Workplaces Should Be Mental Health Friendly

In any given year, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue. This means you or someone you know is probably dealing with one.

Initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk and Teamsters 362’s Make it Mandatory, have brought a lot of awareness to this issue, but unfortunately there is still stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.

Think about your own workplace. How often do you or your coworkers take a ‘mental health’ day? Probably not often. Many times, taking a ‘sick day’ for a mental health issue may be judged as being unnecessary or just someone trying to skip work.

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But it is so important to have a mentally healthy workplace, not only for the health of employees, but also productivity. It is estimated that  the economic burden of mental health costs $51 billion dollars per year in Canada.

Here are a few ways that employers can make their workplace mentally healthier.

Allow Time Off

If an employee is asking for time off for a mental health condition, employers must treat it the same as they would for a physical health condition. You wouldn’t dismiss or question someone who was dealing with a serious physical illness and you shouldn’t with a mental illness either.

Work Culture

Employers need to step back and take a good look at the type of culture they have in the workplace. Are people being overworked? Are employees noticeably drained and showing signs of presenteism? Those are signs that changes need to be made.

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Awareness and Resources

Openly talking about mental health can bring down the stigma in the workplace as well. Make it known that if someone is suffering from mental health issues they can approach a superior or a Shop Steward about it and they will be supported. The employer should also make sure they have links to resources readily available for the staff and that all staff are aware of those resources. They should also look at offering additional mental health training to make it easier for the staff to be more comfortable to bring issues forward.

Teamsters Local 362 has been working to have mental health support mandatory in the workplace. No one should have to suffer in silence if they are dealing with a mental health issue, especially in the workplace

Support Mental Health Awareness

Mental health is an issue that affects directly and indirectly everyone across the country, and yet stigma still surrounds the topic, especially suicide.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is a national campaign that started in 2010, in order to start a conversation about mental health. The way the campaign works is that on January 25 each year Bell donates 5¢ towards mental health initiatives each time someone uses the #BellLetsTalk, counting every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and Snapchat geofilter.

Last year they raised a record 6 million and #BellLetsTalk was Canada’s most used hashtag on Twitter in 2016.

Not only does this raise money, but it also raises awareness.

There is stigma associated with mental health overall, and one of the most difficult topics to talk about is suicide.

In Alberta, we currently have the second highest rate of suicide in the country and there have been recent reports of the suicide rate climbing by 30 per cent.

Following the momentum of our previous mental health initiative, Make It Mandatory, this year we created the campaign #YouAreNotAlone with the aim of raising awareness and preventing suicide in Alberta, and across the country.

Our eight-part docuseries traveled around Alberta to hear from those who have been directly affected by suicide and advocates who are speaking out and trying to raise awareness.

We also had an action engine so people could tweet and email politicians and leaders to let them know we need more support for those suffering.

Our campaign reached nearly a million people and had 300,000 video views.

Bell Let’s Talk announced funding this year for suicide prevention in Nunavut. The program trains people to recognize when someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, and offer help. Nunavut's suicide rate is approximately 10 times higher than Canada's national average.

We need to all do our part to help end the stigma around mental illness and suicide. Whether you use Bell’s hashtag, share one of our videos or simply start talking about the issues – we all have the opportunity to make a change.


CEDA Industrial Services Employees Locked Out

The holiday season is supposed to be a time when you celebrate with friends and family. You look back on all of the things you are thankful for throughout the year, and think about what you are hopeful for in the year to come.

It is about giving and kindness, laughter and joy.

It is something that is especially needed in Fort McMurray this year. Between the downturn in the economy and the devastating fires, the city has been hit hard.

Now, the holiday season just got a lot harder for a group of hard-working employees at CEDA Industrial Services in Fort McMurray.

Just two weeks before Christmas, CEDA has locked our members out.

Now they are left wondering what will happen to their jobs in an economy that is already suffering.

We were served a lock out notice on Dec. 8, locking us out at 4 p.m. on Dec. 11th.

