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Steve Geick

Optics around office closure ‘horrible’: YEU

The territory’s employees’ union is speaking out against the temporary closure of a youth office under the purview of the Department of Health and Social Services.

By Palak Mangat on June 15, 2018

The territory’s employees’ union is speaking out against the temporary closure of a youth office under the purview of the Department of Health and Social Services.

Steve Geick, the president of the Yukon Employees’ Union, which represents government workers in the territory, told the Star today the assistant deputy minister, director of human resources, director of HSS and another individual arrived suddenly last Friday morning at the Integrated Supports for Yukon Youth office in Whitehorse.

They told workers that because of a problem with plumbing and heating, they should go home – and not return until Tuesday.

But Geick said he received notice from the Public Service Commission (PSC) that while workers were ordered to leave the office, he was told it was for matters related to an internal human resources investigation.

He said he was confused as to why officials “misled” workers.

He then posed that question to Richard Mostyn, the minister responsible for the PSC, by sending him a note last Sunday.

Geick noted that the officials were “looking around the office, the blinds were closed, and that was it.”

Geick mentioned a complaint he received from a member last Sunday to PSC last Monday, asking again: “what’s going on here, we’re getting two messages.”

A day or two later, he was told that an apology had been delivered to the workers at the office, with PSC members admitting there was a miscommunication.

They “apologized to members and said ‘we misled you, that’s not why we were here,’” he said, but no further explanation was given.

While he was grateful for the PSC for keeping him up to date (he is not in the territory at the moment), he remains skeptical of the whole process.

“I don’t understand what they could be doing for four days,” Geick said, adding, “what else were they looking for?”

Sympathizing with the potentially sensitive nature of investigations, he said he was simply trying to make sense of it all.

“I understand they can’t exactly discuss what’s going on,” he said of HSS, giving “kudos to PCS for notifying me of the actual reason they were there.”

He feared what kind of tone this could potentially set for the department, which has been the subject of scrutiny as of late.

The department is currently involved in a couple of reviews and investigations. Among them are the Child and Youth Advocate Office’s systemic review scheduled to be released in March of next year, as well as an external investigator and special advisor brought in by the government, as announced by HSS Minister Pauline Frost in early May.

It comes in the wake of allegations of mistreatment detailed by the CBC from a youth who once lived in government-run group homes.

“It almost seems like a rogue little group of people are very interested in ....,” he trailed off. After thinking, he added: “Coverup is a strong word.”

He’s also worried that those who are truly impacted are the children and youth wanting to access the services.

“Yes, our members are as well,” Geick admitted, but “our members are there for the kids to offer quality care.”

Meanwhile, an HSS spokesperson chalked up the confusion to miscommunication, confirming the office was indeed closed for HR matters.

“There was miscommunication around why that building was closed, that we dealt with,” Patricia Living, the director of communications for the department, told the Star early this afternoon.

She added that staff were initially told it was a heating and plumbing issue.

“That was miscommunication with staff, and it has been corrected with staff.”

When asked about efforts to clarify that with others involved, Living said that “we’ve spoken with our staff.”

Geick gave the benefit of the doubt to the department – but remained critical of how the situation was handled.

“There very well might be a perfect rational for both of those actions but the optics of it are horrible,” he said.

The ISYY office is dedicated to those aged 12 to 24, and offers government services after regular business hours, according to its webpage.

Youth are able to learn how to access housing, get social assistance and search for employment through the office, among other things.

The site also notes that the office hosts a receptionist, two family support workers and a social worker.

Geick was unable to confirm exactly how many employees were told to leave the office.

The HSS spokesperson pointed out that the building doesn’t open on Sundays and Mondays.

Comments (22)

Up 0 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Keep in mind this search of the office took place only after the staff email accounts were examined for whatever it is they are searching for. Electronic spying can be performed from a distance without staff being aware they are being spied upon, remember the porn scandal of 2006?

Up 2 Down 8

Mikkey on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:36 pm

@ Yukoner81

Enough snowflake tears whining about the Liberal government. I've got horrible news for you: both the Yukon and Federal Libs will be around for a long time. Also, those senior Managers predate the current government. Fake News.

