Whitehorse Daily Star

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COMING IN 2019 – This property at 22 Wann Rd. in Porter Creek, purchased by the Yukon government for approximately $1 million earlier this year, will be renovated to become a group home next year. Inset Steve Geick

Decision will improve workers’ safety: YEU

Workers at Whitehorse’s youth group homes will no longer be forced to work alone – a practice the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) has long been opposed to for safety reasons.

By Gord Fortin on December 31, 2018

Workers at Whitehorse’s youth group homes will no longer be forced to work alone – a practice the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) has long been opposed to for safety reasons.

The new reality is based in a decision from Pamela Muir, the Public Service Commissioner.

The YEU had filed a policy grievance against the employees being forced to work alone back in January.

Steve Geick, the YEU’s president, said in an interview Friday the workers have complained of these conditions going back as far as 2014.

He explained the group home caregivers would often have to work alone all night.

Some of them complained this put them in danger. Others claimed to have suffered injuries.

“In those years, there was a lot of WCB (workers’ compensation board) cases about workers getting injured,” Geick told the Star.

He explained the injuries would come up due to violence in the group homes.

Some of the young people, who are going through traumatic times in their lives, can be difficult.

Some are older teenagers who can have potential for violence, he noted. The risks of employees getting hurt are sharpened when there is only one person on duty at night.

“It’s inherent that you are going to have risks like that,” he said.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Heath and Safety Board investigated these complaints and recommended that staff not work alone, Geick said.

The Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) brought in third-party consultants twice to review group homes. That exercise yielded similar recommendations.

Geick explained that HSS kept quoting national statistics – and did not change anything about the sole employee issue.

He said the Yukon government felt that as long as staffing components remained in this average range, nothing needed to be changed.

He said the national average is the three to four group home residents per care worker.

For some time after the WCB investigation, he added, things improved for the caregivers – but it didn’t last.

“People still kept getting injured,” the union president said.

He clarified that a worker does not get injured every time he or she works a shift alone. It’s just that there is always a risk in those conditions, he said.

Geick added that having only one staff member on the premises disadvantages the group home on more than just safety issues. He said it can cut down on the amount of programming that can be offered.

The staffing issues can happen not just during the night shift.

Most of the time, there is more than one caregiver scheduled, he said, but this can be thrown off when someone calls in sick. In this case, a replacement will be sought, but someone is not always available.

In some cases, a worker could be asked to fill in at another home, Geick said.

That said, he clarified the injuries mostly took place during the nightshift, when one person is scheduled.

Now, with Muir’s decision, at least two workers will need to be scheduled during that shift.

This policy change will cover all youth group homes operated by HSS.

Geick was unable to say if this means more staff will be hired. He pointed out there are several auxiliary or on-call employees who are supposed to take shifts as they’re needed.

He was unsure of the exact staffing ratio.

Geick was not able to estimate how the injury rate could be affected by this decision.

He is happy to see the changes, stating it’s incumbent on the employer, the Yukon government in this case, to mitigate risk to workers.

The YEU may push for more staff to be hired if needed. Geick explained this will depend on the current staffing levels. If the levels are too low, the union will lobby for more staff.

He is also hopeful that this decision could be a stepping-stone to changing similar conditions in other areas, like nursing.

“I think this is going to lead to further improvements in other areas in Health and Social Services,” Geick said.

HSS could not make any official available to comment for this story.

Group homes events among year’s top stories ... see pages 4, 5.

Comments (15)

Up 2 Down 1

Tater on Jan 7, 2019 at 12:28 am

And the age old question, where are the parents of these darlings? Are they paying to have their parental responsibility carried out? We raised our children at our cost.

Up 5 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jan 6, 2019 at 8:01 am

As the Yukon does not yet have regulations that speak to lone workers in any employment capacity, the government is now only experimenting with ad-hoc solutions hoping to improve safety and not spend any budget. Applying the Buddy-system in the work force is a simple fix to this problem.