However, we managed to convince the employer to return to the table on Dec.13 and they subsequently rescinded the lock out to today at noon.

What makes this even more frustrating for these members is that we have been trying to establish their first collective agreement with the employer since July 2015.

For over a year, we have been fighting so that these members get the respect they deserve in the workplace.

We acknowledge that a first collective does take a bit longer with a new group, but to take over a year is absolutely unacceptable.

This is a prime example why first agreement language has to be introduced into the labour code. Employers shouldn’t be able to play the system, which currently favours them in the sense that they can drag the process. This can potentially result in some new members losing confidence in their unions.

Following the initial lock out notice, our members voted 100% in favour of strike action. This was a move that was essential to preserve the terms of their working relationship and hold on to the hard fought clauses that we attained during a process that is now entering its 17th month.

On Dec. 13 every unresolved issue with the exception of sub-contracting, and one employee with a slight wage differential, had been agreed to. In fact, the union had agreed to the employer’s previous language on subcontracting presented in good faith during bargaining in August of this year.

Despite this, the employer drove forward with language and a thought pattern on subcontracting that would threaten our members job security and the well-being of their families.

This collective agreement is not about wages – it is about respect for rights in the workplace. Employees have even been willing to take concessions in their wages and the union structured a plan to tie future wage increases to the economy, a plan that both parties had agreed to during negotiations.

After everything these employees have been through this year, they don’t deserve this from CEDA Industrial Services. Especially around the holiday season.

Please show you support for our locked-out members as they wait for a fair collective agreement. Being locked out on the street is no way to start out 2017.

Want a great workplace? Make sure your employees are happy.

Money may not be able to buy happiness, but research shows that happiness can make for a better workplace.

While it has been shown that fair wages improves productivity, research has shown that there is a strong link between employees happiness and productivity at work.

A study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 per cent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10 percent less productive.

And a strong factor in making employees happy are unions.

A study from Baylor University and the University of Arkansas found that overall union members are ‘more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.’

Union members ­have higher wages, work better hours, have better job security and good benefits. There is also the added factor of being part of a union family who will have your back both inside and outside of the workplace adding to a sense of security in the workplace.

According to Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, when a person is feeling positive that are better at solving problems and are better collaborators. All of this leads to higher levels of profits for companies and better work environments for the employer.

It's clear that when workers are happy, everyone benefits.

World Happiness Report: Highly Unionized Countries Take Top Spots

The world happiness report was recently released and the top countries have a few things in common including the strength of unions within the country.

The top 10 nations were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

Denmark was originally in third place last year and moved up to take top spot. Canada dropped one from last year.

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This is the fourth year of The World Happiness Report and is put together by the the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

It was released just before the UN World Happiness Day on March 20.

According to an article by the CBC economic stability is a large factor in the ranking, as are social support and solidarity.

Of the top 10 almost all have extremely high percentage of workers covered by collective agreements, with Denmark at 80 per cent. The happiest countries tend to have high levels of unionizing, creating a strong middle class and less inequality.

This is also consistent with studies that have been done on countries with higher levels of unionization.

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A study from Baylor University and the University of Arkansas found that overall union members are ‘more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.’

It is clear that people who are in unions usually have a better work environment with good benefits, job security and fair wages. This also translates outside of work where studies have found union members have a better social well being a life satisfaction.

In a place like Alberta where jobs have become unstable and economic times are extremely tough, unionizing is something that could offer support both inside and outside the workplace.

Five Facts About Precarious Work

Precarious work entails more than you might think: unstable employment, low wages, more dangerous working conditions, no benefits and are often denied the right to join a union. It is officially defined as people who 'who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights.' While not a new trend in Canada, precarious work is one that is on the rise and can be seen in jobs that are seasonal or construction. It is also becoming more common in places where the economy is experiencing troubled times like Alberta.

Most of the issues associated with this type of work come up because workers have no one to stand up for them in the workplace. If they do bring up an issue it can be easily dismissed, which is something a union can help fight against. When it comes to layoffs, unions ensure that seniority is recognized and protocols and health care benefits cover layoff periods.