Up 7 Down 4

Wilf Carter on Jun 20, 2018 at 9:50 am

What is the truth here? This President does not help Yukon Employees Members if they make a grievance against a senior manager in government from my experience.
Is it true Mr. President did the Yukon Government provide funds to pay your VP benefit package if Yukon Government employees was to fill these two top Union positions?

Up 32 Down 6

Yukoner81 on Jun 19, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Time to clean up the bureaucracy and silence the egos of some overpaid individuals scrambling to do anything to protect their jobs. Time for an election too, because we all know these complacent Libs won't do anything about it. Get the YP back in power and get some decent people moved into these top-level positions in HSS.

Up 19 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Jun 19, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Not that long ago the Yukon government was crowing about being among Canada's top 100 employers, Here's the press release- http://www.gov.yk.ca/news/13-256.html
To fall so far, so fast - it does bear some explanation Mr. Premier.

Up 35 Down 4

@ Stu on Jun 19, 2018 at 11:40 am

@ Stu Panton Are you nuts? "So they could reason with them"??????? Ask yourself why the ADM, the Director of HR and the Director of HSS all needed to storm this office and remove all the workers. What exactly are these senior managers doing? Planting bugs to make sure they know who the potential future whistleblowers might be so they can "take care of them" before they get a chance to blow the whistle like Mr. Parker did?

This is so damn suspicious I can't ******* believe the Union President is giving kudos to PSC for telling him the truth (long after the fact and long after they had opportunity to do something untoward). Why is the Union President ok with "the blinds were closed and they were looking around the office"? Why isn't he asking, "What were they looking for? and Why were all the other employees required to leave?" With all you know from your position, Mr. Geick, how can you possible trust this government and accept these lame excuses? How can you accept their statement that this was a "miscommunication"? It was a blatant lie to you, to the media, to the workers, to the Yukon public. You need to get a backbone; you are supposed to be representing these workers that are getting screwed left, right and center. You are supposed to be holding YG accountable!

Something is not right here with YG's actions considering this is the office of one of the recent whistleblowers that is in the news right now. The other whistleblower reported discrimination and harassment and was held against his will by his senior managers when he refused to let them search his briefcase after receiving his letter of dismissal. And the other whistleblower was fired for questioning discrimination in the workplace, for complaining about targeted malice and a conflict of interest and for questioning why her foreman didn't report a serious safety incident that came close to killing him.

What exactly is YG doing? It's obvious they are not doing their duty in regards to allegations of discrimination brought forward by employees; it's obvious they think they are above the law (refusing to let that guy leave the building unless he submitted to being searched first; failing to report serious safety incidents); it's obvious they are sacrificing lower-level employees in order to protect those rogue senior managers.

I disagree with you, Stu. I think there is a really BIG story here. WTF is my government doing and why are all employees who question the government's actions getting dismissed while the discriminators, harassers, etc. get to keep their jobs and get defended by our tax dollars?

Up 33 Down 0

Thankful for whistleblowers on Jun 18, 2018 at 10:47 pm

BnR, if we listened to your take on whistleblowers, no one would have heard of government surveillance programs (Edward Snowden), the corrupt Nixon administration and Pentagon Papers (Deep Throat and Daniel Ellsberg), the practices of Big Tobacco (can't remember his name), corruption in NY police force (Serpico) etc etc. Especially in government, there has to be a mechanism to bring bad practices to light.

Up 36 Down 1

Lost In the Yukon on Jun 18, 2018 at 9:29 pm

The abuse within Social Services is longstanding and the Union had been complicit in its continuance by remaining silent ... and failing to protect its union members. Hopefully they finally step up and do the job they are paid to do.

Up 10 Down 1

Lost In the Yukon on Jun 18, 2018 at 6:16 pm

The Public Service Commissioner has some explaining to do regarding the hiring of the ADM of Social Services http://elderadvocates.ca/deceptive-government-publication

Up 37 Down 1

Lost In the Yukon on Jun 18, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Looks like the ADM has finally been exposed ... just like in Alberta where they were supposedly caught lying. History seems to be repeating itself here.

The Deputy is showing no leadership, allowing those under him to run wild and the Minister instead of rolling up her sleeves to deal with this runs off to Dawson for the weekend while staff she is responsible for are being brutalized.

... and as the leader of the NDP has said "Where is the Premier?" Our Premier is MIA!
Oh, wait, maybe he's trying to figure out how the average hard working Yukoner will get the carbon tax back like he promised during the election campaign. Not.

