The Professional - December 2017 - Volume 43 - Issue 4
In this issue
Message from the President
End of the year review, exciting developments, changes to the Executive and empowering young workers
By Frank Kohlberger
Small World, Big Opportunities
Meet University of Victoria's Sheryl Karras
By Jessica Natale Woollard
Empowering the Next Generation
A Report from the BCFED Young Workers' Camp
By Jackie Wong
Health Science Professionals Pledge to Make a Difference
By Emma Wright
Updates from the Chapters and the PEA
Message from the President
As the year draws to a close, it’s good to highlight some of the changes that have occurred for the PEA and BC as a whole in 2017.
Most notably, BC welcomed a new government in 2017, a partnership between the New Democratic and Green parties. Since then, the PEA has been reaching out to make our new representatives aware of our members’ issues and concerns. So far, we have met with Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, MLA Sonia Furstenau, Environment Minister George Heyman and Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. We anticipate additional meetings in 2018.
The PEA won a significant victory with the Supreme Court of BC’s decision to uphold a 2016 BC Labour Relations Board ruling opposing the raiding of our Health Sciences chapter (HSP) psychologists by the BC Nurses’ Union. The PEA invested considerable resources into protecting our HSP members in this raid, so we welcome the result and the message that it sends to other unions.
We also saw some changes to our Association executive. I am pleased to welcome Sheryl Karras, from the University of Victoria (UVic) chapter, and Elizabeth Hunt, from the Government Licensed Professionals (GLP) chapter, as our new members on the PEA executive. I also extend thanks to Kristen Ficke (UVic) and Theo Knevel (GLP) as they step down from the executive.
Looking ahead, I note that 2018 will see bargaining preparations begin for a number of chapters. The PEA staff and executive will be working hard to ensure that our members are fairly represented. Our biennial education conference, Making Your Union Stronger, will take place in Victoria on April 13 and 14, 2018.
In this issue of The Professional, you’ll learn about UVic chapter and PEA executive member Sheryl Karras, read a review of the BC Federation of Labour’s 2017 Union Renewal conference, and meet some of our members who attended the BCFED Young Workers’ Camp in September. I hope you can take some time to read through the issue and that you find the articles engaging.
I wish you all a happy holiday season.
Small World, Big Opportunities
GOING THE DISTANCE FOR BUSINESS STUDENTS
Words Jessica Natale Woollard
For her grade 12 year, Sheryl Karras packed her bags and traded Salmon Arm for Japan, where she lived with a family, went to school and immersed herself in the culture.
Japan in the early 1980s was a pretty foreign place for someone coming from a small town in BC, Karras says. “Japanese culture is refined; there is precision in its rituals. Being in another country, you learn so much about your own culture and recognize that the world is a pretty small place.”
The experience abroad sparked Karras’s interest in international affairs and became the catalyst for her career development. Today, she is director of administration of UVic’s Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) program at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. The job involves guiding the operations of the program to ensure that students are enrolled, teaching faculty are in place, and the programming is achieving its overarching goals.
International experience is a cornerstone of the BCom program, which makes it a great fit for Karras. Founded in 1990, the program offers the largest international business exchange program in Canada. When it was being developed, Karras says, stakeholders wanted the school to have a niche, to differentiate it from commerce programs at other research institutions. “It was an opportunity to think differently,” she says.
Today, students in the international business specialization at UVic can choose from among 91 universities for their international study term. Only one of these is located in an English-speaking country—Singapore; all the others are in non-English-speaking countries in South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
“As a business school, we should be engaging students in that global perspective,” Karras says, noting that many undergraduate students have not had the opportunity to travel outside of North America. “We don’t expect all of our students to work overseas, but chances are they will have some connection with an international client or business in their careers.”
A New Adventure
Karras joined the Gustavson School of Business in 2000. She worked as an admissions officer and international student advisor before moving up to her current position, which she’s held since 2014.