Up 7 Down 0

Master Blaster on Jan 5, 2019 at 8:54 pm

@ Master B8 and Jacob TuTu - The last time we had largescale NGO grouphome like facilities 10s of thousands of Indigenous children were abused, sexually abused and killed. Yah, great idea you two. WTF - RU Schmidting me?

This latest fiasco with the YG grouphomes is a Liberal made fiasco. It works this way - You create chaos in the work environment - You tske away the employees ability to do any meaningful work - You create suspicion and swirl - You create some more chaos - You fire some people - Preferably the wrong people - You sweep everything under the rug - You allow the impression to leak that it is government systems that are the problem when in fact everyone knows that it is the lack of oversight by the higher ups on their wayward underlings attempting to mould things under their own brand.

Up 12 Down 3

Jacob on Jan 3, 2019 at 6:20 pm

Master B is so right!! The one group home that is privately run is amazing!! It makes the "trauma informed government" ones look like they are run by Mickey Mouse. You would never hear that youth were locked out or that workers work alone. It is well worth the money to have contractors who actually have to be accountable run group homes. I think the last year has clearly shown that what we have now does not work and harms youth and staff !

Up 13 Down 8

Don't Complain about Safety on Jan 2, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Whatever you do, if you are a YG employee, do not complain about safety. Even if the roof is going to cave in on your head, do not complain about safety. Well, at least not if you want to keep your job. Take a bullet, get beat up, let the wheels fall off your gov vehicle, but do not complain about safety at YG if you want to keep your job!

The OHS people (who are in bed with YG even in their roll as an offending employer) will make sure you cannot exercise your rights under that law and will screw you around long enough for you to miss the limitation period for your complaint.

The union is useless and does not give a flying rat's fat ass about you or your complaints. It's all about the dues, about the dues, about the dues.

The courts say YG employees cannot exercise their right to be free from reprisal under the OHS law if they get fired from their YG job. The courts say any challenge to your dismissal must be brought under the Public Service Act. The Collective Agreement says if there is another administrative process out there that deals with your complaint matter, that process must be used.

So you cannot claim a reprisal for raising safety concerns under the Collective Agreement (PSA), you cannot claim a reprisal under the OHS Act because if you do, that is considered an abuse of process, so guess what, Yukon workers? You are SOL in terms of raising safety concerns. Don't do it. Take a bullet instead. You might get some support through your Disability insurer that way.

YG is more about protecting themselves from liability and denying Yukon residents their rights than they are about safety.
Any advances on this front are definitely not because of anything the useless union has done. That's for gd sure.

Up 10 Down 10

Master B on Jan 2, 2019 at 10:34 am

Well, if we didn't pay group home staff so much money, we could ensure all group homes had adequate staffing levels & even new homes! Let's go back to the NGO model for group care. Not sure why the Gov always feel the need to jump in and take over! Give the NGO and the independent contractors a little more money to work with, and we can save millions of dollars every year that can be used in other areas. If you look across the Country, majority of group homes are not run by the Gov. This is why the current set up is failing.

Up 14 Down 4

Ivy on Jan 2, 2019 at 4:39 am

This is great news - it is concerning that a decision by the public service commissioner had to be made after the workers filed a grievance to have this change made. The TSS manager who "manages" Wann road always said that this NEVER happened workers working alone - so is this ANOTHER one of those we say it NEVER happens until someone proves it does ? Why does accountability have to come from outside YG ? Is anyone else not concerned about this pattern? What about the obligation to keep staff safe? It seems that the government and Family Services only live up to their obligations and responsibilities when they are forced to. Shameful but good for the staff and YEU to get this done !!!

Up 12 Down 3

Yessiree Bob on Jan 1, 2019 at 9:45 pm

@ Edie rue - You can opt out of the Union but the dues will still come off your check. Whether you use them or not the dues keep getting deducted...


They are also your sole as well as soul bargaining agent. When it comes to any representation you may need or want they must be accessed first.

