Whitehorse Daily Star

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YEU president Steve Geick and the acting Public Service Commissioner Thomas Ullyett

Union calls attending sessions ‘waste of time’

The Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) isn’t going to take it anymore, it says.

By Sidney Cohen on April 20, 2017

The Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) isn’t going to take it anymore, it says.

On Wednesday, the day before the legislature convenes for its first spring sitting under the Liberals, the union representing Yukon public sector workers pulled out of all joint committees and policy review boards.

Essentially, that means any forum in which the union works collaboratively with the government.

“Continuing the exercise is a waste of time for us and for our Yukon government counterparts in acting roles who attend these meetings with their hands tied,” YEU president Steve Geick said in a statement.

In these committees, union representatives sit down with management and discuss issues or disputes in the workplace.

The idea is to come to a mutual agreement and head off grievance filings and arbitration.

With the union out of the picture, there will be no such internal mechanism to pre-empt grievances.

“Since I’ve been elected, I’ve tried to say we’re not the table-thumpers, we’re not the aggressive union; we want to work collaboratively,” Geick said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

“But at some point, you need to ... take affirmative action. If we don’t get any response, then you’re going to start seeing a lot more grievances happen.”

At issue is the way top-level bureaucratic positions are filled.

The union wants the government to review recruitment of upper management, and ensure the promotions process is open, fair and competitive.

Too many deputy and assistant deputy ministers are in the roles temporarily, said Geick.

The union president said often these employees are promoted from within a department to fill a vacancy – and they don’t necessarily have the requisite skills or training.

“They may know their own job quite well, but now they’re making decisions for a different branch they know nothing about,” he said.

“The trickle-down effect is then there’s a manager that’s put into an acting position as a director, who may or may not have the knowledge, capability, skills, intuition, whatever, to fulfill that role.”

At the same time, said Geick, these acting DMs, ADMs and directors may not be given the full authority of their positions, which can hinder their work.

“If they’re not getting proper direction, if they’re not getting proper supervision ... it affects the services that are provided,” he said.

Geick supports promoting from within, but believes an employee shouldn’t be hoisted up the ranks simply because they are next in line.

According to Geick’s count, at least five deputy ministers, seven assistant deputy ministers, 17 directors and several managers and supervisors are acting, and not permanent.

The Public Service Commission negotiates collective agreements and oversees health and safety policy.

In that department, the public service commissioner and the director of labour are both in their roles temporarily.

Thomas Ullyett, the acting public service commissioner, said his department has had a positive relationship with the YEU for many years, and that “we believe we still have that relationship with them.”

“We will get through this impasse, I’m quite confident in that,” he said in an interview this afternoon.

Ullyett said acting roles in the public sector are common, and that the Public Service Commission hires based on merit.

“I don’t have a concern, per se, with acting roles, it’s an inevitable part of our organization,” said Ullyett, who is currently in an acting role himself.

“My concern is to make sure when people are placed in acting roles, it’s done on the basis of merit.”

The government has relied on substitutes, of sorts, for more than a decade, said Geick, adding that sometimes these acting assignments last many years.

The Liberals promised to review the government’s hiring and promotion processes, and make them transparent.

Wednesday’s action may be seen as the YEU holding the government’s feet to the fire.

Now, every time the government violates the collective agreement, a grievance will be filed, which could lead to costly arbitration and settlement payouts, said Geick.

“Those are taxpayer dollars that are being used,” he said. “The taxpayers deserve a little bit better than that.”

Geick admits withdrawing from collaborations with the government is a bold move, and that the timing is strategic: meant to force the new government’s hand as it goes into its first major legislative sitting (see p. 5).

“It’s kind of the perfect storm,” he said.

“We have a new government in place, the first day of the sitting is (today) in the House, and they have made promises in their platform to do what we’ve been asking to have done.”

The YEU president said he raised his issues with all the parties before the 2016 election, and now he would like to sit down with someone from cabinet.

Richard Mostyn, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, did not make himself available for an interview today.

Cabinet spokesperson Sunny Patch said this morning that Mostyn has organized a meeting with Geick.

“All political parties make promises, all political parties fail to come through on all of their promises for whatever reason,” said Geick.

“We do our part to try and control the negative aspects of our union, and I think the elected officials of the Yukon government need to do the same.”

Comments (16)

Up 23 Down 0

YEU member on Apr 25, 2017 at 10:14 am

THIS - AGREE 100%:

"It would also be nice if YEU/PSAC focused on helping their members more and spent less time on national and international SJW issues. They should realize that not all their members are hard core NDP voters and act accordingly."

I pay dues for the union to help me and my fellow co-workers, not promote someone's pet issues that have no bearing on my workplace. If the union spent more time doing what they're getting paid to do rather than supporting every social justice issue out there, I'd feel like I was getting my money's worth.

Up 14 Down 4

ProScience Greenie on Apr 24, 2017 at 10:59 am

Agree that YTG is full of upper-level incompetent fools and good on YEU for pointing it out but they are way out of line thinking that they should disrupt the day to day functioning of government and waste taxpayers money doing so.

YTG does need to smarten up when it comes to hiring from top to bottom. Too many Outside hires, too much nepotism, the wrong people being hired for key positions and about a quarter of all workers that collect suck a sweet wage and great benefits do absolutely nothing useful. The rampant nepotism should be the first thing eliminated. It's just sad when you find out who gets hired for some positions. What are they thinking down at HR?

It would also be nice if YEU/PSAC focused on helping their members more and spent less time on national and international SJW issues. They should realize that not all their members are hard core NDP voters and act accordingly.