Here are five statistics about precarious employment in Canada:

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1. It Is Growing

Precarious work is an issue that is growing in Canada with the increase of employment in the ‘gig economy.’ Between  25 – 35 per cent of all jobs in Canada share one or more characteristics of precarious work, and the category of self-employed workers increased by nearly 45 per cent between 1989 and 2007.

2. They Earn Less

A study by United Way Toronto and McMaster University found that precarious workers earn 46 per cent less than those who are employed in secure work and experience more income variability. They rarely receive any employee benefits and only make a basic wage.

3. They Have Very Limited Stability

The same study found that those employed in precarious work often don’t know their work schedule a week in advance, and have limited career prospects. They are also more likely to fear raising an issue about any problems at work because of the instability of the job.

4. Insecure Homelife

Overall, the ‘anxiety about employment hampers their personal and family lives.’ They are more likely to find it hard to make ends meet and are less likely to have children. An inability to participate in leisure activities also adds to feelings of isolation and stress.

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5. Mental and Physical Health

Not only does this type of work affect mental health because of the stress associated with it, but it also affects physical health. Risks arise from ‘lack of experience, lack of knowledge about occupational health and safety rights, and fear of losing one’s job.’ Due to lack of income and benefits, they would also have trouble accessing medical assistance for both mental and physical health issues.

The Gender Wage Gap – The Good, The Bad And The Future.

When it comes to the wage gap between men and women, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that in a recent study done by Glassdoor, the vast majority of workers believe in equal pay for equal work. They found that 93 per cent of workers in the U.S. wanted to see equal compensation for employees, and 87 per cent are like-minded in Canada and the U.K.

Most people who were questioned said they would not want to work at a place that they knew had a gender wage gap, something authors of the study said employers should be taking note of.

The bad news is that 70 per cent of employees believe that their current employers pay both men and women equally, and statistics in Canada show that is not the case.

report by Oxfam Canada released this month found that in 2009, women in Canada earned on average 74.4 per cent of what men earned. In 2010, it was 73.6 per cent, and in 2011, it was 72 per cent, roughly where it remains today.

They said that part of the problem is that women find themselves typically in disproportionately lower-paying industries.

The topic has been brought up recently in political debates with Bernie Sanders commenting that the 'absurdity of women today making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men' needs to end.

So why is it so bad that most people don’t believe that there is a gender wage gap where they work? It shows a disconnect that people have when it comes to the gender wage gap, and a need for further education. Many Canadians don't even realize there is a pay gap and that is a problem.

In most cases in order to be paid the same as men, women need to have a union agreement.

Unions have taken major steps forward when it comes to furthering women’s rights in the workplace and Teamster contracts have historically lead the way when it comes to gender equality. According to the Canadian labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

Having a good contract ensures that men and women will be paid equally for equal work, something that is often taken for granted.

The Teamsters Women’s Conference hosted every year in a different city brings together thousands of women from across North America. The conference includes a program of speakers, dozens of educational workshops and union-building activities with in-depth workshops on everything from shop steward training to the history of the Teamsters Union.

Education and awareness will be key in making sure we close the gender pay gap and the labour union is a key part of that awareness.


Issues Facing Young People When It Comes To Employment

Young people are facing an uphill battle when it comes to employment, not just in Canada but around the world. The International Labour Organization, a UN body that tracks the human toll of economic progress, has launched a Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth, showing why having a labour union to back you up as a young person has become more important than ever.

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1.     Unpaid Internships

Everyone deserves to be paid for the work they do, no matter their age. Unfortunately, a reality for many young people in post secondary or just graduating is that there are a large number of internships that are unpaid. Recently the Liberal Government has been facing backlash over proposed regulations that ‘would allow federally regulated workplaces to hire unpaid interns’ something that contradicts the Liberal’s campaign pledge to help young workers.

