then. Now, I still stumble, but I’m getting used to speaking to 120 or so members at general membership meetings.

One of my secrets of success as president of Local 553 is that I will engage and talk to the members. If I don’t have the answer to their questions, I’ll get the answers from the board members or staff. Sometimes, I’m wrong, but I am big enough to admit it, correct myself, and move on.

One other way to link union activism to our workplace is by being visible in our communities. My local has donated to the Federated Health Charity and recently to the food drive for the Daily Food Bank. We hope to start to sponsoring house league sports teams which would be cheap advertising for OPSEU and our local.

I made a conscious decision to become involved in the union, possibly limiting my career in the workplace. In addition, I needed to tend to the responsibilities of family life. Family commitments are important: music lessons, swimming lessons, soccer, field hockey, and hockey. However, looking back, I can honestly say that I have succeeded in the workplace, in OPSEU and in my family life.

There are many other activists that I know in the Ministry of the Environment who balance their activism with excellent work. So for all of the union activists out there, or any of you concerned that union activism may impede your work, please keep up the fight. My experience shows we all are capable of fulfilling our duties as Ontario public servants and, in turn, are capable of ensuring better working conditions for all of our OPSEU brothers and sisters.

Our crazy language


WHY IS abbreviation such a long word?

Why is dyslexic so hard to spell?

Why is it so hard to remember how to spell mnemonic?

Why is it that no word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple?

Why is it that the word gullible isn’t in the dictionary?

Why is it that we recite at a play and play at a recital?

Why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham?

Why is the alphabet in that order? Because of the song?

Why is the plural of goose geese, and the plural of moose not meese?

Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds

10-word Wiki:

Encyclopedia for the ADD generation


TEN WORD Wiki collects and distributes knowledge in exactly 10 words, no more no less. Here are some samples:

1 – It is the loneliest number that you will ever do.

1950s – Decade in the 20th century. Elvis, start of cold war.

1980s – A decade in the 20th century. Electronic, nerdy and blocky.

Canada – Similar to America, except more laid-back, better at hockey.

Capitalism – The economic system allowing more people to turn blind eyes.

Folk music – Played by people with beards for people with amusing trousers.

Kraft Dinner – Sustenance of youth. Made with real cheese? Not really relevant.

Oxymoron – Phrase where conflicting words are used in conjunction: Instant Classic.

Second Life – Contains most things wrong with First Life, with added advertising.

Urban myth – Those stories that start with a friend of a friend 

Zero – A round scribble which revolutionized mathematics. There’s nothing to it.


Young + Old = Union Power

Steward Update

If the members you represent are from more than one generation, the odds are good that you’ve heard these questions more than once:

“Why don’t these young kids appreciate the struggles this union went through to win what we have in our contract?”

“How come you older folks always shoot down our ideas and insist on doing things the way you’ve always done them?”

As a steward, whatever you age, your job is to represent and unite members of all generations. This can be challenging, especially when there are barriers to communication and understanding between the “old-timers” and the “kids.”

Telling the Union Story

It’s legitimate for the long time members who helped build the union to want newer members to appreciate that history. The timing is critical, however. Probably most of you have an older relative who, when the discussion turns to how easy the younger set has it, brags about having “walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways.” If you’re a younger person, chances are that such a declaration didn’t exactly make you appreciate how good you have it. Well, when unions start off talking to new members about the union’s history it might sound like the walking-to-school story. A better strategy is to listen to what is important to younger members and discuss how the union can address their issues. Later, when they are involved in trying to improve their working conditions, they are more receptive to hearing about the lessons learned in past struggles.

Young members are also justified in feeling their ideas shouldn’t be ruled out just because they don’t have a lot of experience in the union. Your job as a steward is to convince your experienced members to be more open to new ideas and new activists. You should help newer members learn the best times and ways to get their ideas heard, while at the same time convincing them to avoid assuming that everything that has been done before needs to be changed.

While it’s important not to stereotype anyone because of their age, there are some generalities that can help the generations understand each other better.

Unlike many baby boomers (born after World War II) who tend to define themselves by what they do and how much they work, younger generations tend to see work as only a part of their lives. And while in the past it was not unusual for someone to stay at the same job for most of their working life, it’s different today. Now, with outsourcing, layoffs, plant closings and other actions that make jobs less secure, newer workers enter the workforce without the expectation they will stay in any one job very long. As a result, the unions that are most successful at involving younger members focus on their immediate issues and find way for them to contribute to union activities that don’t infringe too much on their personal time.

