Alberta Introduces New Bill Regarding Labour Laws

After much public debate, the Alberta NDP government tabled Bill 17: The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act. This marks the first amendments to Alberta’s labour laws in nearly 30 years.

In early March the NDP started to consult the public about what changes should be made, and these new laws have taken 10 weeks to put together.

Labour leaders around the province have applauded many of the changes included in the bill, pointing out we have been out of step with the rest of Canada for too long.

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But of course there was opposition.

The Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives have stated that they believe the changes should be split into two bills to allow for more consultation.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean said the NDP is trying to pressure opposition parties to vote for all of the changes in the bill by including them with ‘compassionate leave for workers.’ He also added he thinks secret ballot voting for unionization should still be used every time.

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Some of the highlights from the bill include:

·      The minimum work age will be raised to 13 from 12 years old.

·      Employers will be prevented from docking employee pay if a customer leaves without paying

·      Job protection for unpaid leave for personal reasons such as illness, injury, domestic violence, family responsibility or disappearance of a child.

·      Unions could be certified without a secret ballot if more than 65 per cent of employees had verified membership cards, but less than 60.

·      Family members who are employed on a family farm would be exempt from employment standards.


Job Quality On The Decline, But Unions Offer A Way Up

As we head into 2017, a new report has found that the quality of employment in Canada is falling.

Although headlines recently have focused on the impact precarious employment is having on young people, this study shows that all age groups are affected by the quality of work in our country.

The report found that the loss in job quality has been stead over the past 10 years and the share of workers who are paid below the average wage has risen over the years to just under 61 per cent in 2015.

It also found that the gap in wages is still growing. Although the minimum wage is rising to help the poorest workers, it is the gap between middle and high-income people that is growing.

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So what exactly does a ‘low quality’ job mean?

CIBC economist Benjmin Tai explained to CBC news that it means more people are working part time, are self employed and are in low wage jobs.

He pointed out that jobs with above average pay will continue to have a good wage, that is not where new jobs are being created.

And this affects people of all ages.

Tai found that young people and Canadians over 55 are stuck in the low-wage job sector. Even among workers aged 25 to 54, over half had jobs that paid between 50 and 100 per cent of the average wage.

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Being a union member greatly increases the quality of your job in a number of ways including wage, benefits and safety.

Union members earn more across the board with members on average earning $5.28 more per hour. It also helps with gender parity with women earning 35 per cent more when they are with a union. You workers earn 27 per cent more.

A collective agreement makes sure you have job security, fair hours and benefits. Being a member improves your quality of life both inside and outside of the workplace.

 


What is Fairness in the Workplace?

Fairness shouldn’t be just something you hope for in the workplace. Fairness should be a standard, a staple for survival like food, clothing or shelter.

Not only can fairness at work be a rare commodity in some spaces, but studies have shown employees who perceive workplaces as unfair are more likely to leave jobs -- jobs they can’t afford to leave.

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Fairness in the workplace is not as black and white as you might think. Being underpaid or yelled at by your boss daily are more obvious examples of abuse at work, but the struggle for employee justice goes much deeper.

What factors contribute to fairness in the workplace?

Recent studies have found that poor treatment in the workplace, or “workplaces perceived to be less fair,” are corrosive to work environments and employee morale.

Things that factor into employee perception of fairness on the job:

  • Opportunities for career development
  • Work environment
  • Conflicts with management
  • Lack of challenging work
  • Lack of recognition
  • Proper direction of company/organization

How can being part of a union help?

Research evidence reports workers feel healthier, and contribute a higher level of energy and effort on the job when workplaces are perceived to be fair.

With the economy in Alberta (even more so with the current wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray), it’s increasingly important that workers are respected and treated justly in all arenas of work.

Teamsters 362 fights for fair workplace laws and standards. We collectively bargain on your behalf for what should be non-negotiable rights -- safe working conditions, fair wages, job security...the list goes on. And with high career and environmental stresses weighing heavy on Albertans, Local 362 is putting more focus than ever on mental health supports for employees.

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If you want to have happy and healthy employees -- if you want to be a happy and healthy employee -- workplaces need to be fair. We all need to fight for fair.

