Denied an opportunity to voice your concerns

As some of you may know, WCB Leadership has created a Recovery Planning Committee to assist with the WCB operationally coming back online as Manitoba’s Public Health unit lessens the Covid-19 restrictions.

Your union was notified of the creation of this committee at the same time and by the same process that all staff were informed, through a company-wide email as part of a daily COVID-19 update. This surprised us but, unfortunately, did not shock us. 

I immediately sent an email to our CEO, Winston, asking why CUPE 1063 was not a part of the recovery process and committee, (see Winston’s response below).

CUPE 1063 was asked to be part of a subcommittee which we have now learned is a group that will merely receive updates on plans that have already been formulated and are considered final from the leadership committee, and we will only receive these five minutes before you do. Your Union has been denied an opportunity to voice your concerns and to contribute to a safe, fair and reasonable return to work policy.

It’s of interest that in Winston’s email, he notes that the  leadership committee’s membership was based on “the operational need for recovery activities by functional area”. There is no reference to the needs or concerns of members who will be affected by the decisions made by the leadership committee.

It’s unfortunate that WCB leadership does not understand that the Union has a vested and legal interest in ensuring our membership, you the WCB employees, are returned to work in a manner that recognizes the organization’s operational requirements, while respecting your health and safety needs and concerns. We are tasked with ensuring that your employer approaches this recovery phase in a safe and fair manner in accordance with the terms of the Collective Agreement. Our ability to do this would certainly have been enhanced had we been part of the leadership committee, as we would have been able to resolve potential issues in a proactive manner rather than a reactive one.

Your Union is the legal bargaining agent representing the majority of the employees of the WCB of Manitoba and speaks for you. Unfortunately, the Union, and by extension the membership, has not been granted a seat at the table.

The Employer’s decision will not prevent CUPE 1063 from advocating on your behalf with regards to the recovery and return to work protocol. We will continue to speak up and to bring forward your concerns. In order to assist us, we have sent out emails to the membership requesting your feedback on the challenges that each of you may face in the COVID-19 recovery and return to work phase. I encourage you to respond, and want to let you know that your concerns will be a priority for your Union.

We will continue to make sure that WCB Management hears our voice during this very unsettling time.

In Solidarity,

Dennis Kshyk
President, CUPE 1063

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Email from WCB CEO, Winston Maharaj

Dennis, thank you for your recent letter asking for clarification around our recovery framework and the related committee.  As you rightly outlined in your letter, there was initially some confusion over the role of the WSH Committee, the union and the recovery planning committee (which is ad hoc in nature and is project specific).

Subsequently, you have had ongoing discussions with Brent, with Jamie’s involvement, wherein it has been confirmed that the WSH Committee and union will be utilized by the recovery planning committee to gain input and insight into the recovery plan framework. My expectation is that the WSH Committee, which is a joint union/management committee, will have a very involved role in the development and implementation of the recovery framework and the union will have additional opportunities to provide input and effect change where change is necessary. I think it worth noting that Jamie Hall is both a management member of the WSH Committee and Lead for Safety and Prevention in the Province, and thus,  I feel he is well positioned to ensure WCB’s recovery is undertaken with the safety and health of our staff and customers as the number one priority.

I appreciate the union’s wish to sit directly on the recovery planning committee, however we have developed the membership of the recovery committee based on the operational need for recovery activities by functional area.  Ie. who will carry-out specific functions operationally as we return to the office. At this time, I am not prepared to add the union to that committee as I am confident that the WSH Committee, Jamie and Brent will be able to garnish input from the union and appropriately apply such input in their planning as we progress. In this sense, the union is being involved in the same manner as the leaders in each division who also do not have representatives on the committee.

It is unfortunate that you view the current activity as an indication of my lack of willingness to partner or respect organized labour, as that is not the case. I both respect organized labour broadly and remain willing to work with WCB’s union, as a partner, based on an appropriate engagement framework and a shared understanding of what that partnership means. I hope that in the future, when we have returned to normal operations and the pandemic is considered over, union and management can meet to further discuss what partnership means in our environment and how WCB’s engagement framework might apply between the union and management.

Stay safe and healthy,

Winston