RVP McKinnon meets MP Niki Ashton in The Pas

RVP Heather McKinnon met with Niki Ashton, New Democratic Member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba. The meeting took place right on the heels of the opening ceremony for Northern Manitoba Trappers Festival in The Pas that MP Ashton was attending.

Having benefited herself from the revolutionary introduction of telework in Parliament during the COVID-19 pandemic, MP Ashton was very receptive to RVP McKinnon’s description of the undeniable advantages of remote work as the new normal. McKinnon described the positive impacts on staff retention and on increased productivity, and spoke of the reports from employees being more content with their work-life balance. The Parliament of Canada is still using a hybrid telework model which has worked exceedingly well. Ashton explained that the model will be revisited in June at the end of the parliamentary year when its potential permanent retention will be the object of debate. It is not lost on anyone that if telework is good enough for the elected representatives of the people of Canada, surely it should remain a possibility for public service employees and those in USJE that work everyday to keep Canadians safe.

This led straight into a discussion regarding current bargaining, and the fact that thousands of PSEs have been working without a contract since 2021, have kept Canadians safe throughout the pandemic, and are currently in the midst of strike vote. Ashton was pleased to learn of our quest for an indigenous language allowance. After discussing the inflation rate, our ask of a wage increase, and the insulting offer made by Treasury Board, something that Ashton agreed equates to a wage cut. Niki indicated she is in support of federal employees earning a fair and living wage, achieving improved work-life balance, and has committed to help get the message through to Minister Mona Fortier.

RVP McKinnon had the chance to introduce Ashton to USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign and outline how vicarious trauma affects so many of our members throughout the various departments represented within the union. The discussion centered on the 12 recommendations found in Dr Rose Ricciardelli’s DSA report. It was made abundantly clear to MP Ashton that vicarious trauma and its debilitating effects coupled with the lack of mental health supports for our members require an urgent change to federal legislation in order to better address workplace injuries for federal employees.

McKinnon personally invited MP Ashton to attend USJE’s Public Safety Awards in March, an event on Parliament Hill that the NDP will be co-hosting with Members from all other recognized parties.