National President David Neufeld and Regional Vice-President Zoe Johnston conducted two site visits with USJE members in Whitehorse, Yukon. This was the first opportunity for RVP Johnston since her election to visit Whitehorse and to meet with these members in person.
The visit focused on the two locals from RCMP M Division Detachment and the Justice and Public Prosecutions Services of Canada (PPSC). In total, 35 PSE employees were present, and most, most had never attended a union meeting when National President Neufeld last paid a visit in 2022 and many joined both locals over the past year.
During both meetings, Regional Vice-President Johnston reiterated her priority to engage members at the local level and to establish strong local executives. RVP Johnston encouraged members to participate in the PSAC’s Talking Union Basics training and spoke to the benefits of being involved in their union. It was also identified that there is a need to run new local elections in the locals to fill the vacant positions. This with the clear goal to build strong local representation within the framework of the executive’s 3 year plan that aims to strengthen mobilization, boost engagement of young workers, defend diversity, and promote communications and training.
National President Neufeld spoke to the membership about several of USJE’s priorities over the next three years. This included the ongoing Presumptive Injury Campaign which is advocating changes to the Government Employees Compensation Act (GECA). These changes would seek to ensure that many USJE members would qualify for Workers Compensation coverage when they experience operational stress injuries (ie. mental health injuries).
National President Neufeld also spoke to the recent National Joint Council (NJC) announcement regarding the Shelter Cost Differential and how the PSAC played a role in protecting the allowance for homeowners working in isolated posts. This announcement was significant for members in locations (like Whitehorse) where members (who are homeowners) could have lost their allowance due to a differing interpretation of the Directive.
The topic of telework and the Letter of Agreement (LOA) signed during the recent round of collective bargaining was also discussed. It was very apparent that most members were not working a hybrid schedule and that few members work outside of the workplace. National President Neufeld shared USJE’s position on the issue of telework and the recent effort to establish joint panels within the departments. USJE maintains that all departments should be exercising flexibility and a nuanced approach to telework where and when possible.
National President Neufeld spoke to the creation of USJE’s Collective Bargaining Strategy Committee and how USJE will endeavor to position itself for future rounds of collective bargaining. It was evident that many members in attendance were deemed essential. The new USJE National Strike Fund was discussed and it was identified that this is just one tool that will help our members be better positioned for future rounds of collective bargaining.
At M Division, National President Neufeld informed the RCMP members about the new RCMP Campaign that will be developed in 2024. This campaign will serve to educate Canadians across the country on the very important work our members do in keeping Canadians safe. Like the work that was done on the RCMP campaign in Alberta in 2022/23, it will also seek to protect the work of our members and ensure that federal, provincial and municipal politicians, as well as the Canadian public understand the valuable contributions our members make to public safety.
With the Departments of Justice and PPSC, President Neufeld shared details regarding the current research being completed by Dr. Rose Ricciardelli on Legal Assistants and encouraged the Legal Assistants to participate in the study. This research will be utilized to not only support the workplace challenges that Legal Assistants face but also to be a part of USJE’s overall Presumptive Injury Campaign.
Finally, National President Neufeld also spoke about the importance of USJE’s Equity Committee and the progressive nature of USJE. It was emphasized that USJE must continue to reach out to members of all equity seeking groups and to encourage them to get involved in our union. President Neufeld indicated that the Equity Committee is currently seeking new members and will begin its important work in the new year.
National President Neufeld and RVP Johnston would like to thank the USJE members at the RCMP, Justice and PPSC for taking the time to meet with them. There is much work ahead to help build these locals but the USJE representatives are confident that these visits represent the beginning of this very important work.