Prior to this, every step of Karras’s career involved an element of international relations. Inspired by her year abroad in high school, she studied international relations at UBC, later earning a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Victoria. Along the way, she gained work experience at the Japan Pavillion during Expo 86 and at private language schools in Victoria and Vancouver, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Japan several times. These experiences eventually led Karras and her husband to return to Salmon Arm, where she worked at what was then Okanagan University College in the Continuing Studies program, coordinating short-term, non-degree programs for international students. “Helping people experience international opportunities through the education side was where I felt I would fit nicely,” Karras says, adding that the program “was a way to give others an opportunity to learn about Canadian culture and connect Canada with other cultures.”
A member of the PEA since starting at UVic, Karras is entering her second term as chair of the UVic chapter and has recently joined the Association executive.
“I started as a chapter representative because it was an opportunity to learn a bit about the PEA and to get to know my colleagues a bit better,” Karras says. “Not too long after, I became a member of the executive.”
The PEA helped provide Karras and her family with another international opportunity. Thanks to the collective agreement at the time, she was able to take a sabbatical year in France in 2008/09 with her husband and son, which fulfilled a desire she had been harbouring since high school.
The family spent the year in the town of Bujaleuf, in what was then the region of Limousin, now part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for my son to have the same experience that I did (when I went to Japan), really embracing and getting to know another culture. We had an amazing year.”
Is Karras done with living abroad? “Oh no,” she says. She hasn’t yet picked her next home away from home, though she admits to being not quite done with France.
For now, however, Karras says she enjoys the creative opportunities her position gives her for building a strong BCom program for students. Several years ago, for example, her interest in reshaping how BCom students develop their “soft skills” led to her introducing a conference on workplace skills for students. The two-day event—now in its 13th year—brings students together with local and international speakers.
“Out of this, students get an opportunity to experience a professional conference, attend workshops delivered by business professionals, and have an opportunity to practice the skills they develop,” Karras says.
Karras also helped introduce a career-preparation component that students complete in their last year. The component is designed to enable each student to identify their professional gaps and work on improving their skills in those areas. “This has been an amazing element to develop as it really helps students connect all that they have learned in the program through their academic and co-op work terms and put their focus on their career preparation,” Karras says.
Ultimately, Karras says, the business industry is looking for people who can think about business and find solutions to problems. To this end, her aim is to ensure that students are well prepared for diverse business environments and that their degree has “put them in a position to go in any direction they want.”
Empowering the Next Generation
Young Workers Build Friendships and Connections at Weekend Labour Retreat
Words by Jackie Wong
On a sunny weekend in mid-September, an excited crowd gathered on a dock in North Vancouver and boarded chartered boats bound for Camp Jubilee in Indian Arm. The group, comprising approximately 100 union members under the age of 30 from around the province, formed the largest ever cohort to attend the BC Federation of Labour’s annual Young Workers’ School.
In an era characterized by precarious work, a tough housing market and what can feel like an impermeable employment landscape, gatherings such as the one at Camp Jubilee are an appealing option for young workers looking to support one another, strengthen their skills and become more empowered members of their unions.
“I learned a lot,” says Ziyan Zhong, a PEA member and registered professional forester based in Fort St.James. “I valued this opportunity to meet lots of young workers from around BC and share our goals and share our challenges.”
The occasion to learn about BC’s labour movement was especially meaningful to Zhong, who immigrated to Canada in 2011 from mainland China. He says he arrived at the camp with little knowledge of union organizing in Canada and left with a new, inspired appreciation for what it means to be part of the labour movement.
Zhong also gained some helpful public speaking tips through the “Leading Workshops with Confidence” session, one of six workshops offered over the weekend. Other workshops explored labour organizing, workplace mental health, labour history and workplace equity and inclusion.
Sophie Michaelsen, a PEA forester-in-training from Grand Forks, participated in a workshop called “Introduction to Labour History.”
“I think it’s important for young people to understand how people in the past have fought for [union] rights,” she says. “That’s a big oversight with a lot of young people. They don’t understand how far we’ve come.”
Michaelsen says it was inspiring to learn about the history of the labour movement in BC, and specifically in Grand Forks, where she now works and lives. The workshop reinforced for her why it’s important for workers to be informed of their rights, which have been gained through a storied history of resistance and collective organizing.
