Action Request: Stop The Wage Freeze Rally
When: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Legislative Assembly of Alberta 10800 - 97 Avenue NW, Edmonton
The Government of Alberta has announced they will table anti-worker legislation this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Although the details of the legislation have been withheld from the public, it is expected to undermine collective bargaining by imposing a wage freeze on public sector employees, and to introduce extreme and punitive fines for wildcat strikes.
This rally will feature workers and elected representatives from across the union movement.
Please show up and fight for your right to collective bargaining.
For more information, please contact Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 or via email email@example.com.
4 of 6 fact sheets issued
Superstore will face boycott if workers are not offered fair deal
Edmonton – Union leaders representing more than 250,000 Alberta workers urged Loblaws CEO Galen Weston Jr. to present a reasonable offer to the 8,500 UFCW workers at the province's Superstores.
In letters sent to Mr. Weston, the presidents of the Alberta Federation of Labour, United Nurses of Alberta, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, UNIFOR and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, stated unequivocally their support for the members of United Food and Commercial Workers.
"In the event of a strike, we will communicate our concerns about your company's labour relations practices to our members and actively encourage them to not shop at Superstore until a fair agreement has been reached," AFL president Gil McGowan said. "In an economy as vibrant as Alberta's, there is simply no excuse to shortchange the employees whose efforts make your business thrive."
At a press availability at 1:30 p.m. today outside the Superstore at 4821 Calgary Trail N.W., Edmonton, representatives of the largest unions in the province noted that the Loblaws Corporation has enjoyed a banner year, has spent billions on growing their retail empire, but are being stingy with staff.
"My guess is that you and your senior management team have concluded that, order to maintain your market share and afford moves like your recent purchase of the Shoppers chain, you have no choice but to engage in the race to the bottom being led by companies like Walmart," McGowan noted.
After negotiations between United Food and Commercial Workers locals in Alberta and Saskatchewan reached an impasse in September, more than 8,500 members of the union voted 97 per cent to approve strike action. The members were near unanimous in their rejection of Loblaws' last offer, which involved wage cuts of up to 40 per cent, on top of reductions in hours.
If there is no agreement reached by midnight on Oct. 6, workers at Superstores all over the prairie provinces will walk out.
"We understand that the retail market is competitive, but it is also profitable – especially here in booming Alberta," McGowan said. "Instead of joining the pack in a race to the bottom, you can stand out from the pack by being a good employer and a better corporate citizen."
The press conference was attended by Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan, representing 160.000 workers; Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith, representing 83,000 workers; United Nurses of Alberta vice president Jane Sustrik, representing 23,000 workers; Health Sciences Association of Alberta president Elisabeth Ballermann, representing 24,000 workers; and Canadian Union of Public Employees president Marle Roberts, representing 30,000 workers.
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Putting local job seekers first in line, but labour union says changes not enough
Employers looking to hire temporary foreign workers will now have to first secure a Labour Market Opinion and pay a corresponding processing fee of $275.
The announcement by Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney which came into effect on August 1, is part of measures which aim to ensure that employers hire locals first before considering foreign workers.
"Our government's number one priority remains jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity," said Kenney. "These additional reforms help ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs. They also ensure that taxpayers no longer pay the cost of processing employer applications for temporary foreign workers."
"Qualified Canadians, including new Canadians, should have first crack at available jobs," added Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. "These new measures demonstrate that our Government is committed to ensuring the Temporary Foreign Worker program functions as intended."
The processing fee requirement for employers will help curb unnecessary spending of taxpayer money, as was the case in 2012 when 60 percent of positive Labour Market Opinions did not lead to a work permit being issued to a temporary foreign worker, according to the government.
Aside from the LMO requirement, the revised Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations now defines a new language assessment factor that states English and French are the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement, both in LMO requests and in advertisements by employers applying to hire temporary foreign workers, unless employers can demonstrate that another language is essential for the job.
Job advertising requirements have also been extended from two to four weeks, while the 15 per cent pay gap for temporary foreign workers has also been eliminated, according to the government.
The government is also planning to implement rules on the cancellation of work permits as well as the suspension of LMO processing, and requiring employers to submit future plans for transitioning to local employees.
"The reforms announced today and in recent months further strengthen the integrity of the Temporary Foreign Worker program and ensure that more employers hire Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers," said Kenney. "These improvements help ensure the Temporary Foreign Worker program is only used as intended—to fill acute skills shortages on a temporary basis."
