GSU vice-president Michelle Houlden recently attended the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour/Canadian Labour Congress Spring School. This is her report.
"Many thanks to GSU for sending me to this incredible course."
My mind is still spinning after spending a week studying labour law through the SFL/CLC spring school in Moose Jaw. It was a course I'd been wanting to take for a long time, and after going through another tough collective bargaining process, I seized the opportunity to learn more when I saw it in the list this year.
Effective representation happens on so many levels, whether you're a new shop steward who can refer members to the right part of their contract, an executive who can attend a grievance or disciplinary hearing or on the bargaining team. At each level, we do the best job we can with the tools we have, but learning more about the laws that set out our rights and responsibilities can really help to sharpen those tools.
I learned a lot about the duty to accommodate workers when they're dealing with mental or physical illnesses or addictions. How laws have been adapted through test cases like the SFL's challenge to Bill 6 that eventually saw the Supreme Court decide that the right to strike is protected by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How the duty of fair representation must be met. And how changes to the trade union act - now the Saskatchewan Employment Act - have impacted organized labour and working people.
Many thanks to GSU for sending me to this incredible course. I think it makes me a better shop steward and union member. It makes me appreciate all the hard work GSU does to defend our rights in the workplace and I was proud to represent you in class this week. A big shout out to fellow GSU member Larry Hubich, one of the course facilitators, and our own lawyers, Ronni Nordal and Dan Leblanc, who were co-facilitators along with Crystal Norbeck. It's a lot of material and a short time to talk about it all, and you made it fun and fascinating. Your passion for helping working people was contagious and I think we all left wanting to do more in our workplace and in our communities.
Spring school is an invaluable learning opportunity, one of many educational opportunities offered through GSU, the SFL and the CLC. If you haven't checked out what's available, I urge you to do so, there's bound to be something that you'd like to learn more about.
That reminds me, if there are any young GSU workers interested in attending an upcoming young workers' conference offered by the SFL, there's still time to register! And don't forget about the Prairie School for Union Women in Waskesiu, or the SFL youth camp at Watrous at the end of August for teens aged 13-17. Go to www.sfl.sk.ca/events for more information.
GSU Local 5 / GSU Vice-President