Ottawa-Outaouais IWW

The General Membership Branch of the Ottawa-Outaouais region

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Handling Harassment Complaints Like a Boss

April 20th, 2019 by admin

The people currently managing the business of CUPW seem to have a very special idea of what defines harassment. Their smear letter against FW Ahmad demonstrates that in several ways. For example, the letter insinuates that our peaceful info picket is harassment. (Picketing = Harassment? Maybe you should have told people that before they went to picket postal plants in solidarity with your members.)

The smear letter also raises the allegations of harassment around FW Ahmad and claims that CUPW’s Human Resources Committee (elected officers, not actual HR specialists) dealt with those appropriately. The IWW would like to respond with a more thoroughgoing accounting of the events that ultimately led us to where we are today, unbelievably.

(N.B. All names and identifying information of staff involved in these correspondences are redacted except those of FW Ahmad, who has given her consent, and the elected officers involved who need to be held accountable for their actions).

In the smear letter, the high-priced lawyer they hired to write it claims that after a workplace conflict:

“CUPW immediately took every action necessary to appropriately address these allegations pursuant to its anti-harassment policy (our emphasis).

They did not follow their anti-harassment policy at all. Look at what happened and then look at the steps that are supposed to be taken in the anti-harassment policy.

The Conflict: Can You Spot the Harassment?

Aalya’s job was doing media work for CUPW, which often required very quick turnaround in order to respond to the media and get CUPW’s messages out.

When the union was meeting with then Minister Judy Foote in February 2017, Aalya was tasked with drafting a media release at the end of the day and sending it for translation and then out to an administrative assistant for formatting and getting it on the newswire early the next morning. To do this, she used an old release as a template and inserted new text. This was not unusual.

Early the next morning, the administrative assistant complained to George Floresco, Third National Vice President, that Aalya had inappropriately done her work and formatted the document by leaving the admin’s initials on it from the old template.

Floresco then publicly demanded an explanation from Aalya in an email to the whole communications team, which included several elected officers (an unnecessary escalation).

In sum:

Aalya attempted to resolve the issue and promised it would not happen again. 

The administrative assistant demanded Aalya meet with her and another administrative assistant. Aalya asked to make it a process meeting with all people responsible for handling media.

The administrative assistant then proceeded to storm into Aalya’s office and verbally abuse her, which shocked and traumatized her. Aalya indicates repeatedly that she is triggered by the behaviour.

Aalya went to George Floresco in person after this incident with another colleague acting as her shop steward to see if the conflict could be mediated.

Aalya also complained in writing about the behaviour of the admin assistant to her other supervising officers by email. Nothing was done and nobody contacted her about her complaint.

The administrative assistant refused to engage in peaceful resolution or problem solving and filed a complaint in which she puts down Aalya’s work, insists on her own preferred process for media distribution, and asks to not work with FW Ahmad again.

Her complaint is presented to FW Ahmad via a letter from the Human Resources Committee that describes the situation as a harassment complaint filed against Aalya, completely ignoring Aalya’s own complaint about the administrative assistant’s violent behaviour.

The letter advises FW Ahmad that they were immediately hiring a third party investigator for this complaint.

So, did they follow their harassment policy as they claimed they did in the smear letter?

“STEP A (Initial) The employer, CUPE, and COPE shall appoint a harassment complaint coordinator . . . Anyone with an allegation of harassment shall first contact their respective harassment complaint coordinator.”

There were no harassment coordinators appointed in the workplace. The complete policy was not posted, and the contents of it were not made known. Nobody was trained on it.

The administrative assistant went directly to management who did not refer her to her union.

Management immediately jumped to Step C. FW Ahmad’s complaint was ignored by CUPW completely at this point.

