April 21, 2020  

Calendar highlights and upcoming events:

Deadline for Defense Fund director applications - April 30
Expressions of interest can be sent to general secretary Hugh Wagner at Hugh@gsu.ca


GSU 2020 scholarship program application deadline - June 1

Learn more and download the application forms here.

Prairie School for Union Women - Waskesiu Lake, June 7 - 11
This is a GSU-sanctioned event*. Learn more by contacting your staff rep or checking out the school brochure here.

Contact your GSU staff rep if you are interested in attending or learning more about an event.

*GSU members who sign up and are approved to participate in GSU-sanctioned events will have their time off work, wages, and expenses covered in accordance with GSU's expense policies (child care included). GSU staff will also assist you with arranging the time off with your employer.

If you have concerns or problems as you deal with your employer's responses to Covid-19, don't hesitate to contact your GSU staff rep.

Tragedy, Sorrow and Pain 
in Nova Scotia and Canada
We hang our heads in sorrow and disbelief as we learn of the horrific violent events that took so many innocent lives in Nova Scotia this past weekend. It simply is not possible to imagine the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on so many families, communities and the people of Nova Scotia. 
There are no words sufficient to express the shared sense of grief and helplessness we feel for all most closely touched by these acts of madness and evil. Heavy though they are, our hearts go out to the families and communities hurting most immediately. 

Our nation mourns. We are all Nova Scotians.

GSU submits brief on new hours of work provisions, Part III, Canada Labour Code

On March 31 GSU submitted a brief to Economic and Social Development Canada - Labour Program (ESDC) opposing exemptions the Western Grain Elevators Association (WGEA) was lobbying for in relation to new hours of work provisions that became part of Part III of the Canada Labour Code in Sept. 2019.

WGEA is the lobbying umbrella for the major grain elevator companies in western Canada and has a history of opposing modern labour standards covering hours of work, including the eight-hour day.

The majority of GSU members fall under the Canada Labour Code and work in areas deemed to be essential components of Canada's supply chain and food production sector. As an organization of working people, GSU's brief to ESDC said the union's primary concern is for the well-being of all working people; unionized or not.

GSU's submission followed on the representations made on behalf of the union during a March 13, 2020 consultative session convened by the Labour Program of ESDC. GSU's brief made the following points.

Eight-hour Rest Period

In section 169.1 of the Code, employers are required to  provide eight consecutive hours of rest between work shifts. GSU members (as do their  non-unionized counterparts) regularly fulfill long shifts of 10, 12 or 13.3 hours, not  including overtime work, in highly safety sensitive workplaces.

Anything less than a mandatory break of eight hours between shifts would be  profoundly unsafe. It is GSU's respectful submission that workers have a right to rest and a life way from work. And these workers also have a right to report to work free from  fatigue.

Advance Notice of Schedule 

Section 173.01 of the Code requires employers  provide employees with their work schedule at least 96 hours before the start of the  work shift and that employees have the right to refuse to work shifts due to insufficiency  of notice.

GSU's brief argued that workers who already contribute to running a highly-integrated  system deserve to be able to plan their lives without being at the beck and call of their  employers.

Notice of Shift Change 

Section 173.1 of the Code requires employers to provide 24- hours' notice of any change or addition to an employee's work shift. Once again, GSU  argued that a reasonable balance between employee and employer interests has been  struck and that the notice of shift change requirement would foster a better and more  respectful workplace.

Right to Refuse Overtime 

GSU's brief supported that the right to refuse overtime  specified by section 174.1 of the Code in relation to family responsibilities is a  progressive and long overdue improvement to labour standards that brings the  employment relationship into the 21st century.

GSU went on to urge ESDC to consider that the stresses and strains on families caused  by the current pandemic crisis illustrate the absolute need for the availability of  workplace and family balance options for working people.

GSU opposes the exemptions or modifications to the new sections of the Canada Labour Code being lobbied for by WGEA and other employer organizations.

Contact GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner at Hugh@gsu.ca for additional information on GSU's brief.

In the early days of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Saskatchewan a GSU member found themself in a situation of having to self-isolate at home as a result potential exposure to the virus. The member contacted their manager with relevant information as soon as they became aware of the exposure.

The union member's manager considered the facts provided and advised them not to come to work but to stay at home for the recommended 14-day quarantine period. The manager also said that the time away from work would be charged against the employee's earned vacation credits.

The employee didn't think it was fair to have their absence for work charged to vacation credits and contacted a GSU representative who raised the issue with the employer's HR department. After several conversations it was determined that the work time missed by the employee as a result of self-isolation would be charged to the employee's earned sick leave credits.

GSU provides the resources and expertise to sort matters out for union members. 

The facts and specifics of every workplace issue are important to the outcome. A GSU staff rep has access to information and can help gather all the facts and identify whether your rights have been violated.

Often a brief comment, email or meeting is all that is needed to address a situation. Call us when you think there is a problem to be fixed. 

We're accepting expressions of interest for becoming a director on the GSU Defense Fund.

The board of directors of the  GSU Defense Fund is responsible for overseeing the administration and investment of the Fund assets (currently $4.5 million). The primary purpose of the Fund is to provide income protection and assistance to GSU members who are engaged in a strike or lockout.

The board of directors meets three times a year by conference call and at least once per year in person. Time off work for directors to attend to Defense Fund business is paid for by GSU along with directors' travel, meal and hotel expenses.

Members who are elected to the Joint Executive Council of GSU are not eligible for election to the Defense Fund Board of Directors. Of the five Defense Fund Directors, three are required to be from Local 1 (Viterra Ops/Maintenance) and/or Local 2 (Viterra Head Office) and/or Local 14 (Richardson) and/or Local 15 (Nutrien).

The current vacancy on the board is open to be filled by a GSU member in good standing who is employed in any certified GSU bargaining unit.

If you are interested in becoming a GSU Defense Fund director or learning more about the responsibilities of a director, contact GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner at Hugh@gsu.ca or 306.536.3414.

April 30 is the deadline for receipt of expressions of interest. 

Make time for some self-care in this time of unprecedented stress

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed everyone into a new reality. Whether you are adjusting to working from home or figuring out how to work safely with others in your workplace, adapting to your new way of working is challenging and stressful. The routine of our pre-quarantine home lives is also gone, leaving a state of disarray with families who are quarantined together and for those who are isolated alone at home while their support network of friends and extended family are quarantined elsewhere. 

Adding some structured self-care can assist in reducing stress levels and returning a sense of normalcy and control in our lives.
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