If voluntary service was currency, Joanne could have made a living with her commitment to PEA. She has been a dedicated PEA volunteer for nearly 15 years sitting on the association executive, chapter executive, a variety of committees and serving as a local rep. In 2014 she moved to a casual physiotherapy position, signalling a shift to semi-retirement.
It wasn’t by accident that Joanne put in countless hours as a PEA volunteer; she values volunteering. Her coworkers agree: “she’s definitely been somebody that thinks about other people and whether or not the rest of us can do something to help,” said co-worker Denise Rheaume. She just returned from Ecuador, where she worked with the Canadian Association of Medical Teams Abroad. This will be her second trip, consisting of eight long days working with a group of medical professionals doing hip replacements on younger adults and repairing clubfeet and other bone abnormalities on young children. She’s a physiotherapist by training and her skills are invaluable in Ecuador. She also mentions that she’ll be increasing her volunteering in the community as she moves to her semi-retired state. “Because she is able to go out into the world and volunteer, she does do it” said Laura Kuypers. All of this new found voluntary service picks up where she left off with PEA.
Joanne has been a physiotherapist since 1988, graduating from UBC, after years of working as an activity coordinator at a care facility. She had the chance to see physiotherapists at work in the care facility and was convinced it was the right career choice for her. After upgrading and attending UBC, she worked at a number of small hospitals in the Okanagan region. It was at the Summerland Hospital that she first got exposure to unions. Summerland Hospital was a small facility. She was the only physio amongst a couple x-ray techs, a few lab techs, and a dietician. All of these individuals were Health Sciences Association (HSA) union members and because of the small size, everyone rotated through the local rep role there.
It was in her role as a local rep with the HSA that she learned the role of unions in the workplace. “The prospect of becoming a local rep was intimidating,” Joanne admitted. She strongly believes the ongoing educational opportunities are a key to making new reps feel welcome. The PEA’s servicing model also makes the role easier: “the good thing with PEA is that you have direct access to the LRO’s so you’re never hanging out there by yourself, feeling like you have to have every bit of knowledge,” said Joanne.
Joanne joined home health after leaving Summerland Hospital in 2000. This is where she became a PEA member and embarked on a decade and a half of service to our union. Joanne knows that people don’t easily identify with the work that home health physiotherapists do. The major differentiation between PEA’s HSP members and other physiotherapists is the location of their clients. Physiotherapists belonging to PEA work in the community through the province. “It’s not reasonable to expect some individuals to get to a clinic or an outpatient department because of their health issues. They may have just gotten home from hospital after some sort of surgery. They may be extremely frail or demented. We provide that service in the home,” said Joanne. The role of a home health physiotherapist is to assist people with problem solving in their home. “We can problem solve with them, recommend techniques, equipment, that kind of thing,” said Joanne.
In 2015, Joanne was awarded PEA’s Service Award. This honour is given to a member who demonstrates a substantial commitment to their union. In conversations with her co-workers, they highlighted a deeply held belief in the labour movement. “She believes strongly in the labour movement concept of everyone deserving equal and fair representation,” said Laura Kuypers. Her decade and a half of service to the labour movement is a clear indicator that she thinks the labour movement is vital.
Joanne is insightful when asked about the future of our union. “Well, I certainly think we need to get approval for long-term membership in the BCFED. Nurture that relationship and our relationship with the CLC,” said Joanne. When asked why, she said “we absolutely have to have the support of a larger group. Not just for us as PEA, but as a union movement as a whole.” She is also a strong believer in giving back to our communities through charitable donations. “We’re pretty well off, and there are lots of people here across the country, around the world, that are not. This is through no fault of their own. I just think that as a union movement that’s something we should be involved in. It just sits with the values of the union for me.”