Meanwhile, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) warns that revisions to the foreign workers program will not be effective against employers who seek to exploit foreign workers.
The AFL, which has long been a critic of the program, says that the $275 Labour Market Opinion processing fee will only cost employers around three and a half cents each hour over the four-year course of a temporary foreign worker's employment duration.
"A lot of these low-wage employers in the service sector will happily pay that for a worker who is willing to work for less for years and is too vulnerable to complain. $275 is a drop in the bucket and will not provide a significant disincentive to any employers who are trying to keep wages low," said Gil McGowan, president of the AFL.
"Leaving the determination of whether TFWs are adversely affecting the economy in the hands of employers to see if Canadians are being displaced is laughable. Low-wage employers can't be relied upon to protect the public interest."
The topic of temporary foreign workers is now popular among politicians, with the number of immigrant workers shooting up to over 340,000 in just 10 years despite poor economic conditions and the number of unemployed locals looking for jobs.
Fanning the flames are reported cases of employers exploiting TFWs.
"The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which has been greatly expanded since the Conservatives took power in 2006, is discredited, and has lost public support," McGowan said. "They're hoping these changes will make it palatable, but Canadians know exploitation when they see it. Canadians don't want to see the creation of a permanent non-voting underclass of workers who don't have the same rights as other residents of the country."
Beacon News online, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013
Byline: Kharl Prado
Join concerned members of UNA Local 301 at the U of A Hospital on July 24 at 11:30 a.m. Affiliates are encouraged to bring your flags and banners and wear white in solidarity with UNA's Wear White Wednesday Campaign.
WHEN: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: University of Alberta Hospital
122 Street and 84 Avenue (112 Street Sidewalk), Edmonton
United Nurses of Alberta (UNA Local 301) RNs and RPNs at the University of Alberta Hospital (U of A), will be conducting an information walkabout at the U of A Hospital to protest nursing cuts and to inform the public about the detrimental affects of AHS's 'workforce transformation' on patient care. Across the province, nursing positions are disappearing as Alberta Health Services (AHS) implements staffing cuts under the banner of "Workforce Transformation" and the "Clinical Workforce Strategic Plan." AHS is also combining these cuts with offensive bargaining proposals in contract negotiations with nurses. For more information visit http://nursesmakethedifference.squarespace.com/
SPECIFIC CONCERNS AT THE U OF A HOSPITAL
The new workforce transformation collaborative model is being demoed at the University of Alberta Hospital (as well as the Royal Alexandra Hospital) involving one surgical and one medicine unit at each site. Overall there were 23 RNs laid off between the four units. Changes being proposed for the U of A Hospital for the fall include decreased numbers of RNs.
For example, for the surgical units:
Days - decreasing by two RNs
Early evenings - decreasing by two RNs
Late evenings - decreasing by one RN
Nights – decrease one LPN
This is of great concern for members of UNA 301. Their patients are sick and often very unstable. This is an acute care hospital and expert nursing care is needed to ensure patient safety.
Ishani Weera, AFL Organizing and Outreach Director at 780-483-3021 or via e-mail email@example.com
Marie-Therese Mageau, UNA 301 at 780-407-7453
June 2013: Free Workshop FOIP; Boycott i-Hotel and Edm Hotel & Conv. Centre; Act now on Bill C-377; Bill C-525: Another Tory attempt to undermine unions; Supreme Court sides with workers ...
Free Workshop on Access to Information on Friday, June 28
The Alberta Federation of Labour will host a "Lunch and Learn" workshop covering the basics of Alberta's Freedom of Information legislation. This workshop, the first in a series, is an opportunity for our members, affiliates, and allies to learn about a subject that is of interest to the labour movement.
This workshop will cover the basics of FOIP in Alberta, including:
- How to navigate the FOIP request system
- Why sometimes it's important to get information the government would rather keep secret
- How to word a request to save time and money
- How to follow up with further requests or judicial review.
When: Friday, June 28 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Where: AFL Meeting Hall (10654 – 101 Street Edmonton)
See poster for more details.
Due to flooding in Calgary, all protest events related to the federal Conservative Convention have been postponed until the convention can be rescheduled.
Boycott i-Hotel and Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre in support of UFCW 401
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 started an organizing drive in March to unionize the i-Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta, which was formerly the Holiday Inn on 67th Street.
