OPSSU Insider-June 2018


President’s Message
First Vice-President’s Message
Chief Steward’s Update
Health and Safety Committee
Pensions Committee Update
Treasurer Update
Membership Secretary Report
Questions and Answers on Sexual Harassment
Pay Equity Maintenance Committee (PEMC) Report
OPSSU Does Convention!

Download June 2018’s copy of OPSSU Insider here.

President’s Message

Hi everyone,

I want to start off by thanking you for your support last December. I can’t believe it’s been almost 6 months since I began my new role as your union president.

I’m very proud of some of the issues we have been able to resolve since my term began. In my opinion, the biggest accomplishment has been the re- establishment of our OPSSU office at Lesmill. We are temporarily located on the third floor in the negotiations unit and if you drop by you will usually find Tim and/or I hard at work. I look forward to finally moving to our permanent office this month, which will be located on the mezzanine. OPSSU has a strong presence at head office once again.

I’m also very happy that we were able to resolve the vest issue at convention. I know those of you that worked at convention this year were happy not to have to wear those ugly “Walmart vests”.

ERC meetings are continuing on a regular basis and Tim and I are participating in mediation meetings with Smokey, Eddy, Bob and Ilana to work on improving the relationship between OPSSU and OPSEU. Gerry Lee is mediating these meetings. We have also been able to get agreement on the use of OPSEU email to inform you of important emails that have been sent to your OPSSU email account. I know I received several messages from members who really appreciate this.

We have a relatively new executive. Four of the nine members have never held a position on the executive and four others are in positions they’ve never held before. Only two members continue in the role they held prior to the December elections.

Despite the newness of this executive I am very proud of how we have come together. Each of us is committed to working very hard for you and we hope we have earned your trust. I can assure you every decision we make is made in the best interest of our membership.

I wanted this message to be positive and to talk about some of our successes, but I won’t pretend things are perfect. We continue to have issues with our employer’s compliance with our collective agreement, but we are slowly moving forward. I am cautiously optimistic we can rebuild a mutually respectful relationship between us and our employer and I believe this is important to Smokey as well.

Tim and I have been able to visit some of the other offices. Between us we have either dropped in or attended meetings at Vic Park, Wellesley, London, Coopers, Hamilton, Owen Sound, Orillia and Oshawa. Please let us know if you would like us to attend a meeting at your workplace. We would be happy to come and meet with you.

I would like to say that I am very excited for the June GMM. The decision to hold a two-day meeting will allow us more than enough time to conclude all the business of the union as well as the opportunity to elect our bargaining team. Not only is this a cost saving measure for OPSSU it will allow the bargaining team ample time to prepare for our next round of bargaining in 2019.

In closing, please join me in thanking our stewards, all our committee members, our retirees and the executive. You selflessly donate your time and energy for the OPSSU membership and simply put, you make OPSSU better.

In solidarity, Lois Boggs

First Vice-President’s Message

Although there has been change, it’s still baby steps. We have an OPSSU office at head office. We have regular Employer Employee Relations Committee meetings, and we have much better communications with the employer. OPSSU and our employer are working towards establishing better labour relations with the assistance of the mediator Gerry Lee.

We are slowly regaining our balance following a very difficult time. For those staff at Head Office, I know it is hard to manage the stress of working with constant ongoing construction, where we still have no cafeteria, and it’s a twenty-minute walk to the closest coffee shop.

It is going to take a long time to turn this boat around, however every day I feel the solidarity and support that staff have for each other in the workplace. I know that together we will get through this.

The employer’s efforts to improve labour relations include in-person classroom-based mandatory sexual-harassment training for all staff, including management. Some of us have now completed this training, and the feedback the executive has heard has so far been reasonably positive.

A key issue is the employer’s intention to implement a series of new policies for staff. These include policies about alcohol and drug use, social media, camera surveillance, clean offices and confidentiality. The OPSSU executive has expressed our concern about their implementation.

It was my pleasure to attend Convention this year with Lois and report back for the members. Convention was notable for the notification we received that there will be no report forthcoming from the workplace investigation that took place last year. Apparently the company hired to do the investigation disbanded and there was no report. Smokey told Convention “I can not share a report that I have not seen, and that does not exist”.

Thanks to all of you for electing me as a representative. Please don’t hesitate to call if you would like to chat.

In solidarity, Emily Visser

Chief Steward’s Update

It has been an interesting and new challenge assuming the role of your elected Chief Steward. Our union has faced some tough times in the last few years as we have been in what seems like a constant struggle to enforce our collective agreement.