Up 6 Down 7

The truth is about to come out on Apr 22, 2017 at 8:44 am

about the way Yukon YEU and senior management treat YTG employees, including these two. Wilf Carter

Up 27 Down 8

Just Words on Paper on Apr 22, 2017 at 8:43 am

After 20 years at YG, I can safely say there is NO SUCH THING as merit-based hiring at YG. It is all about who the boss wants and likes. It has little or nothing to do with skill and experience. The "old boys club" thrives and when an employee asks their management questions like... why aren't you following the policy? ...that employee is shown the door. Gosh, we can't have employees holding managers accountable now, can we? Say what? The employee knows more than the manager.....GET RID OF THAT EMPLOYEE ASAP!!!

Up 16 Down 3

drum on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:03 pm

The YEU group (employsee's) negotiate their own collective agreement and it is better for themselves than any employees they represent. Why they are all of a sudden standing up for their members in YG is questionable with regard to hiring practices. The YG hiring practices have should have been subject to scrutiny for years - why are they all of sudden interested? It has not changed with the change of government. We have not been able to say "Yukon Residents" only need apply which is a keeping our own young people, born and raised here, from having a better chance of getting a job with YG. Now with the the recruitment system anyone in the world who can work in Canada will have equal status on positions available. They can only post First Nations preference for some positions. The YEU, in my opinion, look after themselves and not their members who pay dues.

Up 21 Down 2

Did members know that the Yukon Government on Apr 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Provided funds for the salary of the President and VP. YEU does not help its members, but helped the Yukon Government senior management

Up 44 Down 4

spud on Apr 21, 2017 at 10:55 am

I have been a Yukon Resident for over 30 years. That YEU has been totally useless for all these years (latest is Watson Lake mess). We all know of instances where lower level workers need assistance and the Unions response is one of not caring because your position is not high enough on totem pole. Since when is an inept union responsible for me, a non govt worker. Thanks for refusing to continue meeting, next step is loss of confidence and your resignation.

Up 47 Down 4

Reality Check on Apr 20, 2017 at 8:54 pm

It's super easy to get rid of managers in the Yukon government who are under performing. No problem there. But try to get rid of someone in the union who is useless, creates extra work for everyone else because they are incompetent and nobody wants to work with them? You're dreaming.

Up 18 Down 12

No Merit in Yukon Public Service on Apr 20, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Not only are there several acting senior managers many of the permanent ones were direct appointments. This is the epitome of an old boys club created and or permitted under the watch of the former Yukon Party government. There has also been a proliferation of senior positions over the past 5 years notably ADMs. Yukon Party was asleep at the wheel for not requiring more accountability for these new positions. And I thought conservatives weren't about creating more government? Good for the union for outing them and trying to hold their feet to the fire albeit the wrong feet! It's about time. Liberals please start cleaning up the mess left by the Yukon Party and do it swiftly. Start asking for data on who has been a direct appointment in these positions. And don't expect senior management that created this mess to fix it. There should be a task force established with the message that you abuse your power then you get it taken away.

I'd be remiss to also not bring up this new leadership program YG has. Another example of the old boys club mentality. If you are special and liked by the Deputy Minister you got in on this program - tap on the shoulder process. Makes me sick to my stomach. So much for fair and transparent process.

Up 24 Down 1

YukonShadow on Apr 20, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Maybe someone should look into why there is so many acting assignments.

Up 49 Down 7

Gov Employee on Apr 20, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Fellow Yukoners. I'm a 6 year YTG employee. I'm also a YEU member.
I'm here to tell you that Mr. Geick is emphatically NOT representing the majority of YEU members. The YEU is essentially run by a very small cadre of people. They control the YEU. The YEU is an antagonistic organization, which seems solely concerned with protecting the problem employees within the Yukon government. Yes, there are problem employees, as there are in every large organization. Most YG employees recognize what a great employer the Yukon government is, and are very public service oriented. The "dead wood" brings us all down, and they poison the work environment. Mr. Geick speaks of unqualified managers. In my experience, there are far more unqualified YEU members than managers. Don't judge a manager until you see what they have to manage.
Mr. Geick, grow up!

Up 20 Down 5

ralpH on Apr 20, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Well said BnR he simply is out of touch with the real world. Unions ( which I am part of PSAC) simply are let to be too involved. They need to be told to mind there own business.

Up 56 Down 18

BnR on Apr 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm

"We're not the table thumpers, were not the aggressive union". No, you're just the union rep who called the Town of Watson Lake a bunch of ***holes
Look at the wages, benefits and protection that YG employees receive. 1 year maternity leave with EI top up? Hard to swallow the hard done by pill that Geick is serving out, pretty much a Mulcair clone (lots of angry rhetoric) sans beard.

Up 37 Down 21

Lost in the Yukon on Apr 20, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Finally the Union President has grown a pair. It's about time. Health and Social Services has been in crisis for almost 10 years with a series of dropped in DMs (including the current Acting one from Alberta) and Directors and Acting Directors who haven't a clue what they are doing. Pauline needs to bring in her own people to do a complete review of the department.

Up 35 Down 21

George on Apr 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm

I agree with the union on this one. Perfect example is Yukon Housing Corporation where couple years ago, VP job was appointed without competition to an unqualified person and the entire senior management team was let go. They even created another VP job and it was given to another person with barely any housing experience and none of us got to apply on that job either.

Up 41 Down 34

ralpH on Apr 20, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Mr Geek needs to step aside. This is just another example of the union trying to use bully tactics. They only have one role to protect the intregrtity of employees. Not to directly involve themselves in the day to day operations of the operations.

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