Communications and Technology

One of the most obvious differences between generations is how they communicate, and particularly their comfort level with technology. Sometimes more senior members belittle their younger co-workers for always “tweeting” or “texting.” Meanwhile, some younger members are impatient with their older co-workers who are slow to adapt to new technology. Many unions have found using e-mail, texting and other newer technologies is a good way to reach members, especially younger members. But, it’s important to remember that electronic communications are not a substitute for personal relationship-building: they are just one part of it. And if you can convince younger members to help their senior brothers and sisters with new technology rather than criticize them, it would help build the union.

Building Relationships is Key

The key to uniting people is building relationships. If in your area members of one generation are less involved than others, you should reach out to the most receptive members from that generation and get to know them. Make connections between generations and help smooth out miscommunications. Consider mentoring programs where each newer member has a more experienced mentor to help them: not only to learn about and get involved in the union, but to guide them in learning “the ropes” at work.

Your job as a steward is to help members of all generations recognize that they need each other, especially in these challenging times, to strengthen the union. Encourage your members to listen and seek to understand each other. Find influential members from each generation to help bring people together around issues and activities that improve everyone’s work life.

An entire generation of union leaders and activists is nearing retirement age. Unions need young leaders to step up to replace them and lead the labour movement into the future. If you are one of those with years of experience in union building, your job is to help find and prepare the next generation of leadership. If you are a young leader, you should learn from those who came before and prepare yourself and your peers for the challenges ahead.

Ken Margolies is on the labour extension faculty of Cornell University.

*** This article is reprinted courtesy of Union Communications Services Inc., 1633 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009. To order a subscription, you can call 1-800-321-2545.

 By agreement between In Solidarity and Union Communications Services, this material may not be reproduced. **


Unclassified terminated on lack of availability

Mary Anne Kuntz, OPSEU Grievance Officer

LCBO and OPSEU – K. Bissonnette – GSB # 2007-1870, 2008-1920,1921, 1923 etc.

The grievor was a casual employee of LCBO from late 2000 to August 18, 2008 when she was terminated. During the same time period, Ms. Bissonnette was employed at a long-term care facility and after she secured a full time position, this came in conflict with her job with LCBO.

The core issue was whether LCBO had cause to discipline her and ultimately discharge her. The issue crystallized when Ms. Bissonnette’s ability to attend at work conflicted with her “stated” availability. Casual employees at LCBO sign a “standard form” on employment setting out their availability. Specifically, in the grievor’s situation, the expectation was that casuals would be reasonably available at all times but particularly on Thursday and Friday evenings, Saturdays, Sundays and long weekends, typically LCBO’s peak periods.

For the first few years, the grievor was available for all or most hours her store was open. In 2003, she asked for a transfer to a store where she would have more hours available to work. During this time, the grievor worked two jobs regularly. When a conflict arose, she traded shifts with other staff, used vacation etc. but she never altered her availability.

Accordingly, LCBO kept on scheduling her in accordance with her stated availability even though in many cases, they were aware that she was already scheduled to work at her nursing job. Over a period of time, this conflict resulted in progressive discipline.

There was never any dispute that the grievor was a good worker. Likewise there was no dispute that the union was aware of the practice of casual employees setting out their availability at the point of hire. They were free to alter it at least annually. Ms. Bissonnette never altered her availability form. The major question the union sought to test in this case was whether the LCBO Policy on casual availability was “reasonable” within the meaning of the collective agreement. On a lesser point, the union wanted to demonstrate that there were other employees willing and eager to take the missed shifts but counsel did not pursue that evidence too vigorously.

Put simply, Arbitrator Owen Gray ruled that their Policy was “reasonable” and consistent with their legitimate business interests. Curiously, in this case, the grievor could have narrowed the extent of her availability but never did. Mr. Gray suggested that the LCBO’s response was not excessive and pointed out they could have moved more quickly when the grievor repeatedly failed to amend her availability and/or did not attend at work as scheduled. At the end of the day, Mr. Gray ruled against the grievor on all of the disciplinary sanctions and upheld the discharge.

Receiving the “Big Picture”

Tim King, In Solidarity

Ever receive an e-mail with a picture of family or friends and first thing you see is a big eye? Or a photo of a rally and there’s a flag and no people? It’s when scroll bars are used that you see the rest of picture. Yup. It happens. E-mailing photos sounds simple. But is it?

There are many issues that make e-mailing photos complicated. The camera settings, the e-mail programs used, the resolution of monitors, software and desktop settings and file-size limitations of e-mail attachments are all out of the sender’s control.

The best way to e-mail photos is in a reduced format everyone can view. Two options are to change the camera setting to a smaller resolution or to resize the image itself.

Changing the camera settings is not recommended since it lowers photo quality and less information is captured by the camera. Taking the best quality-size photo the camera can take and resizing the photo is your best option.