Many of the executive that formed the new and present executive including myself ran for our positions with the idea that we needed to attempt to try and form a better relationship with our employer, to be inclusive and welcoming with our own membership and work to communicate with our own membership.

It is difficult to turn a ship around in a hurry and there are always barriers and concerns with doing such in the quick way we would like.

We have a multitude of grievances still outstanding from the last few years that are working their way through the arbitration process. At the time of the writing of these few words we have also filed 16 new grievances this year. The employer has denied every one of these grievances at Step 2 and most of them will be proceeding to arbitration.

Arbitration has been difficult. We do not seem to be able to get resolution on most of these matters and therefore find ourselves in full litigation, often facing preliminary arguments in these cases.

There is a cost to arbitration and as your Chief Steward I am working with the executive to look for ways to enforce our contract, defend your bargained rights and do this in a way that is the most practical, efficient and accomplishes results.

To this, we are working to try and open the relationship with our employer, look internally at alternative ways and methods to address our concerns besides just strict litigation and address the rising costs of arbitration.

Despite all this there are real issues facing our membership like job posting issues and workload issues we hear about regularly.

Saying all of this, we will never agree on all matters with our employer and we will continue to strongly litigate where other methods are not working. We must enforce our collective agreement. It is a major principle of any union.

I look forward to seeing all the membership at the June GMM where we can discuss these and other issues and move forward with unity and strength.

Tim Mulhall

2018 OPSSU Executive


Cherry-picking co-opts true psychological health and safety

According to the Oxford Dictionary, cherry-picking is the act of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.

Cherry-picking is alive and well in the discourse of psychological health and safety.

One way organizations cherry-pick is to use the term “psychological safety” to refer to trust within teams or between individuals. According to team and leadership coach Christopher Alexander, the term ‘psychological safety’ has been narrowed to describe trust between individuals and teams and as such, ignores the role of the external environment on team operation and relationships. Alexander argues in his 2017 Aglx blog article, “Psychological Safety does not equal vulnerable” that the external environment has the greatest impact on how the team operates, even more than the forces within the team itself. Alexander says that the relationship within a team is more accurately called trust. Trust is an important aspect in psychological safety, but not its sum total.

Similarly, workplace psychological safety should not be limited to changing individual behaviour or characteristics through things like resilience-building, stigma-reduction training, breathing exercises, or wellness initiatives such as fitness, smoking cessation, or eating right.

Not that those healthy individual pursuits are bad. The problem is that a person can be resilient, eat right, meditate, and exercise themselves into Olympic shape and still go into a workplace that whops them with a difficult workload without accompanying flexibility, autonomy, or support. How would that help a worker’s psyche?

The problem is that some organizations cherry-pick to de-emphasize the much-needed role of organizational change in creating safe and healthy workplaces. Indeed, “workplaces aren’t helping” is what Dr. David Posen argues. Posen, a family physician for 17 years before devoting his time exclusively to stress management, lifestyle counselling and psychotherapy in 1985, argues that organizations have been getting off scot-free from their responsibilities in the workplace by focusing on what workers can do to improve their own circumstances. He starts his book “Is Work Killing You” by railing that all he wants to do after counselling a worker with depression is pick up the phone and blast the worker’s manager about how problems at the workplace are affecting his patient’s state of mind and medical situation.

The truth is, worker resilience is the new “McIntyre Powder” in today’s workplace. Just as miners were forced years ago to breathe in the aluminum dust called McIntyre Powder (which was later found to be itself toxic) to coat their lungs and prevent silicosis, workers today are trained to toughen themselves up and practice breathing techniques to more effectively manage the overwork, trauma and sometimes even toxicity that they face at work.

Many organizations can’t be blamed. They may not realize that focusing on individual interventions and civility is cherry-picking because Canadian discourse on mental health favours individual responsibility and action.

Organizations innocently follow suit. However, if an employer does realize that the workplace affects individuals (just like they realize the flip-side that individuals affect

the workplace), healthy organizations expand their focus. Employers go beyond offering individual supports and focusing on changing behaviour, and attend to how they run their organizations. They analyze the impact that practices have on people. These organizations operate with a “do-no-harm” perspective. They seek out and address issues with workload, work organization, leadership style, and justice and respect. They act collaboratively and build a culture of growth, support, and continual learning. They are open to ideas and are willing to try—and try—again.

On the other hand, some organizations are well-aware of how operational practices can negatively affect an individual’s psyche and still barrel on, piling on the work and leaving workers with no say. That’s cherry-picking at its worst. It makes workers sick and eventually makes the workplace toxic.

