It is often asked by the members… both new and old. I look at it like an insurance premium. The Union will be there when you need it. The Union is also the watchdog of the employer's actions, whether at the local, regional or national level. At times, the Union also works jointly with the employer to develop policies and deliver information to all staff; joint health and safety committee training and the United Way campaign are just a few examples. Locally, regionally and nationally the Union raises members' concerns with the employer by way of Union/Management Consultation meetings.
By meetings like local annual general meetings, YOU, the members tell your local executive what it is you want them to do or what direction you want them to take. They, in turn, do the same, along with all other locals in a region, with their Regional Vice-President. Then, the Regional Vice-Presidents, as members of the UTE Executive Council, will help set the Union's national agenda. This Council also takes direction from the UTE Triennial Convention which some delegates from your local attend.
The Union also acts as your bargaining agent for collective bargaining purposes to negotiate a Collective Agreement to cover the working conditions and benefits in your working life with your employer. I must say that this is not an easy task.
What has the Union done for me? Many members seem to think that the employer just gave us the rights and benefits that we have.
In 1975, life at work looked at bit like this:
- There was no Dental Plan
- There was no "Discrimination" clause in the Collective Agreement
- There was no "Sexual Harassment" clause
- There was no "Technological Change" clause
- There was no "Compressed Work Week" or "Flexible Hours" clauses
- There was no "Maternity Leave" or "Paternal Leave"
- There was no "Care and Nurturing Leave"
- There was no "Personal Leave"
The employer didn't wake up one day and decided to give these things to us… they were negotiated by the Union.
Here are some of the things that we have obtained on top of the ones mentioned above:
- A Work Force Adjustment (WFA) Policy, which was purely the result of the '91 strike. Other unions have told us that it is one of the best. Then the employer unilaterally diminished the original WFA at will. But the Union negotiated the policy into the Collective Agreement, which gives it more force and makes it that it can only be changed through negotiations or legislation.
- The Pay Equity Settlement
- We now have a definition of a common law spouse that recognizes same sex couples
- There is now leave granted to union representatives to discuss "pending" grievances with a member
- Leave for long term care of a Parent (Elder Care)
- An increase in "Bereavement Leave"
- Pre-Retirement Leave
- A new Classification Standard for all of our members (SP and MG)
- Cumulative time recognized for members in acting positions
- The elimination of Zone Rates of Pay
- A 37.5 hour work week for our then GS and GLT members
- A roll over policy for our Term members to indeterminate status after a five (5) year period of continuous service
- 2 personal days which can be taken in hourly increments
- Expanded definition of family
- More flexibility for family related leave
- Enhanced benefits for part-time workers
- Vacation Leave – seniority for vacation scheduling
- Vacation Leave – recognition of Canadian Forces service for vacation accrual
- Family-Related Leave – 1) School closure for children aged 14 or under added to criteria for accessing leave. 2) 7.5 hours to attend school functions and appointment for legal or paralegal representative, financial or other professional representative.
- No discrimination – addition of protection against discrimination for ethnic origin, enhanced access to information for employees.
These are only some of the things that we have the ability to enjoy as Union members. It was the Union who obtained these things; the employer did not voluntarily just give them to us. In some cases, we had to exercise our right to strike and in other cases the threat of a strike and some job action was enough. And my comments do not even address Joint Consultation issues on policy and procedures in the workplace that have been improved because of the Union intervention. A good example of this is the Union/Management Approach (UMA) where we attempt to resolve issues at the lowest possible level.
THAT IS WHY I PAY UNION DUES!
So, who is "the Union"? I can tell you who it is not:
- It's not the bricks and mortar at 233 Gilmour Street in Ottawa
- It's not the National President of the PSAC
- It's not the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Executive
- It's not the National President of UTE
- It's not the National Executive of UTE
- It's not the Local Presidents
- And it's not the Local Executives
It is "we" the members, which I am proud to be one of: One member with one voice. When you add us all together locally, regionally or nationally we make a very loud voice that cannot and should not be ignored by the employer or the Union. I am sure, that if your local executive is doing something that the members don't agree with, they hear about it. Or, if they are not doing something that the members want, they also hear about it. Direction is given by the membership!
That being said, what happens when you the members don't do or say anything? What happens to the Union? To accomplish anything, the members need to be behind it. Without this support, the Union is nothing.
There is strength in numbers!