“It seems so small, but even the act of not knowing what your rights are can undermine the work of unions,” Michaelsen says. “A lot of people ignore the union until [they] need it, and I don’t think that’s the correct mindset or a very good mindset to have. I think it’s good to have a strong, active membership that supports their union—not just in times of need.”
The retreat-like atmosphere and conviviality of the Young Workers’ School reminds Michaelsen of how empowering it is for young workers to gather and build new networks of support.
She and her peers left Camp Jubilee at the end of the weekend with a renewed perspective on why unions matter and how participating in them will help move us towards a better future for all workers— particularly in uncertain times.
Change Day 2017
Taking a Pledge to Improve Health and Social Care in BC
Words by Emma Wright
Change Day was launched in 2013 by the National Health Service (NHS) in England. The vision for Change Day is for citizens to make pledges in support of improved health and social care for all. Pledges can include actions such as talking with others about mental health, spending a day in a patient gown or taking action to increase cultural safety.
In the four years since it started, Change Day has become a global initiative, with over a million pledges made to help to raise awareness and instigate change for health-related issues.
BC held its first Change Day in October 2015. The event led to almost 8,000 pledges being made across the province, in every area of health care. In 2017, Change Day was held on November 17. The initiative inspired pledges large and small from every corner of BC, including from members of our Health Science Professionals (HSP) chapter.
Ronda Field, a physiotherapist from New Westminster who also sits on the Association executive, was involved in supporting Change Day along with others from the HSP chapter. They encouraged PEA members to commit to making one small change to improve care, whether it be for a client or colleague, a loved one, someone caring for others, or even oneself. Other PEA members took information and pledge cards to meetings and conferences to increase awareness of Change Day and to ask their friends, family and colleagues to make a pledge.
Ronda herself took a pledge to “practice what she preaches” by wearing hip protectors to some of her clinic visits.
Hip protectors are special garments worn by those who have low bone density or who are at risk of falling, Field explains. The use of hip protectors can reduce the risk of hip fractures by as much as 70 per cent, however many people who would benefit from them are reluctant to wear them. “As I’m frequently recommending this equipment, I thought I should be prepared to ‘practice what I preach’ and actually try them,” Field says. “So often as busy health care workers we make recommendations without considering the effect the intervention might have on our clients.”
Ronda wore hip protectors to several clinics during the buildup to Change Day. She wore both styles of hip protectors (pants and underpants) and found that most of her clients were completely unaware she was wearing them until she pointed it out.
A huge bonus from her pledge was that it helped her to honestly answer clients’ questions about hip protectors. “Most clients are concerned about comfort and worried that people will be able to see them. Being able to honestly say that they are not uncomfortable in regular daily activities seemed to make a difference to the perception of clients,” Ronda says. “However, after some colleagues commented on my more ‘curvaceous’ figure, I certainly have a better understanding of how body image may be a barrier for people.”
Ronda hopes that her pledge was a good way to demystify the concept of hip protectors and to show clients that as a health care provider she is willing to “walk the talk.”
She adds, “I hope that some of the small commitments that were made by PEA members might spark some lasting changes that lead to improvements in health care, community and social care, and self-care in our province.”
GOVERNMENT LICENSED PROFESSIONALS
GLP CHAPTER EXECUTIVE UPDATES
There have been some changes in the GLP executive. We welcome new chair Sam Davis and new directors Don D’Souza and Elizabeth Hunt. Stepping down are Carl Withler, Theo Knevel and Warren Davis. Welcome Sam, Don and Elizabeth and thank you to Carl, Theo and Warren.
GLP EXECUTIVE VACANCY
There is currently one vacancy on the chapter executive. Interested members are encouraged to apply. For more information please contact PEA Labour Relations Officer Melissa Moroz.
GRIEVANCES AND ARBITRATIONS
- The PEA filed a grievance regarding the employer’s failure to pay for reimbursement of medical forms.
- An arbitration in December will review the case of a member who was unjustly disciplined.