“STEP B (Problem Solving) . . . it may be deemed appropriate by the complainant and their respective harassment complaint coordinator to involve the employer in a problem solving initiative. . . When the respective harassment complaint coordinator and the complainant determine that problem solving will not take place, or that, once begun, problem solving initiatives have concluded unsuccessfully, the harassment complaint coordinator will advise the employer that a grievance may be filed.”

The administrative assistant’s complaint also skipped this step completely. She refused to engage in problem solving. No grievance on her issues was ever filed.

FW Ahmad’s complaint was never acknowledged as such, and only referred to as “a counter-complaint’ or a “concern”. She also did not file a grievance at this point.

“STEP C (Grievance – CUPE and COPE) When a grievance is filed, the employer will consult with a representative of the bargaining agent to select an investigator. Every reasonable effort will be made to reach an agreement on the investigator.”

No grievances were filed by either staff person regarding their conflict.

CUPW immediately appointed its own investigator without any consultation and informed FW Ahmad of the complaint and the expensive external investigation that would commence the next day after the incident.

When questioned about the process, Jan Simpson, First National Vice President, told FW Ahmad that they didn’t need to consult with her union and, as mentioned above, said the administrative assistant’s union had also not been involved.

So, yes they acted swiftly. But in the complete opposite direction of what they were supposed to do and only for one party involved. More to come.

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Book Review: William A. Pelz, A People’s History of Modern Europe

April 24th, 2019 by Deska Voussanaki

The People’s History of Modern Europe is a book that provides an alternative reading in European history focusing on the struggles of common people as well their conflict with those in power. “A People’s
History of Modern Europe offers a concise, readable alternative to mainstream textbooks and surveys while suggesting a different understanding of the development and trajectory of European history. That
is, history is presented as moving through conflicts between contending groups rather than as the result of brilliant insights by upper-class rulers and thinkers” (p.viii).

In his introduction, William A. Peltz refers to a famous experiment conducted in 1999. Participants were shown a video presenting two teams of three persons each, one team in black and the other in white, as they moved around and passed basketballs to each other. The viewers were asked to count the number of passes made by the team dressed in white. During the video, a person in a gorilla suit walked across the screen pounding her chest for 5 seconds. In test after test, around 50 percent did not notice the gorilla. In fact, many participants insisted that there had been no gorilla even when told and shown the video a second time. For his purposes, Peltz argues that the common people are the “gorilla” that scholars and students often fail to see (p.x), one of the problems that the writer tries to address.

Another one is class bias (p.xi), “…most history has been written as if only kings, queens, generals and later big businessmen—in brief, the rich and powerful—are the only fit subjects for history” and sexist bias (p.xi), “…women [are] dismissed or trivialized in particular. This is not because there is any body of evidence to support the thesis that women are unimportant, but rather because it suits the ruling-class males who dominate the status quo”.

That’s what Pelz’s History is for, an easy to read history book that provides and insight on the great numbers of political revolutions that took place in Europe from the Middle Ages on-wards in an effort to intercept the expansion of capitalism and modern industrialism in what it turned the atrocious system that we live in today.

https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/P/bo23469121.html

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Response From CUPE 1979 to CUPW’s Statement

April 19th, 2019 by admin

Official CUPE 1979 response may be downloaded below.

In addition to support from our Fellow Workers in Halifax, Hamilton and Toronto, our Branch is glad to see FW Ahmad’s former CUPE local step up to address the recent piece of lying garbage put out by her former bosses. We thank CUPE for doing the right thing by their former member and protecting her reputation. See their letter below.

The IWW also notes that CUPE 1979 did the right thing and settled with FW Ahmad when it too was named in her human rights complaint. She asked the local to take training on the duty to accommodate, mental health first aid and understanding mental health so it could better help its members in the future. The local agreed to do that – a win-win.

So why does CUPW keep refusing to mediate the human rights complaint even though FW Ahmad is willing? Why is it pushing her to a public hearing at a significant cost to CUPW members?