2.     Underemployment

Underemployment is classified as ‘working in a field that does not utilize educational background and working contract, temporary or part-time hours.’ This is an issues that is facing many Canadians, but mostly young people as they are just starting out their career. According to the Calgary Herald  'Non-standard” (contract, temporary, part-time) work accounted for nearly one-quarter of job growth in Canada between 2003 and 2013.'

3.     Job Competition

With so little opportunity to find full time and well-paid job positions the competition is fierce for young workers to fill those positions. Another competition for young people are seniors, with seniors today (65+) twice as likely to have a job than they were 30 years ago.

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4.     Safety

According to a study released last year young workers are much more ‘vulnerable to accidents and less likely to raise safety concerns with their employers.’ Safety in the workplace is so important, and if there is no one looking out for young people in the workplace it could lead to disasterous results

Joining A Union Means An Advantage When It Comes To Wage

Money can’t always buy you happiness, but making a decent and fair wage is a right of all Canadians. If you are in a job that is paying you lower than you deserve, or you are being passed over for promotions then you should consider unionizing. Statistics from the Canadian Labour Congress show that union workers across Canada earn $5.28/hour more than non-union workers. It is time for more people to take part in the union advantage.

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Young Workers

Young people entering the workplace are typically finding themselves at lower level jobs and in precarious positions. A recent report in Alberta found that teens were being employed in unsafe workplaces and were working prohibited hours. Being a part of a union however allows young workers to earn more, in Alberta for example young workers earn $4.92/hour more than non unionized workers providing 7.5 million more each week.


Even in 2016 there still is a pay gap between men and women, and women are still having issues moving into managerial roles in workplaces. According to Catalyst Canada Canadian women earn $0.82 to every $1 earned by men, a gap of 18 per cent. They found that the ‘global pay gap was about $4,000 on average between men and women, and the Canadian pay gap was just over $8,000.’ According to the CLC with a union women earned $7.10/hour more on average than non-union.

New Canadians and Aboriginal Workers

New Canadians are often employed in positions of precarious work, so having a union on their side is important. In Alberta those with a union earned $3.49/hour more and put over 10.1 million more each week into their paychecks. Aboriginal workers earned $8.47/hour more when they are unionized.

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Setting the Bar

Not only does the above average pay benefit those who are members of a union, it also helps non-unionized workers. For decades unions have set the bar when it comes to wages across Canada. As work becomes more precarious, unstable and disproportionate, unions’ help to make sure Canadians can make a fair wage.

Remembering Why We Celebrate Labour Day

The September long weekend means a lot of different things to many people across the country.

For some it is a time for one last summer barbecue, a final chance at a pool party or a drink on the neighbourhood pub patio – it is the last long weekend of the summer and signals a transition of seasons.

But Labour Day Weekend should mean a little bit more to Canadians, as it stands for something that is important to us all – worker rights.

But the rights of workers wouldn’t be acknowledged without the organized labour movement in Canada.

It is the reason kids are in school learning instead of being forced into labour, why employees get to enjoy long weekends, why there is work place legislation, the right to organize and get a union contract.

According to The Tyee, the origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back nearly 150 years to 1872 when there was a parade held to support a Toronto Unions strike for a 58-hour work week.

Ten years later in 1873, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald committed to repeal the law that banned union activity and in 1894 Prime Minister John Thompson declared Labour Day an official holiday.

And Unions have made a lot of progress in Canada since it was declared an official holiday.

According to the Alberta Federation of Labour, ‘Albertas 420,000 unionized workers make an average of 18 per cent more per hour than their non-unionized counterparts.’

They also pointed out that economists have found that union contracts effect all workers in a given sector, pulling up all wages for even non-union workers.

Besides wages, unions also provide health benefits, make sure workers are receiving proper hours and are involved in the community.

And as we enter the Labour Day weekend research shows that the popularity of labour unions is rising, especially among our future generations.

So this labour day whether your enjoying a CFL game with your pals, a road trip with the family or just taking some time for yourself, make sure to remember those who fought hard for your rights as a worker in Canada today.