For example - Before you can access Human Rights for any claim you will be directed to make your case with the union first. Only after the Union has failed to adequately represent you do you then have redress through Human Rights. And there are time frames.

Any other sort of employer action-infraction must also be dealt with through the Union. Good luck with that.
However, if the union fails to represent you adequately you may have a case before the Labour Board of Canada.
There are tight time-frames involved in any further pursuit of labour justice.

Pretty much the whole system is useless. The Union and the Employer have further nullified the potential for spotlighting incompetence and corruption by creating the illusion of respect through the Respectful Workplace Office which simply is another tool of image management for the employer.

You have lost your grievance rights to maltreatment - I imagine everyone stood around saying this sounds good only to unwrap the packaging to discover the meaning of the phrase - the contents of the box may vary from the image.
You are right - The Union is useless! Ever watch those late night infomercials - Remember the Sham-Wow?

They believe their job is to protect those pensions for those who survive the Survivor YG Challenge - May the odds be ever in your favour!

Up 10 Down 8

Max Mack on Jan 1, 2019 at 8:08 pm

It is questionable that 2 night-time workers will "improve safety". It's part of the WCB push to force all "vulnerable sector" employers to have a minimum of two workers on shift at all times. But, the studies to prove that this strategy works all come from - you guessed it - the very organizations that are pushing for the change. Staffing expenses double for employers, but the improvement to safety is ???

Night-shift group home workers should normally be dealing with sleeping youth. While there are risks, it is important to note that night-shift workers are often sleeping during their shifts. If the risks were as dire as Geick claims, I doubt these workers would be sleeping. Workers also have on-call access to RCMP.

Geick's next push is for community nurses to have two-person teams at night. They cannot manage the demand now, with nurses often making about 2x their salary with overtime. Again, community nurses have on-call access to RCMP.

Rather than a 2 person night-shift team, perhaps Geick should push for fortified panic rooms. Or, how about bullet-proof vests and other tactical gear? Or, how about physical fitness requirements and combat testing? /sarc off

Question: how many youth will be typically housed in the new group home?

Up 14 Down 2

Julie on Jan 1, 2019 at 6:28 pm

Where is the Director? Where is the TSS manager? Hello ? Is anybody out there? These people continue to do things to people and children and NO ONE seems to care. How many times does it have to be proven that wrong doing occurs before action is taken? Anyone? Perhaps another apology would help...... please someone do the right thing and axe The TSS Manager and Director of FCS !!! ZERO accountability ...... ZERO. To think the YEU is taking credit for this !?!?!

Up 13 Down 1

Ben on Jan 1, 2019 at 6:23 pm

Yet again YG has to be told to do the "right thing" and yet again the manager of TSS who hides at Wann road takes no responsibility for anything. How many times did he lie and say 'people are not working alone". Hello.... he keeps lying and you keep him. Time for some accountability!

Up 9 Down 2

Juniper Jackson on Jan 1, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Everyone who works alone, especially at night, is at risk.. How many times have gas stations, KK, been robbed? Only 1 person on duty is an open invitation.

Thieves think twice about entering homes when someone is home, or more than one person is there, or if there are yappy dogs, or big bright lights. This is the day of the criminal.. homes should have a camera, dog, electric fence? protected.. and business should have 2 persons on staff and cameras. You can NOT count on the RCMP to protect you or your property.

Up 23 Down 5

Edie rue on Dec 31, 2018 at 11:59 pm

This is good news. I don’t appreciate the union taking credit, they are worthless and I wish we had a choice of union representation. Do we?

Up 18 Down 5

Divergent on Dec 31, 2018 at 8:06 pm

This is is not just a safety issue it is a liability issue too... The group home staff should file a class action suit against YG for physical and psychological harms caused through government negligence.

Up 17 Down 5

AModernWorld on Dec 31, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Well welcome to the new world....

In most jurisdictions, staffing levels at group homes would be a bare minimum of 2 at all times. Glad to see YEU is on the ball.....with a message that is about 30 years late.

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