Creating a psychologically safe environment is about balancing individual approaches and behaviour- change with how the environment operates and how its operation affects people.

Alexander points to Eric Reis’s bestseller “Lean startup: How today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses” to model the idea of “complexity mind-set,” a modern leadership style adopted by today’s most successful businesses.

This leadership style articulates a vision, empowers others by giving autonomy, lets people use their expertise to move the organization forward, and expects people to make mistakes, learn from them and move on. It operates with an “own your mistakes” perspective. As Alexander points out, “A culture in which people feel empowered to ask for help—and then get it—in order to solve challenging issues and mitigate potential risks is a culture which will build resilient, adaptable systems and organizations.”

And there will be no need to cherry-pick. Terri Szymanski

Health and Safety Committee

Pensions Committee Update

Results are in and the Pension Plan for the Employees of OPSEU had investment returns in 2017 of 9.7%, beating its benchmark by 2.2%. This marks the second year in a row that our pension investments have reached the top quartile for pension investments, and is a big improvement from some of our historical returns as compared to benchmark. This does not mean that there are no longer challenges facing the pension plan, but merely confirms that the changes made in investment managers a few years back has been effective from a performance perspective.

The Board of Trustees is working on the Funding Policy for the pension plan and will be sharing that with the Plan Sponsors for input in the near future. Once finalized we will provide members with more details on the funding policy works.

The Board of Trustees passed a motion at our last meeting to sit down with representatives of the Plan Sponsors to discuss a potential pension plan merger and plan a path forward on this issue. We will have a more detailed report for you at the General Membership Meeting on June 9th. Look forward to seeing everyone there!

Kim McPherson

Pensions Committee Chair

OPSSU is moving forward!

“I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward.”

— David Livingstone

In just a few short months, the way OPSSU does finances has changed and it is good. Following the December GMM, our financial record keeping transitioned from excel to quickbooks online. This change has facilitated a more efficient reporting method, a greater breakdown of expenses, transparency in detailing our cheques and provided us with future protection of our financial records through a cloud based system. It also allows any member to request a breakdown of their expenses over a particular period in time and see exactly what was paid out and when.

In addition to quickbooks, there is a new fillable advance request form has been developed. This form allows each member to plan out their expense for an event and have a more accurate picture of what is financially needed to take part in SSU functions.

As with any change, the need to assess where we have been and where we are going is invaluable. One such area that has required a change is advances. It became apparent in the first few months following the GMM that OPSSU policy on advances has not always been followed. Effective immediately, advances will be issued in accordance with OPSSU policy.

OPSSU Policy on Advances:

Members who have received an advance for authorized union business shall submit an expense claim with appropriate receipts within thirty (30) days of the meeting. Requests for a second advance will not be honoured unless the first advance has been cleared.

At the GMM in June you will receive a reconciliation of our 2017 finances, get a look at our new financial tracking report and be presented with a number of policy and constitution amendments that will ensure the way we use your dues is more transparent and accountable.

As we move forward, you can rest assured that our financial future is being well cared for.

In Solidarity, Jeff Weston

OPSSU Treasurer

Membership Secretary Report

The last six months have been filled with a steep learning curve and a lot of weird job posting dreams. I have been attempting to track positions based on their official numbers (found in job postings and offer letters), but unfortunately this is not an easy task. Once I have compiled all of the job codes, I will be able to easily identify posted vacancies. If you know your job code, please forward it to me!

We have filed a number of grievances based on violations of our post and fill language. While I do my best to monitor timelines and vacancies, I would welcome assistance from the membership. If something seems odd, feel free to let me know.

For those of you who don’t have an OPSSU email account, or forget how to access it – I can help you with that! While we finally have a distribution list on OPSEU’s server again, we are communicating primarily through our OPSSU accounts.

As we’re heading into a bargaining year, it’s especially important that your contact information is up to date. If you haven’t done so, now is the perfect time to fill out a membership application form!

If you have any questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Alyssa Walker Membership Secretary


Questions and Answers on Sexual Harassment

In the last few weeks, many of us have undergone “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Training”. All staff including supervisors will receive this training. Some of us were advised that the training was provided further to incidents of sexual harassment that occurred in 2015, a well-received “speak-up” campaign that was rolled out across OPSEU and social media in 2016, and as a result of legislative changes that occurred in 2016 and 2017. We  jave been told that workplace policies are currently being reviewed and revised to take into account the recent legislative changes. The stated purpose of the training is to ensure employees know what to do if sexual harassment occurs in the workplace.

