Leaders visit Justice/PPSC Halifax and Nova Institution: concerns around workload and hybrid work environment

National President David Neufeld, National Vice-President Lynette Robinson and Regional Vice-President Laurie-Ann Wesselby conducted a departmental site visit at Justice/PPSC in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

The visit provided the opportunity for USJE representatives to meet with many frontline USJE members and to speak with managers David Hansen (Regional Director General, Justice) and Shaun O’Leary (Chief Federal Prosecutor, PPSC) about our members’ work.

The discussions centred on the “new normal” and the development of a hybrid work environment. All members expressed the importance of having flexibility in their working environment for a better work/life balance. 

Both departments have established a set number of days to work from home (Justice: 3 days on site, 2 days from home; PPSC, 2 days on site, 3 days from home). Many members advised that they would welcome the opportunity for more telework. National President Neufeld and National Vice-President, Robinson, encouraged the members to speak to their supervisors about their telework needs and to reach out to the union should they need assistance.

The members of Justice and PPSC shared that their workloads are increasing while staffing levels have not increased correspondingly. USJE members in both departments reported that working from home helps to reduce the pressures of this increasing workload. USJE plans to raise these issues soon through the Labour Management Consultation process.

A second visit took place in the afternoon when USJE representatives and National Office staff traveled to Nova Institution to meet with local union representatives Jeff Ramsey (Local President) and Brenda Wood (Shop Steward). 

The comprehensive site tour provided a clear picture of the working conditions at Nova Institution and the challenges that our members face in their daily work. Taxingly high workloads were identified as the main problem requiring urgent solving. Reportedly, staff have been experiencing “burnout” and operational stress injuries as a consequence of the unique workload model at the institution. It was flagged that, as a women’s institution, they are often treated as a “men’s institution” and that this is something that must be addressed if CSC is going to be able to establish a reasonable workload. President Neufeld plans to raise this issue in future discussions with CSC management (at NHQ) when discussing issues around Parole Officer workload.

Furthermore, USJE representatives learned that the hybrid work environment has been changed significantly for front-line members at the institution and that most staff (who can work from home) are only receiving a maximum of 1 day per week of telework. National President Neufeld was advised that having a hybrid work environment, which supports flexibility, is one way that the site could better support staff and help to reduce workload. President Neufeld has asked the front-line members to raise these concerns with their immediate supervisors and to explain why the hybrid work arrangements are important to them. A commitment was made to raise this at the National level if local management proves unwilling to address these concerns.

During the tour, USJE representatives got to meet members who work in the food service department and learned about many ongoing issues being faced in their department. These include broken equipment (ie. freezers), a need for more Food Service Officers and ongoing Phoenix pay issues. Regional Vice-President Wesselby will be following up with the site and region on these issues.