To see what Teamsters 362 is all about, visit: teamsters362.com


Need for Mental Health Supports Increase as Canadian Workforce Grows Younger

Canadians spent most of their waking hours at work: home is for family, solitude and sleep.

Because almost one fourth of the population is expected to experience mental health problems at some point in their lives, mental health support in the workplace is becoming more important than ever.

Canada is growing younger. In just 10 years, 75 per cent of the workforce will be made up of millennials.

And with suicide rates the highest among this particular demographic, more mental health supports are not only expected, but are a necessity to a healthy work environment.

According to Statistics Canada, “employees who considered most days to be either quite a bit, or extremely stressful, are three times more likely to suffer a major depressive episode.”

Especially with Alberta’s current economic state, workplace stresses are at all-time highs. Almost equally as alarming is many employees’ lack of confidence speaking to employers about mental health; in Canada’s 2008 Mental Health Strategy, the Canadian Medical Association “found only 23 per cent of Canadians feel comfortable talking to their employer about a mental illness.”

If you suffer from a mental illness, you should have the right to feel safe at work - especially if you spend most of your time there.

Providing more mental health supports and talking openly about mental health as the Canadian workforce grows younger is crucial to not just making employees feel cared for at work, but it can also cut the staggering economic costs associated with mental health problems.

Teamsters 362 has campaigned to get more mental health support in the workplace with our Make It Mandatory initiative. It is something that is so important for all Canadians.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “about 30 per cent of short- and long-term disability claims in Canada are attributed to mental health problems and illnesses.”

Awareness around mental health is growing, and as both employers and employees, it is our job to talk about it openly - no one should have to suffer at the hands of unmitigated psychological health in the workplace.


Survivor Guilt: How Layoffs Can Change The Workplace For Those Who Remain

It may not be something you think about all the time, but your coworkers can often become a second family. You see them almost every day and they become part of your life and even sometimes close friends.

With the downturn in the Alberta economy, more and more people have been experiencing layoffs and work ‘families’ have been torn apart.

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Something that is not talked about enough when it comes to layoffs is what psychologists have termed ‘survivors guilt.’  There are a number of ways people deal with the layoff of a co-worker, but there are some symptoms that managers and fellow coworkers should be aware of.

Struggle with guilt

There is the thought of ‘why was that person let go and not me?’ that is so often associated with survivors guilt. It can be a confusing time because of the relief workers feel when they are not let go, but then the grief they feel for their fellow coworkers. When that coworker is laid off, it can feel like the loss of a friend or loved one and that can have an extreme emotional toll on individuals and the entire office.

Psychologists have pointed out that people with survivors guilt may also suffer from emotional contagion, known as the tendency ‘pick up your laid-off colleagues’ feelings of gloom and desperation.' This can be especially hard for union workers who may have a 'recall right' in their collective agreement, meaning 'the right of an employee on a layoff to be called back to work by his or her employer under a term or condition of employment.' Seeing them again may only add to that guilt and the stress felt by people still there.

Increase to workload and burnout

Not only are people dealing with the loss of a coworker, but they are often expected to pick up the extra workload and inherit a lot of new responsibilities from the people who have left. There can be a situation where the person may have been removed, but all of their workload remains only adding to the stress of the people who still work there.

Anxiety and Pressure 

Once layoffs start happening, the pressure to keep a job creates a cut-throat culture.  With cuts looming throughout Alberta, many employees can't help but wonder if they are next. This can lead to anxiety and a complete change in identity for the entire company. This can sometimes be more damaging than what the person who was laid-off may feel themselves.

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Expected to Jump Back in the Saddle

When coworkers are laid off, there is no time for grieving the loss. You have to get back to work, especially if your workload is increased. However, the anxiety and stress that people feel from survivors guilt can often lead to ‘reduced commitment and productivity.’ The fear of being the next one to go can cause many to ‘freeze up’ and get less work done or have to work longer hours to get it done.

If you or someone you know is really struggling with anxiety or depression during these economic times it is important to reach out for help. In Calgary you can call the Distress Centre 24 hour crisis line at 403-266-4357 and in Edmonton 780-482- 4357.