To resize a photo, you will need software and less than five minutes. Software doesn’t have to be expensive. There are free photo editing programs and online image editors such as GIMP, Photo Pos Pro, FotoFlexer and many more. However, the easiest way to obtain software is from the factory CD that came with the camera.

Each program has a small learning curve but generally works the same. The words “resize,” “image size” or “resample” will point you in the right direction.

When the photo is opened in an editing program, whole or part of the photo will be displayed. Go to one of the drop-down menus (usually under Edit, Image or Tools), and select one of these three words, “resize,” “image size” or “resample.” The dimension options may be in pixels, inches or centimetres. A good photo size for e-mail is 800 x 600 pixels (approximately 28.22 cm x 18.8 cm or 11.11 inches x 7.40 inches). There may be a “Standard Dimensions” pre-set option that will automatically resize to a certain size. Select and click OK/Apply.

Once the photo has been resized it will need to be saved. Never replace or write-over the original file. A good habit is “Save as” instead of “Save.” Keep the same name and add “800×600” or “_small” to the file name so a new copy is created.

Not only did the photo dimensions change, so did the file size. When e-mailing photographs in their original form, they are too big. E-mail has a 10 Mb size limit. Refer to the screen shot (below). Three of the files take up 13,242 KB or 13Mb. Now look at the file size of the 800 x 600 file: 56KB. Without the pictures being resized, each e-mail could send one or two photos at a time versus approx 150.


There are advanced software options that takes entire photo directories and “Batch” convert instead of individually. This is more advanced but can save time for many files.

This last method works for people who don’t use internet-based e-mail like Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail, but has e-mail software on their computer.

Select the photo(s) to be e-mailed, right click on the file and select “Send to,” then “Mail Recipient.” It should prompt to resize the photos so they transfer faster and are easier to view. Select the “Make all my pictures smaller” option. There may be a “Show more options” link that you can select the dimensions the photo will be resized to. After clicking “Okay,” the default e-mailing program will pop up with the files already resized and attached. This option is great if there are no photo edits, crops or tweaks that need to be done.


Jailbreaking: Is it okay now?

Tim King, In Solidarity

The iDevice. Apple has made all attempts to control what is available and installed on iPhones through Apple Apps Store (iTunes). With this type of control, users and consumers are at the mercy of Apple’s approved choices and decisions (including business and corporate quarrels). These choices and decisions aren’t always the best for the end user.

Users recognizing they are not free to use purchased devices as needed have designed a way to use software and games, referred to as “apps,” without the guiding eye of Apple. This process is called “jail breaking.”

Jail breaking has illegal connotations; users are stealing software for slight-of-hand installations without the parent company knowing. There is an ongoing debate of morale code on each side of the coin.

The term itself came from the prison system. In a nutshell, inmates are kept in a cell, restricted in their freedoms by corrections officers and the rules of the facility as set out for by the corrections system.

Apple is the jailor and iDevice users are the inmates. Users “cannot” send, receive, install or play apps or media files not approved by Apple. Jail breaking is downloading and using applications and media files from smaller companies that offer better products and/or entertainment options. This also allows the user opportunities to customize their iDevice to better suit their individual needs.

Apple has always said that jail breaking was an unauthorized modification of its software, violating Section 2(c) of the Apple iPhone Software License Agreement. To ensure jail breaking doesn’t happen, Apple uses upgrades to disable the jail breaking feature.

To justify this, an Apple spokeswoman said, “Apple’s goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jail breaking can severely degrade the experience. As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.” This statement is an admission jail breaking was never illegal but is grounds for voiding a phone’s warranty.

Apple has never prosecuted anyone for jail breaking. Changes to recent American laws now prevent this from ever happening. In July 2010, the United States Library of Congress authorized exemptions to U.S. copyright law. Among them, it is now legal for someone to download applications on their iPhone from any provider other than the Apple Apps Store. This change in copyright law is currently not in effect in Canada. However, pressure for consumer freedom will likely put pressure on Canadian government/lawmakers to make changes to copyright laws similar to their American counterparts.

For most of the estimated 10 million jail broken devices, the rationale is about accessing more applications. For a smaller group, it is about mobile phones being reprogrammed to use on another network. Neither option is recommended, as jail breaking your iDevice will certainly void your warranty and increases the risk of losing personal data. There is also the increased possibility of becoming vulnerable to breach of privacy and personal information.

Freedom to be parents without discrimination


In a groundbreaking decision, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has found that employers cannot discriminate against their workers should they choose to become parents.