The following is intended to provide answers to some common questions and concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace,

Do complaints of sexual harassment have to be sexual in nature?

No. It is now widely acknowledged that sexual harassment may include behaviour that is not overtly sexual in nature. It may include, for example, derogatory comments about women or forms of gender-based harassment that are intended to undermine, humiliate or target employees because of their gender. Sexual harassment includes adverse treatment on the basis of sex, gender, sexuality and often intersects with other forms of harassment and discrimination like ‘race’-based harassment or harassment on the basis of disability or sexual orientation. Most often sexual harassment must be assessed by looking at the balance of power between the parties, the nature and severity of the sexual harassment and its impact. The key indicator of sexual harassment is the use of sex, sexuality or gender to leverage power and control, and to intimidate or embarrass.

Do complaints of sexual harassment have to be written or formal complaints?

No. Obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code have always required employers to take reasonable action to ensure that a workplace is free of sexual harassment and discrimination even in cases where a sexual harassment complaint may not have been formal. 

New provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Act provide that an employer must ensure that an investigation appropriate to the circumstances is conducted into “incidents” or “complaints” of sexual harassment. This means that an investigation is required even without a formal complaint as long as the employer is aware of an “incident.”

Will my confidentiality be protected if I complain to the employer about sexual harassment?

Under the OPSEU Workplace Sexual Harassment Policy, supervisors and other management employees or “agents” of OPSEU are expected to report to employee relations any information that suggests harassment, discrimination or violence in the workplace whether an informal or formal complaint has been raised, and whether the information is provided in confidence.

In addition, an Investigator conducting a workplace investigation may need to disclose information in order to ensure a fair and reasonable investigation, including putting allegations to an employee accused of harassment, providing contextual details to witnesses, disclosing details to management in order to make necessary arrangements for the safety of parties during an investigation, or to take administrative action to enforce or implement findings of an investigation report.

If I was not directly subject to sexual harassment but I witnessed it, do I have the right to complain?

Yes. Those who are direct targets of harassment, as well as those who observe or overhear inappropriate comments or conduct or who may be subject to a poisoned environment, may have the right to complain under the employer policy, the OPSSU “Policy for Defending, Recognizing and Confronting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” or to seek other legal recourse, for example by filing a grievance.

It is well established that sexual harassment may create a poisoned work environment that can impact many individuals in a workplace, not just those people directly involved in the conduct. A poisoned environment can occur in many circumstances including when an employee is the direct target of harassment or when an employee indirectly experiences sexual harassment by seeing, overhearing or otherwise observing sexual or gender-based comments, gestures, jokes or similar conduct.

A poisoned work environment is defined as sexually charged or gender-based comments and conduct that constitute a discriminatory term or condition of employment. This means that certain people face terms and conditions of employment that are quite different than those who are not subject to the comments or conduct, and this can include both the emotional and psychological circumstances of the workplace. The term “poisoned work environment” applies in circumstances where the work environment has become poisoned or toxic because of pervasive discrimination or harassment.

Do consensual relationships amount to sexual harassment?

Yes—in some circumstances. Consensual relationships can constitute harassment where there is a significant power imbalance between parties or a negative impact on the working environment, even when an employee may have specifically consented to the relationship. In other cases, consensual relationships may create no issues from the outset, but issues can arise later if an employee is treated in a preferential or prejudicial manner by the person

in authority. Still, sexual harassment may arise after a consensual relationship has ended where an employee is subject to harassment or reprisals from co-workers or persons in authority, for example, where a harasser engages in unwanted behaviour after a the break-up of a consensual relationship such as continuing to aggressively pursue the relationship, repeatedly attending an employee’s home, or sending unwanted on-line messages.

What can I do if I want to complain about sexual harassment?

OPSSU members who have experienced or who witness sexual harassment can access the OPSSU “Policy for Defending, Recognizing and Confronting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” The Policy outlines steps for reporting sexual harassment including: keeping a record of the incidents, dates, times and locations, and possible witnesses, and making an informal or formal complaint. OPSSU members can contact a trained peer or steward for assistance in making informal or formal complaints.

Where a formal complaint is launched, OPSSU will arrange for an outside representative/consultant trained in sexual harassment and with experience in labour law.

An employee who has experienced or observed sexual or gender-based harassment, can try to resolve the concerns through the employer Sexual Harassment Policy. In cases of sexual harassment, employees may request the assignment of an external third-party investigator.