During the process owner Amin Suleman was made aware of union activity and interfered with the organizing efforts of Local 401.
3 members have been harassed, intimidated, and terminated for expressing their legal right to join a union. The ALRB issued a consent order that UFCW 401 supports and the employer refuses to honour.
UFCW 401 needs your help. They are asking all labour organizations to help them in the fight against a ruthless employer. Please support UFCW 401 by boycotting this employer until an agreement can be reached between the union and employer. UFCW 401 does not want to cripple business and wants people to advise reservations why they are pulling their business. This employer operates two hotels in Alberta.
i-Hotel at 6500 – 67 Street, Red Deer, AB
Edmonton Hotel and Convention Centre at 4520 – 76th Avenue, Edmonton.
Click here for letter from UFCW 401 to the AFL.
For more information please contact Director of Organizing, Chris O'Halloran at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill C-377 – Send a message to the Senate
The Senate will be debating C-377 this week. There is a real chance to expose the bill as transparently anti-union, and potentially to amend or defeat it.
The bill has been pilloried by almost everyone who attended the hearings held by the Senate banking committee.
The CLC and other labour organizations are asking for maximum lobbying (calls to your regional senators, etc.). To find the right phone # or e-mail, please go here.
Below is a commentary by Jim Stanford, CAW Researcher (speaker at our convention) on the Senate's deliberations.
Every member that is able to voice their opposition to this bill could make a difference. PLEASE SEND A MESSAGE TO ALL SENATORS, WRITE YOUR MP AND CC ALL MEMBERS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE.
The Alberta CUPE website allows you to send a message to all senators.
Please visit http://cupe.ca/unions/urges-senate-block-anti-union-bill
They're running an online action on an issue that I think will concern you. It takes two minutes and you can make a difference. Other websites:
Bill C-525: Another Conservative attempt to undermine unions
The Harper government is again turning to its backbenchers to make laws designed to weaken unions. Bill C-525, if passed, will interfere in labour relations and the established rights of workers to join and remain in a union.
Currently, workers in federally regulated industries are recognized as a bargaining agent if they can show that they represent the majority of workers. Bill C-525 will require the union to prove that 50% of all employees – not just those that vote – want to remain in a union. If that doesn't happen, the unit will be decertified. This opens the door to all sorts of employer interference, such as anti-union propaganda and threats to shutdown workplaces, in efforts to suppress votes to get rid of unions.
Bill C-525 will apply to federally regulated unions, but make no mistake that this is another Harper Conservative attempt to weaken unions. If this Bill passes, we'll likely see more brazen attacks. Together, we can send a message to Harper and stop Bill C-525.
For a summary on Bill C-525 read the CUPE release and backgrounder.
View Bill C-525.
Please sign and promote the NDP petition
Supreme Court sides with workers right to privacyOn June 14, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a mandatory random alcohol testing policy imposed by Irving Pulp and Paper at a Saint John, N.B., Kraft mill in 2006 was unreasonable.
The case, which stems from a grievance filed by Communications Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Local 30 in New Brunswick, has implications to similar cases in Alberta's oil sands. The ruling is a major victory in the fight against random and arbitrary privacy violations through drug and alcohol testing.
"This decision is in line with years of jurisprudence, makes sense, and is in the interest of Canadians. Employers can't arbitrarily introduce a random drug or alcohol testing regime by declaring a workplace "dangerous" without proving that there's a problem," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "There's a direct parallel between this case and what's happening at Suncor: there's no evidence that there's a problem and the employer can't simply impose their will on the worker and strip them of their privacy without proving there's one."
In 15 years before the policy was imposed, there were eight instances in which a worker was found to be under the influence of alcohol and none involved an accident or injury. During the 22 months the policy was in effect, no one tested positive.
"The expected safety gains to the employer in this case were found by the board to range 'from uncertain ... to minimal at best' while the impact on employee privacy was found to be much more severe," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. For more information see June 14 release
AFL wraps up its case against job-sucking Northern Gateway pipelineThe Alberta Federation of Labour made its final arguments to the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings on Tuesday, June 18 in Terrace, B.C. The Federation made the case that the Pipeline is not in the best interests of Canadians.
The pipeline, if approved, will ship some of our country's best potential jobs down the pipeline to China. In its presentation to the National Energy Board, the AFL showed that it makes economic sense to upgrade bitumen in Alberta – or at least in Canada – rather than exporting it raw to foreign markets.
