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 a co-worker 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 co-worker complained to George Floresco, Third National Vice President, that Aalya had inappropriately done her work and formatted the document by leaving the co-worker’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 co-worker demanded Aalya meet with them and another administrative assistant. Aalya asked to make it a process meeting with all people responsible for handling media.

The co-worker 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 co-worker to her other supervising officers by email. Nothing was done and nobody contacted her about her complaint.

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

Their 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 co-worker’s agressive 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 co-worker went directly to management who did not refer them to their 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 co-worker’s complaint also skipped this step completely. They 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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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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Call to Action: FW Ahmad vs Executive Members of Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)

March 17th, 2019 by admin

Note: Supporting documents and a summary (TL;DR) can be found at the bottom of the post.

The Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch (GMB) for much of the past year has investigated and subsequently taken up a case involving well-documented harassment and denial of the rights of our member, FW Aalya Ahmad, by her former employer.

Our demand to this employer, made last autumn, is that they make her whole in terms of substantial wage theft, and that they right the wrong immediately.

As usual, the boss has been slow to respond and does not want to meet with our member’s representatives. We regret to inform you that the boss in this instance is none other than executive members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

Demands

We are requesting that FW Aalya Ahmad immediately be made whole in the amount of $26,883.96, with an additional amount in compensation for her pension buy-out to be determined, broken down as follows:

  • Severance: $13,835.52
  • Payout of Annual Leave: $7,332.82
  • Payout of Top-Up to LTD to 100%: $3,872.54
  • Payout of Unpaid Pension Credits: $1,667.80
  • Payout of Unpaid Bilingualism Bonus: $175.28
  • Compensation for Pension Buy-out Penalty (to be determined)

More on the case

To be clear, we do not hold the rank-and-file members of CUPW accountable for the very serious harm done to our member. In fact, FW Ahmad has been involved in recent and ongoing solidarity actions in response to the back-to-work legislation imposed on CUPW. She remains on good terms with many rank-and-file postal workers across the country.

We are certain that CUPW rank-and-file members would not condone the actions of their executive members, who have probably by now spent far more on legal fees fighting our member than they would spend to make her whole. However, this is an organization that takes in around $40 million in membership dues annually and is freely spending their members’ money on harassing our member in very serious ways, including threats to sue her for libel for writing about what was done to her.

The employer belatedly responded to our follow up to the attached demand letter late last year (which at first they ignored entirely) with a letter stating that they are only recognizing FW Ahmad’s shop union, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 1979, as representing her in her workplace-based claims, and therefore they are refusing to meet with IWW representatives.

In fact, CUPE and CUPW have an arbitration scheduled for April 2019 on the matter of the employer’s failure to forgive FW Ahmad’s sick leave credit deficit as they are supposed to do upon a worker being declared medically unfit to return to work.

It makes little sense for members of the executive board of CUPW to spend tens of thousands of dollars more of CUPW members’ dues in such an anti-worker and wasteful way. Nor does it make sense to draw down the resources of the one of the local unions representing staff working at the National Office of CUPW by forcing this matter to arbitration.

CUPW should do the right thing and make our member whole on this matter immediately. In any event, CUPE has made it clear they are only covering FW Ahmad for the sick leave credit issue. It is also quite clear that there are multiple components to the quantum of wage theft, as covered in the demand letter of the Ottawa-Outaouais IWW branch.

How you can help

We are asking that individuals across the country help us by:

  • Reading the attached demand letter (a PDF can be found at the bottom of this post)
  • Following up with the Ottawa-Outaouais GMB with any questions or comments (wagetheft@ottawaiww.org)
  • Expressing solidarity with our member by sending a letter demanding redress for FW Ahmad to the CUPW National Director in their region who sits on the National Executive Board (NEB) of CUPW, as well as to their region’s Education and Grievance Officers.

All NEB members have received our demand letter, subsequent follow-up, as well as FW Ahmad’s human rights complaint. They cannot claim to be ignorant of these charges.

It is no small matter to confront an organization like this and we need your support. It is the full intention of the Branch to escalate our activities if we cannot settle the matter and at that time we will also ask for the solidarity of IWW members and postal workers everywhere.

If you have any questions about the case, please get in touch the Ottawa-Outaouais IWW GMB representative at wagetheft@ottawaiww.org.

Donations can also be made to FW Ahmad’s legal defence fund, supporting the litigation of FW Ahmad’s human rights tribunal matter, at https://www.gofundme.com/aalya

Template letter that you can use

You may contact the CUPW National Headquarters by emailing feedback@cupw-sttp.org

Sisters and Brothers of CUPW,

We have been informed to our dismay by members of the Ottawa-Outaouais IWW Branch that CUPW appears to be engaging in a very serious and prolonged wage theft against Aalya Ahmad, in addition to longstanding issues of harassment, a human rights complaint, and constructive dismissal from her job. 

The well-documented and incontrovertible injuries of PTSD suffered by our member as a result of the Union’s actions are shocking. It is outrageous that CUPW did not have the decency to wait for arbitration and human rights complaints processes to unfold as requested by our member’s doctor to protect her health, but instead chose to spend its members’ money on hauling her into small claims court on the same day its members were being legislated back to work. This for an amount far exceeded by the quantum of wages owed to her and probably dwarfed by what has been spent on investigations and other legal processes against her.

We understand that your National Board of Directors is well aware of this situation but has yet to resolve anything. We do not understand why your Board would not immediately take steps to right this wrong, particularly as FW Ahmad has been and continues to be such a strong defender of the rights of your members.

The Ottawa-Outaouais IWW Branch has shared with us the letter of demand it sent to your Union. We understand that the response from CUPW has been to dismiss it. 

We support members of CUPW in its fight against the unconstitutional and classist back to work legislation enacted by the government under the direction of the Federal Liberal Party of Canada and its leader, Justin Trudeau. We will continue to act and speak out in solidarity with postal workers because class solidarity is fundamental to our organization and personally important to all of us. 

Our issue is not with postal workers, it is with the specific union bosses who have engaged in intimidation, harassment, gaslighting and other attacks against our member. As many of you know, mental health is becoming a prominent issue in our society. We feel that this aspect of work safety is both long overdue and specifically factors into the issue at hand. We find it totally unacceptable that a fellow worker’s mental health is put at risk by the leaders of a union who are supposed to be committed to protecting workers. 

Union employers must be held to the highest of standards and must treat their staff as they would expect their members to be treated. The documented facts of FW Ahmad’s case are disturbing, to say the least, and we stand in full solidarity with the Ottawa-Outaouais Branch’s demands. 

We believe in strong unions that defend workers. In order for them to be strong outwardly, they must be strong internally as well. Please help us hold the people responsible to account. Demand fair treatment of Sister Ahmad as a step along the road to a stronger union. We ask that you immediately reply to us and let us know what steps you will take to make this right. We are fully prepared to take solidarity action for our member. FW Ahmad’s injuries are an injury to us all.

Sincerely,

___________.

TL;DR

  • Aalya Ahmad is owed nearly $27,000 by her former employer (CUPW)
  • The former employer has been slow to respond, has not fully acknowledged the complaints made against them and has rebuffed our requests for a meeting.
  • We are asking for your support in a letter writing campaign to the Executive Members of the CUPW
  • The general membership of the CUPW is not being blamed for grievances against the Executives. The Ott/Out IWW will continue to support them in their endeavors.

Further Reading

Due to privacy reasons, the name and personal email of one of the individuals involved in the case has been redacted from the attached document found below.

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