Fiona Johnstone, a Canadian Border Services officer and a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, convinced the tribunal that she was a victim of discrimination based on family status.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) refused to accommodate her request for more regular hours so she could arrange for proper child care. The CBSA told her that the only way that she could care for her kids was to work part-time. Johnstone was unable to obtain child care because she and her husband both worked rotating shift schedules at Pearson International Airport.

The tribunal found that the conduct of the CBSA was wilful and reckless in depriving Johnstone of her employment opportunities. The tribunal ordered the CBSA to pay Johnstone for lost wages and pension benefits, as well as damages totalling $35,000.

“This is a victory for all working Canadian parents who want to give their children the care they need and at the same time progress in their careers,” said John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “Employers have the obligation to find workable solutions on a case-by-case basis so that workers like Fiona Johnstone can balance work and family.”

The tribunal criticized the CBSA for maintaining systemic policies and practices that deprived Johnstone and others of employment opportunities due to their family status. As a result, the tribunal ordered the CBSA to develop a plan to prevent further incidents of discrimination based on family status and develop policies to address family status accommodation requests.

10 Cool Ways to Beat the Winter Blues


Winter is in full force. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, even the best of us can get a little down. The “winter blues” are characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during this cold season. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here.


As if we needed another reason to get fit! Exercise isn’t only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It’s great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing those “feel good chemicals” that improve your mood.

Eat a Healthy Diet

What and when you eat has a great affect on your mood and energy. Avoid refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood – causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit) and get your daily 8 cups of water. These healthy foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, and stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels.

Get Some Sun

Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D. But did you know that it also improves your mood? Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less and less time outdoors. Lack of sunlight can cause many people to become depressed – without knowing why! Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outdoors. Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Sit near windows in restaurants and during class. Try changing the light bulbs in your house to “full spectrum” bulbs. These mimic natural light and actually have the same affects on your mind as the real thing.

Act on your Resolutions

A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. Although researchers studied women, the results are likely similar in men.

Avoid Binge Drinking

Staying in with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine may seem like the only thing to do in the winter months, and many people who feel down also tend to turn to alcohol when they’re feeling down. But alcohol is actually a depressant, and rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea. Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting) is never a healthy choice. The morning after will have you feeling sick, depressed, and even more tired, which will affect many aspects of your life. This will make your low energy and bad mood even worse.

Treat Yourself

Having something to look forward to can keep anyone motivated. Winter seems endless! But if you plan something exciting, your mood improves when you’re anticipating it and when the event actually comes. Plan something that’s exciting to you – a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a party (but keep #5 above in mind), or special event like a play, girls (or guys) night out, or sporting event.


You’re busy! Work, class, family, friends, appointments, meetings – even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some time off. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to extra opportunities (covering a shift for a co-worker, bringing food to your son’s class party). Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing! Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation, especially in the form of yoga, can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy. Mental exercises like meditation and positive thinking can help keep depression at bay.

Embrace the Season

Instead of always avoiding the cold and the snow – look for the best that it has to offer! Take up a winter sport like ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding! Enjoy these opportunities while they last – after all, they’re only here a few months per year. Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high.

Get Social Support

Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Who can you turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up? Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement when you need it. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email or letter can brighten your mood.

Catch some Zzzzs

People naturally want to sleep a little bit more during the winter. But with all we have going on, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go. With a little time management, and some self-discipline, you can meet your shut-eye needs. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy. Try not to oversleep – those 12-hour snoozes on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired. Don’t forget naps! A short (10-30 minute) afternoon nap may be all you need to re-energize midday.

Grievance or bad management?

Laurie Sabourin, In Solidarity

Having a grievance procedure embedded in your collective agreement is one of the best ways of dealing with a workplace complaint. When getting down to the meat and potatoes of the grievance, ask yourself, “Is the grievance based on a violation of the collective agreement or is it bad management?”

Employers who have a supervisor with a  management style that creates low morale, increased absenteeism, increased sick time and high turnover will notice a higher than normal number of grievances filed. Grievances are filed based on the dissatisfaction or injustice an employee experiences with their job. By filing the grievance, the employee brings the issue to the attention of management with hope of solving the concern.

Under the management rights clause of the collective agreement, management has a right to manage which includes the right to manage badly… through inept and ineffectual supervisors. A bad boss can even turn an exceptional working environment into an uncomfortable and unhappy place to work. Examples include the management bully who belittles or berates his employees and contributes to unhealthy working conditions; it could be the manager whose personality clashes with an employee.

Filing a grievance, should be based on a violation of the collective agreement, which includes human rights, a health and safety infraction or a violation of organizational rules and practices. With your union steward, check the collective agreement and find the article which has been violated before filing a grievance.

Unfortunately there is no article in your collective agreement entitled “Common Sense.” If that was the case, the number of grievances filed and won would be astounding.

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