Ottawa-Outaouais IWW

The General Membership Branch of the Ottawa-Outaouais region

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CUPW Management Responds to an Injured Worker by Forcing Her to Keep Working and Telling Her Her Injury is Her Fault

April 28th, 2019 by admin

Our previous post showed what happened to FW Aalya Ahmad. She lives with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, undiagnosed at the time) and began to suffer symptoms of PTSD brought on by a co-worker’s violent outburst and management ignoring it.

CUPW completely ignored its responsibility to deal with the injury FW Ahmad suffered as a result of this workplace incident even though she made repeated pleas for help to management that day and in the days to come. (At its recent arbitration with FW Ahmad, management even appeared to have forgotten that she had filed a WSIB claim for chronic mental stress.)

Look at the documents to see what happened.

The incident happened on Monday, February 13, 2018 around 10:30am.

At around 10:45am, almost immediately afterwards, FW Ahmad went to 3rd National Vice President George Floresco with her CUPE shop steward and shares that she is “triggered by yelling and threatening gestures because of past bullying incidents…”

At 1:11pm, less than two (2) hours after the incident, she reported being in distress due to current and ongoing bullying to 1st National Vice President Jan Simpson, George Floresco and President Mike Palecek (who recused himself): This is what she wrote:

“Her [co-worker’s] raised voice, aggressive anger and violent hand gestures left me severely triggered as I am a survivor of physical abuse. This completely inappropriate behaviour has made this workplace psychologically unsafe and unhealthy for me. The employer’s ongoing refusal to address bullying issues in the workplace is a real problem that must be addressed.”

The next day, Tuesday, February 14 at 7:23am, FW Ahmad wrote to National Executive Board (NEB) members Simpson, Floresco and Palecek, again reporting distress:

“I am upset, shaken and shocked by this completely inappropriate behaviour. As a survivor of physical abuse, I am triggered by violent gestures. The anger and aggression that ___ displayed towards me is excessive, over the top, and an outburst that should not be tolerated in the workplace.” Two (2) days later, due to the employer’s handling of the situation, Ahmad was in a situation of mental health crisis and breakdown which she reported to her employer. She emailed the following request to Simpson, Floresco and Palecek on February 16, 2018 at 2:37pm.

“Hello,

I am severely triggered by the bullying and harassment I have reported.

As you are aware, this is not the first time for me at CUPW. My panic attacks and anxiety have returned and I have beenunable to eat or sleep. My focus is completely shot and I have been unable to think clearly since Monday.

I think it would be best if I took next week away from the office as leave in order to do some self-care and try to be in a better place to deal with this trauma. I am currently experiencing the office as a hostile work environment.

I am therefore requesting special leave under Article 14.9 of the collective agreement from Tuesday through Friday of next week. I had already arranged for the 20th.

I will make myself available for the ADR as agreed on Friday.

Please advise if this leave is approved.

Thanks.
Aalya”

The Human Resources Committee (National Secretary-Treasurer Bev Collins, Simpson and Quebec National Director François Senneville) responded to this injured worker as follows:

“This letter is to inform you that your request of special leave is denied.

The conditions don’t warrant approval of your special leave request. The circumstances of your request are directly attributable to you.

In addition, another member in the communications department is on leave next week and due to operational requirements, leave cannot be approved.”

Yours truly,
Bev Collins
cc. Jan Simpson, Francois Senneville.

They didn’t refer her to her Employee Assistance Program, suggest she use sick leave, or follow up on her reported condition. They didn’t even get the date of her request right.

They told a traumatized worker in crisis that this was her fault and that she had to come into work because of “operational requirements”.

Is that how you treat an injured worker, CUPW?

N.B. Sunday is April 28th, the National Day of Mourning for workers killed, injured or made ill on the job. Mourn our dead. Fight like hell for the living.

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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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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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