Where there is more than one party to a complaint or several employees who have experienced similar behaviour, employees can make a report together.

Coworkers who witness inappropriate behaviour can intervene during or following an actual incident.

Responses can include (but are not limited to) reporting the concern as a witness to sexual harassment or on behalf of someone who is a direct target of harassment, supporting a co-worker in making a complaint, or confronting the harasser.

Complaining and responding parties, and witnesses have the right to a union representative during the complaint process.

What if parties do not co-operate in an investigation?

Employees generally have a duty to cooperate with the process of investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The OPSEU Sexual Harassment Policy outlines that all employees are required to comply with the policy and to take appropriate measures to prevent sexual harassment.

Where a complaint has been raised and the complaining party withdraws or does not wish to pursue the complaint, the employer may still pursue the complaint in order to ensure that the workplace is free of harassment and discrimination.

Where a responding party does not co-operate, an investigation may proceed without the participation of that party. In some cases, investigators may draw an adverse or unfavorable inference if the responding party does not respond to the allegations; that is, in the absence of response, an Investigator may decide there is no answer to the allegations. Under the OPSEU Sexual Harassment

Policy, an investigation may proceed without further notice to the responding party and an Investigator may prepare a draft report based solely on the available information.

Shouldn’t a complaint of sexual harassment be dismissed if it’s “he said, she said”?

No. Employers or investigators who make “he said, she said” findings may face liability for the failure to conduct a proper investigation and for disregarding evidence such as similar-fact evidence (accounts of similar wrong- doing) or the credibility of the parties. It is not proper for an investigator to decline to make a finding simply because independent evidence or corroboration of sexual harassment allegations is lacking.

In fact, evolving concepts of sexual harassment has meant that legal decisions take into account the reality that allegations of sexual harassment most often take place

in private, and may not involve evidence independent of the two parties to the incidents. Even when witnesses are present, there may also be compelling reasons for them not to be forthcoming in an investigation.

What are the employer’s obligations in conducting an investigation of sexual harassment?

The employer is obligated under the Ontario Human Rights Code to conduct a fair and reasonable investigation of allegations of sexual harassment including:

  • Having procedures in place at the time to deal with discrimination and harassment
  • promptly responding to complaint of sexual harassment
  • treating complaints seriously
  • making resources available to deal with the complaint
  • providing a healthy environment for the person who complained
  • taking care to communicate any complaint actions or outcomes to the person who complained

The OHSA imposes an obligation on employers to provide a means to report incidents or complaints of workplace harassment, set out how complaints will be investigated and dealt with, and to address alternate means of reporting complaints of workplace harassment, how confidentiality will be maintained and how the complainant and alleged harasser will be informed of the result of the investigation – including corrective action.

Under the OPSEU Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy, procedures for addressing sexual harassment include:

  • Appointment of an investigator where an employee has requested that their complaint be forwarded to an external investigator
  • Imposition of immediate interim conditions of employment on the respondent
  • Interview of witnesses identified by both parties
  • Review of copies of documents provided and request any further information
  • Provision of a draft investigation report for comment by the parties
  • Provision of a final investigation report to the parties that indicates whether or not the complaint has been substantiated on a balance of probabilities
  • Notification of the outcome of investigation including notification to the complainant of any remedial measure or corrective action taken
  • Protection against reprisal for parties, witnesses and representative or others participating in the complaint process

Pay Equity Maintenance Committee (PEMC) Report

We are happy to report that the process we have undertaken to evaluate and re-evaluate jobs as a Joint committee with the Employer is going ahead with positive results.

This year we met with the Employer in February with additional 2 day meetings scheduled in both June and September. In 2017, we caucused 4 times as a Committee, and met 7 times with the Employer. We discussed and reviewed process, Terms of Reference and have started reviewing job information questionnaires. A few of the positions we evaluated moved up in pay bands, resulting in wage increases.

A reminder that the first step in reviewing a position again is to meet the ‘threshold’. If the (JJEC) Joint Job Evaluation Committee ( consisting of members from the PEMC and the Employer) agree the threshold has been met, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire, with your Supervisor submitting comments as well.

We cannot stress enough the importance of initiating the process for evaluation/re-evaluation if you feel your position needs a review. Please take a look at your job descriptions and note what, if anything, has changed. Please be as specific as you can concerning what you believe has changed

As always, if there are any questions please do not hesitate to reach out.

In solidarity,

Vanda Klumper, PEMC Member
Alyssa Walker, PEMC Member
Pauline Cheslock, PEMC Chair

OPSSU Does Convention!

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