- There are a number of outstanding employer-filed grievances in which the employer is alleging that PEA members were overpaid. The employer is seeking redress, in some cases in the thousands of dollars.
- The PEA has arbitrations scheduled over the issue of the employer denying members sick-leave benefits or trying to reclaim benefits after they have been issued.
- The PEA has filed a grievance regarding the interpretation and application of the Long Service Stipend. The employer denied the stipend to a member who has been employed in the BC Public Service for more than 13 years.
- A member has filed a grievance for not receiving a Designated Professional Engineer (DPE) status. The DPE compensation continues to be an issue for our members who do not receive the DPE.
The PEA continues to work with members in filing classification appeals. We are currently reviewing four positions.
LONG TERM DISABILITY APPEALS
The PEA recently supported a GLP member in successfully restoring benefits by Great-West Life.
PROFESSIONAL RELIANCE UPDATE
The PEA held two well-attended lunchtime meetings with members in October and November to provide an overview of the negative impacts of professional reliance and the government review currently taking place. Staff and GLP members KT Shum and Bob Konkin met with the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and the leader of the Green Party to outline our concerns about this model. The PEA will provide more information about the government’s pending Engage BC survey about professional reliance and will make a formal submission to the review.
GLP BARGAINING COMMITTEE
The GLP bargaining committee has been selected. It includes the following members:
- John Babineau, engineer with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Kamloops
- Christine Bieber, geologist with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, New Westminster
- Laura Bolster, forester with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Smithers
- Edmond Margawang, pharmacist with the Ministry of Health, Victoria
- Marc Schuffert, agrologist with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Smithers
- Jeff Stone, forester with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Kamloops
The committee will meet with PEA staff Melissa Moroz and Scott McCannell in December to continue preparing for bargaining.
HEALTH SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS
HSP BARGAINING SURVEY
The PEA and staff representatives from other health sector unions were guests at the Health Sciences Association bargaining proposal conference from December 3 to 5, 2017. The PEA will be sending a bargaining survey to its members via email in December. Your participation in this survey is encouraged as it will help to identify our union’s specific bargaining concerns.
HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES' STAFF UNION
COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT EXTENSION PROPOSAL
Members recently voted down a proposed two-year extension to their collective agreement. The proposal included wage and per diem increases but no substantive language changes. The current contract expires on March 31, 2018. Members will now begin bargain preperations by electing a bargaining committee and hosting a one-day bargaining conference.
The chapter AGM was held on December 6, 2017. Items on the agenda included the election of the chapter executive and bargaining committee and proposed changes to the constitution and bylaws to reflect the chapter joining the PEA.
LAW SOCIETY LAWYERS
We are delighted to announce that Claire Marchant was elected by acclamation to be the new vice-chair of our chapter executive. Congratulations Claire!
The LSL collective agreement expires on December 31, 2018. We plan to serve notice to bargain by next summer, so we will be putting out a call for bargaining committee members early in the new year.
LETTER TO THE BENCHERS
Following our conversations at the union’s social event last summer, we are sending a letter to the Benchers summarizing our concerns with the RRex program and asking them to reconsider the program.
We will be scheduling a labour-management meeting once the new CEO is hired. Contact Labour Relations Officer Sam Montgomery if you have workplace issues that you would like us to raise in that setting.
LEGAL SERVICES SOCIETY
NEW LOCAL REP
Michael Smith has volunteered to serve as our new local rep for the Vancouver office. Thank you, Michael!
MEETING WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL
We have requested a meeting with Minister Eby to discuss the restoration of legal aid in British Columbia. Please let us know if there are particular information points you would like us to raise with his office.
The collective agreement expires September 30, 2019, and we have begun to identify issues to bring to the bargaining table. Labour Relations Officer Sam Montgomery will circulate the list generated at the chapter meet-and-greet and put out a call for issues to bring to management.
OKANAGAN REGIONAL LIBRARIANS
ORL BARGAINING COMMITTEE
The PEA bargaining committee has reviewed the results of the bargaining survey and drafted proposals based on the priorities that were identified. Before we meet with the employer on January 15, 2018 to begin bargaining, the bargaining committee will hold a teleconference to go over the proposal package with the members. You will be notified via email when this will occur.