Maybe CUPW bosses should think about their union’s reputation. All they’ve done is accuse us of shaming them. They should be ashamed of what they have done. But if this goes all the way to a Human Rights Tribunal hearing, they risk bringing even more shame on the union they claim to represent.

You say to the bosses at Canada Post, “Negotiate now!”. So why won’t you mediate with this former employee?

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Support from Hamilton for FW Ahmad’s case vs CUPW

April 7th, 2019 by admin

Solidarity from across Ontario

We are happy to announce that the IWW in Hamilton has sent a letter of support in our case for FW Ahmad against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) bosses.

Solidarity with our Fellow Workers across the country (and world) is important to build a movement which seeks to democratize our workplaces and society. For this reason, we are extremely humbled to see that the Hamilton branch of the IWW stands with us against what we believe to be unjust behaviour on the part of CUPW.

The letter from Hamilton

The following is the contents of the letter that the Hamilton IWW branch sent in support of our Fellow Worker’s case. The original letter can be found below as a PDF.

To all National and Regional Officers of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers:

The Hamilton Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World is writing to you with regards to the current and ongoing disputes you have with Aalya Ahmad. We are deeply disappointed with your direction as a management team on how you are dealing with Aalya, as well as your decision to not deal with the IWW on the matter.

CUPW has been a strong, militant union which has made many gains, not just for its members, but for all workers. Constantly fighting Canada Post and demanding better, one asks: how you can justify mistreating your employees. Does your staff not deserve the same respect that your members do? Your actions as an employer are shameful.

While you are currently negotiating with your employer, our branch has shut down postal depots on numerous occasions. We have held the line for your rank and file while you chose not to take action. We have been named by your employer and legally threatened; yet we did not back down because we know what is right. Respecting workers is what is right, and we demand that you respect Aalya Ahmad, and negotiate with her and the IWW.

We have chosen to stand with Aalya during this matter and we will not back down. An Injury To One Is An Injury To All, and be well aware that this is not only an injury to Aalya, it is an injury to your rank and file members as well as to the labour movement as a whole.

Sincerely,

Hamilton – IWW

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Pickets, Nickles, and Dimes – Does Mental Health Really Matter to CUPW?

March 27th, 2019 by admin

Recent picket by IWW members in support of FW Ahmad at the CUPW office in Ottawa, ON (March 15, 2019)

The case so far

FW Ahmad dealt with severe bullying and harassment while employed at
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). After her deteriorating work conditions were not appropriately dealt with by management, she developed PTSD and was not able to return to work. During her medical leave from work she was constantly harassed by the employer, even after her medical team intervened on her behalf.

Our demands on behalf of FW Ahmad continue to be that she immediately be made whole in the amount of $26,883.96 which is rightfully owed to her by CUPW.

The former employer continues to be unreceptive to our member’s demands.

Further details about the case can be found in our original post which explains the situation in full.

New details released

CUPW champions issues of bullying and mental health but when it comes to our member, you can see how the tune changes.

With the permission of Aalya Ahmad, we are sharing just one of the medical notes that CUPW management received. Below is a letter is from a member of her treatment team, psychologist Dr. Kimberly Sogge.

We believe the letter speaks for itself.

How do you think postal workers would feel if they were treated this way?

Keeping the pressure on!

The Ottawa IWW GMB has been organizing pickets at the CUPW office in Ottawa, ON – the former workplace of FW Ahmad.

So far, the Ottawa GMB has staged a picket in front the CUPW offices. The IWW is also delivering the repayments FW Ahmad was needlessly forced to small claims court to make by CUPW while it holds onto a far greater amount in unpaid wages .

Follow us on our Facebook page where we will soon be releasing further details about our efforts on this front

How you can help

We are continuing our letter writing campaign to the CUPW Executives and encourage you to help! You can find more information on how to participate by reading our original post regarding this case.

If you have any questions or insights that you think may be helpful, feel free to contact us by emailing wagetheft@ottawaiww.org.

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