"The proponents of this project have compared the pipeline to the CPR and called it an important piece of Canadian infrastructure. But the Northern Gateway Pipeline is a piece of Chinese infrastructure, not Canadian infrastructure," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "The ownership structure of the pipeline shows that the project will benefit China's state-owned oil companies, shipping good-paying oil sands jobs to Asia." For more information see June 17 release with links to a backgrounder and AFL final arguments
Did you know...
- the Northern Gateway pipeline will create only 228 permanent jobs in Canada
- During construction of the pipeline, the project will temporarily create 1,500 construction jobs
- At least 26,000 Canadian jobs would be created if we upgraded/refined the bitumen destined for China here at home.
June 28: Alberta Federation of Labour "Lunch & Learn", 12:30 -2:30 PM
July 1: Canada Day
Aug 5: Civic Holiday
Aug 5-9: AFL Kids' Camp
Aug 24: EDLC "Big Splash Open" Golf Tournament
Aug 31: EDLC Labour Day BBQ
Aug 31: Sept 2: Founding UNIFOR Convention
Sept 2: Labour Day
Sept 8: World Literacy Day
Sept 17-18: AFL Executive Committee/Council
Supreme Court says Irving pulp mill's random testing policy has 'severe' impact on privacy
The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned a company's right to impose mandatory, random alcohol testing on its unionized workers in a dangerous workplace.
In a 6-3 decision released on Friday, the court ruled the policy unilaterally adopted by Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. in Saint John in 2006 for employees in safety sensitive positions is unreasonable.
The Supreme Court of Canada says random alcohol testing by an employer is only justified in certain circumstances.
A dangerous workplace is not automatic justification for random testing, the court ruled in the case, which dealt narrowly with unionized workers and management's ability to balance privacy rights with the need for safety in dangerous workplaces.
The decision says dangerousness of a workplace only justifies testing particular employees in certain circumstances:
- Where there are reasonable grounds to believe an employee was impaired while on duty.
- Where an employee was directly involved in a workplace accident or significant incident.
- Where the employee returns to work after treatment for substance abuse.
"It has never, to my knowledge, been held to justify random testing, even in the case of 'highly safety sensitive' or 'inherently dangerous' workplaces like railways (Canadian National) and chemical plants (DuPont Canada Inc. and C.E.P., Loc. 28-0 (Re)(2002), 105 L.A.C. (4th) 399), or even in workplaces that pose a risk of explosion (ADM Agri-Industries), in the absence of a demonstrated problem with alcohol use in that workplace."
The case stems from a 2006 grievance filed by Local 30 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), at the Irving mill.
"We respect the decision," Irving spokeswoman Mary Keith said in a brief emailed statement.
"We will be reviewing the decision and have no further comment at this time," she said.
"Our focus has and continues to be the safety of our co-workers and communities where we have operations."
Could affect Alberta Suncor caseDavid Coles, the national president of CEP, said the ruling is "very clear" and believes it will help resolve a similar dispute in Alberta.
Suncor Energy is trying to bring in a random drug and alcohol testing program for employees and contractors at its oilsands operations in Fort McMurray.
"As clear as it is written... if someone was to have random drug testing, they would have a fairly high bar to cross before they would be able to, I believe, get it past the judiciary because there just isn't any evidence at all that it affects the outcome at work," said Coles.
"The fundamental issue here is there's absolutely no evidence presented here or anywhere else that random drug testing increases the safety in any operation," he said.
"So it turns out to be nothing more than an invasion of ones' privacy with no net gain for the consequence of safety."
Coles said the union is opposed to anyone using any kind of alcohol or drug at work, but contends substance abuse is a societal issue that must be dealt with, not a workplace issue to be legislated.
"Stop spending so much money trying to beat on blue collar workers and get to the problem," he said. "You don't see random drug testing in downtown Toronto in the big white towers... And please don't tell me that the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse is any different in Fort McMurray than it is on Bay Street."
The Alberta Federation of Labour, which was an intervener in the Irving case, also believes the decision could influence the Suncor arbitration, said president Gil McGowan.
"Employers simply have to demonstrate there's a problem with drug abuse or alcohol abuse in the workplace before they can move ahead with these kind of arbitrary random drug testing regimes, but it's clear the employer didn't prove that and we would argue that they haven't been able to prove that in Suncor either. So we're very pleased with the decision."
The court found the Irving policy had been properly rejected by a labour arbitration board.