Up 30 Down 1

Cashew Errand on Jun 18, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Jarrett Parker (HSS); Juanita Wood (HPW); Andrew Schaer (EcDev) - the list of YG whistleblowers continues to grow.

At what point does Slippery Sandy Silver come to Jesus - admit there's a problem at YG, take responsibility, and put a few heads in the basket?

In the mean time, the scandals continue and the Yukon is quickly gaining a reputation for being a den of iniquity in which only fools (or organized crime) would invest their money.

Up 37 Down 1

Keeping My Head Down & Eyes & Ears Open on Jun 18, 2018 at 2:35 pm

As a former Private Investigator, I know that there are only two reasons why senior YG officials would show up unannounced at a government workplace which has been the focus of government whistleblowing and proceed to order all staff out of the building and close the blinds - they're either having the place electronically swept for electronic 'bugs', or they're concealing electronic 'bugs' in order to identify potential whistleblowers. If I were Geick, I'd be checking the ceiling tiles for pinhole cameras and recording devices.

The fact that senior YG officials showed up unannounced at a government workplace and lie to staff about why they are being ordered out of the workplace should in and of itself result in the immediate termination of said senior YG officials. Not only did that act violate the Collective Agreement, it evinces bad faith dealing by the Employer. Geick needs to step up and defend the rights of workers!

Up 3 Down 42

Stu Panton on Jun 18, 2018 at 11:47 am

They wanted to find who was causing all the trouble so they could reason with them.

No story here really.

Up 42 Down 3

At home in the Yukon on Jun 18, 2018 at 8:56 am

Looks like watergate north.
RCMP, was this act legal?

Up 48 Down 4

Joe on Jun 17, 2018 at 5:13 pm

All started when the YP started appointing their unqualified buddies to senior positions. Just look at who is the DMs and ADM's across the board. Now the place (yg) is a mess. Ironically, the libs said they were going to clean up that mess as part of their election campaign and they haven't done a thing.

Up 47 Down 2

north_of_60 on Jun 16, 2018 at 5:06 pm

The government was obviously on a fishing expedition and wanted the workers out of the office so they could search the files. That just destroyed the confidentiality reputation of that office, and now the clients will be reluctant to tell anything to the family support workers and a social worker.

Up 14 Down 38

BnR on Jun 16, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Guncache wrote "You could not run a private business the way many YTG departments are run by incompetent individuals."
Dude, you don't want to run a business like government and vice versa, two completely different MOs. And now you are making accusations that we are supposed to take based solely on your opinion.
Theres two sides to every story, many times, a "whistle blower" is simply another name for a problem employee who's trying to get someone, anyone to listen to their BS.
Never judge a manager until you've seen what they had to manage.

Up 51 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Jun 16, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Miscommunication is new speak for lying. I imagine staff morale there is fading even faster now. It's probably a good time to conduct another Employee Engagement Survey.

Up 53 Down 1

Jessie on Jun 15, 2018 at 9:53 pm

This government needs to start taking action. What are we waiting for? Where is the accountability? The ADM, director, and that manager that was caught lying in the media all need to go. And maybe even the DM if he is going to start punishing people for bringing information forward after he publicly guaranteed their safety. Time to stop covering up!!

Up 45 Down 0

Guncache on Jun 15, 2018 at 7:24 pm

The HSS department isn't the only one misleading employees. I retired in Sept. 2017 from Carrier Compliance (the YTG Weigh Scale). How about four managers in less than two years. One manager retired, replacement hired but stated they could not start for five months and after five months turns down the job, hire another one who stays nine months, hire a fourth who has no idea about the operation of the scale. That manager and his director recently attempted to hold up over size vehicles for several hours each day, something that requires legislation not a coffee shop decision. You could not run a private business the way many YTG departments are run by incompetent individuals.

Up 44 Down 3

Jack on Jun 15, 2018 at 6:08 pm

As usual, Liberals being Liberals!

Up 66 Down 2

Hugh Munus on Jun 15, 2018 at 4:17 pm

It's pretty embarrassing as a Yukoner the way this is unfolding. Whistle blowers should be protected and if I was Premier heads would roll starting from the Minister on down.


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