ST. MARGARET’S SCHOOL
CHAPTER EXECUTIVE UPDATES
Ross Alden will be acting as chapter chair while Bev Waterfield is away on leave.
CHAPTER AGM DATE
The SMS chapter AGM will take place in January 2018.
UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA
Sheryl Karras has been elected by acclamation to the position of chairperson, and Chris Clausen and Ori Granot were elected by acclamation as directors-at-large. Mike Cave was appointed by the executive to the vacant director-at-large seat.
The collective agreement expires June 30, 2019, and local reps have begun to identify issues to inform our bargaining survey. We will put out a call for bargaining team members next year. If you are interested in serving on the bargaining team and want to learn more about the role, please contact Labour Relations Officer Sam Montgomery.
PAID SICK LEAVE AND RETURN TO WORK
Last year, the PEA struck a joint committee to revisit the paid sick leave and return-to-work language in the collective agreement. Currently, members have up to six months of paid medical leave per illness, which can create hardships for members with chronic health conditions or multiple related illnesses. The union has filed a grievance on behalf of a member who has been on unpaid medical leave since December, and we are actively working towards a settlement. The Association has proposed resetting the paid leave clock each academic year for each illness to mirror the UVic Faculty Association’s agreement with the university.
2018 PEA EDUCATION CONFERENCE
The theme of the 2018 PEA education conference is Making Your Union Stronger. The conference will be held at the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria on April 13 and 14, 2018. More details will follow.
2018 SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY TOPIC
Applications are now being accepted for the PEA’s 2018 scholarship awards, based on the following essay topic:
Recent research indicates that millennial workers have a more favourable view of labour unions than other generations; however, only a small percentage of young workers are represented by a union. Why aren’t young workers joining unions, and what can the labour movement do to change this?
The deadline for applying for a scholarship is March 15, 2018. To check your eligibility, visit the Scholarships and Bursaries section of the website.
NEW BURSARY ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
There are new eligibility requirements for PEA bursaries. PEA members in good standing are eligible to apply for PEA bursaries.
Applicants must be registered, or in the process of being registered in a part-time post-secondary degree or diploma program for an upcoming educational session or other professional development education. For the full policy, visit the visit the Scholarships and Bursaries section of the website. The deadline for bursary applications is March 15, 2018.
CLC WINTER SCHOOL
In October, we asked for expressions of interest from members wishing to attend the 2018 Canadian Labour Congress winter school in Harrison Hot Springs. The response was strong, and we are delighted to be sending six members to the school. Thank you to everyone who expressed their interest in attending.
BCFED UNION RENEWAL CONFERENCE
The BCFED union renewal conference, Making Work Work for Everyone, was attended by PEA executive members, staff and local reps. The conference focused on strategies for responding to our changing workplaces within three theme areas: workplace demographics; the rise of precarious work; and economic shifts linked to globalization, emerging technology and automation. Members from the GLP, HESU and LSS chapters also attended as part of the PEA’s drive to make education opportunities available to members. The two-day conference featured discussions on topics such as organizing and the impact of precarious work on people and communities. BC Premier John Horgan also paid a visit. In describing the conference, PEA Executive Director Scott McCannell said, “It was inspiring to see so many PEA members and staff wanting to learn more about union renewal and how we can continue to make the PEA a stronger union. I found the speakers and topics spot on in terms of issues the PEA is currently focused on, including how we engage our young workers, how we can improve mental health in workplaces and how we can better organize to grow our union.”
2018 LOCAL REP TRAINING DATES
- Basic level local rep training will be held on February 26 and 27, 2018, in Victoria, BC. The session is open to all local reps and chapter executive members who have not attended a training session in the previous 24 months.
- Advanced level local rep training will be held on May 14 and 15, 2018, in Victoria, BC. This session is open to local reps and chapter executive members who have attended the basic level local rep training. This session will build on skills learned in the basic level session.
If you are interested in attending either session, email membership by January 1, 2018.