Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The president of the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) says he fears conditions for many workers have deteriorated during the course of the pandemic.
In the latest newsletter from the union, Steve Geick referenced what he’s been hearing from union members and workers in general.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have received mixed messages from our members,” he wrote.
“Some employers have been stellar in their responses to keeping employees safe while others still seem to be scrambling.
“Very few have been proactive when it comes to offering any relief with leave options that protect existing leave banks. For the most part, YEU has had to fight and shame employers for any additional leave options.”
In the newsletter, he singled out the Yukon Hospital Corp. for criticism. He followed up on that criticism during an interview with the Star.
“We were told early on that people were being shuffled around, to some inappropriate places,” Geick said.
“It was our members that had to call an emergency meeting of the health and safety committee.
“What was management’s initial response? Forcing staff that were involved to sign a non-disclosure letter, a gag order.”
The hospital corporation advised the Star in late 2020 that it will not publicly discuss matters involving its employees.
Geick said hospital employees have filed complaints over health and safety concerns with the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.
In at least one case, that complaint involved being assigned to work space that was a retrofitted washroom and storage closet, he said.
The health and safety board would not discuss whether it’s investigating the complaints from hospital workers.
“We can’t comment on the substance of any claim or any individual workplace’s relationship to an injury claim for privacy reasons. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to provide you with the information you’re looking for,” Heather Avery, a communication consultant with the board, told the Star.
Geick said such situations left workers unable to follow proper pandemic distancing requirements.
“These are some of the largest employers in Yukon, setting the standard for everyone else,” Geick said.
“People are being put in places where they couldn’t follow safety regulations. These are being investigated right now.
“It’s hard to say how common this is, though, because people are reluctant to come forward. We’ve had to intervene for some members.”
The long-time president’s single biggest concern is the lack of paid sick leave for anyone having to take time off due to COVID-19.
“It’s kind of an unprecedented time,” Geick said. “But that’s the way things need to go.”
The YEU is preparing a multi-media campaign called TimeOutYukon that will “endeavour to unite all Yukon employers and workers unionized or not to find creative solutions to combat the financial and emotional stress that the pandemic has imposed.”
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