"In this case, the expected safety gains to the employer were found by the board to range from uncertain to minimal, while the impact on employee privacy was severe," the decision states.
Irving "exceeded the scope of its management rights under a collective agreement by imposing random alcohol testing in the absence of evidence of a workplace problem with alcohol use."
The court awarded "costs throughout" to CEP.
Daniel Leger, a lawyer representing the union, declined to discuss the amount involved, citing attorney-client privilege.
But he said the judgment will allow the union to recoup some of its legal costs in the seven-year dispute.
The decision from the top court could have broad implications. It is considered a national test case for how far an employer can go when it comes to a worker's right to privacy.
It attracted numerous interveners, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian National Railway Company, Via Rail Canada, the Canadian Mining Association, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), which describes itself as the largest industry and trade association.
Ian Howcroft, vice-president for the Ontario division of the CME, said it's "unfortunate" the Supreme Court did not uphold a company's right to do random testing.
But "it's encouraging the judgment did not close the door completely and companies may still be able to do some testing in certain circumstances," Howcroft said.
He maintains companies should have everything at their disposal to ensure the workplace is free of hazards.
Lawyer argues reasonable cause needed for testing
Irving Pulp and Paper Mill in Saint John had unilaterally adopted a policy of mandatory random alcohol testing for employees in safety-sensitive positions in 2006.
The Supreme Court heard arguments last December, but reserved its decision.
Fredericton-based lawyer David Mombourquette, who was representing the CEP, had argued a breathalyzer is an involuntary submission of bodily fluids and amounts to a high level of random personal intrusion.
Testing should only be permitted when there is reasonable cause, such as slurred speech or the smell of alcohol, he had said.
But the Irving company's lead counsel, Neil Finkelstein, had argued the policy is justified because the mill is full of hazardous chemicals, flammable substances, heavy rotating equipment, a 13,000-volt electrical system and a $350-million high-pressure boiler.
In addition, the mill had a history of drinking being a problem, he had said, citing eight documented incidents between 1991 and 2006, when the random testing policy was implemented.
In March of that year, millwright Perley Dey's name was randomly selected by a computer program to take a breathalyzer test.
Dey said he took the test because he was afraid of losing his job. The test showed a blood alcohol level of zero.
But Dey, who describes himself as a religious man who doesn't drink, said the test was humiliating and unfair.
An arbitration board allowed the grievance, ruling Irving had failed to establish a need for the policy. But a New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench judge reversed that decision, which the union appealed.
The New Brunswick Court of Appeal dismissed the grievance in 2011, ruling the mill qualifies as an inherently dangerous workplace. The union appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
CBC News, Friday, June 14, 2013
Decision reaffirms union’s stance against random drug and alcohol testing
EDMONTON – Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a major victory in the fight against random and arbitrary privacy violations through drug and alcohol testing.
The case, which stems from a grievance filed by Communications Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Local 30 in New Brunswick, has implications to similar cases in Alberta’s oil sands. Labour leaders hailed the decision as a victory for human rights.
“This decision is in line with years of jurisprudence, makes sense, and is in the interest of Canadians. Employers can’t arbitrarily introduce a random drug or alcohol testing regime by declaring a workplace “dangerous” without proving that there’s a problem,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “There’s a direct parallel between this case and what’s happening at Suncor: there’s no evidence that there’s a problem and the employer can’t simply impose their will on the worker and strip them of their privacy without proving there’s one.”
In 2006, CEP Local 30 challenged Irving Pulp and Paper Inc.’s decision to impose random workplace drug and alcohol testing without first proving that there was a problem. In a 6-3 decision released on Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of CEP’s position that the impact on employee privacy was too severe to justify random testing.
The Court ruled that the dangerousness of a workplace doesn’t give an employer free reign to run roughshod over employee’s rights.
“A unilaterally imposed policy of mandatory, random and unannounced testing for all employees in a dangerous workplace has been overwhelmingly rejected by arbitrators as an unjustified affront to the dignity and privacy of employees unless there is reasonable cause, such as a general problem of substance abuse in the workplace,” Justice Abella wrote. “This is not to say that an employer can never impose random testing in a dangerous workplace. If it represents a proportionate response in light of both legitimate safety concerns and privacy interests, it may well be justified.”
CEP local 30 from New Brunswick brought the case forward, we were interveners on the case, as was CEP 707 representing Suncor workers, because the Alberta Federation of Labour and affiliated unions believe in a worker’s right to privacy.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email email@example.com.
Another week, another RCMP scandal.
On Tuesday, Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell, one of the first women to join the force's storied equestrian show, the Musical Ride, launched an $8-million lawsuit claiming that the RCMP did not properly investigate her allegations of relentless, repeated abuse.
In what sounds like juvenile, cruel bullying and assault that is commonly committed by the dumb kids in junior high, O'Farrell was subjected to painful and humiliating hazing rituals.
Her statement of claim states that she was repeatedly soaked with cold water and then dragged by her arms and legs face down through the horse stall shavings, which included horse manure and urine.
Other than moving her out of the Musical Ride detail, nothing happened to those who assaulted her. O'Farrell has named the Attorney General of Canada and 13 RCMP officers, including senior officers whom she claims continue to work for the RCMP today in senior positions, in the lawsuit. They got promotions, she got shipped off.
It's important to note that most RCMP officers are honourable and dedicated, but there are simply too many dishonourable members.
These ostensibly endless scandals seem to fall into four main categories:
* botched, incompetent investigations that allow criminals to commit or continue their crimes for too long (such as serial killer Willie Pickton and the Air India bombers);
* incompetent investigations that wrongly accuse innocent people (such as the wild horse case near Sundre and the Canmore daycare case);
* the unwarranted brutality by RCMP members against unarmed civilians (such as Robert Dziekanski, who was Tasered to death in Vancouver, and Buddy Tavares, a compliant, helpless brain-injured Kelowna man who was kicked in the face by RCMP officer Geoff Mantler); and
* the sexual harassment of female RCMP members by their colleagues and supervisors.
Better training and better recruitment criteria could help fix the first two problems; harsher penalties, including criminal charges and real time behind bars, might help the third; but perhaps the easiest problem to fix is the fourth — the sexual harassment and bullying of female officers, and sometimes even male officers, by Neanderthal supervisors and bully colleagues. In short, the solution to the toxic harassment issue within the RCMP can be summed up in one word: union.
Not being a big fan of unions, this solution is not an easy one to advocate for. But a high-ranking Calgary Police Service officer mentioned the solution to me many months ago, and as each case of harassment was revealed and I applied the union solution to it, the more it seemed to make sense.
Currently, RCMP officers being harassed on the job have no one to turn to without risking their own career rise, since case after case shows that it was often the officer's direct supervisor or someone even higher up the ranks who was the problem.
Consider Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the official spokesperson for the RCMP in B.C. during the Pickton investigation. She alleges that her bosses and superiors exposed themselves to her and extorted sex from her.
After Galliford, who suffers from post-traumatic stress, launched a lawsuit against the RCMP, a veritable flood of complaints and lawsuits followed.
O'Farrell is just one. More than 300 other former women RCMP officers are also suing the force in a class-action lawsuit. The lead plaintiff in that suit is Janet Merlo, who worked as an RCMP constable in Nanaimo, B.C., from 1991 to 2010. In her statement of claim, Merlo alleges she "was subject to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination and harassment by individual male members during the time she served as a constable."
For instance, the supervising corporal on Merlo's night shift watch commented to Wayne Merlo (who was then her boyfriend, but became her husband) "words to the effect 'Janet is perfect ... Janet is the right height because you can lay a six-pack of beer on her head while she gives you a blow job.'"
She had dildos placed in her work files and was berated for getting pregnant. Reached recently in Newfoundland, where she recently moved, Merlo says she believes a union would have solved many of her problems.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan, not surprisingly, agrees that a union for the RCMP would solve many of the force's issues with regard to sexual assaults and harassment.
"A union would help civilize the workplace, and over time, would eliminate the problem," said McGowan.
"When people think of unions, they think first about the wages and benefits that we've been able to negotiate for our members, and certainly we're proud of those achievements, but one of the most important benefits that unions provide is access to a grievance procedure," said McGowan.
He points out that the union rep cannot be fired or reprimanded for taking on a complaint. As he notes, the most dysfunctional police service in the country is the RCMP, and it is the only one — as far as he knows — that does not have a union.
As the next RCMP harassment scandal is revealed, and the next, and the next, imagine what a codified grievance procedure would do. It would, over time, help rub off some of the layers of tarnish on the country's most iconic but discredited and scandalized police force.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Calgary Herald, Saturday, May 25, 2013
Editorial byline: Licia Corbella