Suns Out, Wobs Out! – IWW August 1 Picket at CUPW National Office

IWW members and supporters in front of CUPW National Office on August 1st, 2019
IWW members and supporters in front of CUPW National Office on August 1st, 2019

August 1st was a beautiful day in the nation’s capital. In fact, it was so nice that the Ottawa-Outaouais IWW decided to get together, enjoy the last gasps of the summer, and take the fight to the boss on behalf of Fellow Worker Aalya Ahmad.

Foot traffic was slow outside of the office, but our members were still able to engage a decent number of people with our signs and flyers. We have provided a digital copy of the fliers and the contained text below.

There’s a lot going on here and I don’t have time to read everything. How do I make sense of it?

If you have questions we haven’t been able to answer here or need help to sift through the evidence, please email us at wagetheft@ottawaiww.org.

I can’t picket but how else can I help?

  • Send a letter or petition of support for Aalya, either as an individual or as a group to wagetheft@ottawaiww.org. We will forward it to the CUPW National Executive Board and publicize it (with your permission).
  • Follow, promote and share our fight on your social media
  • Fight back against these issues on your own shop floor. Abuse of workers is never okay, even if it’s being done by a union. Remember that choosing to stay silent or ‘neutral’ in any given situation is choosing a side. In this case, it’s pretty clear which side workers should be on.

We thank the many postal workers across the
country who have reached out, voiced their
support, and condemned what is being done to
Aalya in their name, with their union dues.

Why should I support Aalya Ahmad?

Aalya is an organizer known for her work on social justice, equity and labour issues. She was the national Coordinator of the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s and Human Rights, a founder of the Radical Handmaids, and active in the Occupy movement, to name just a few. Aalya has a solid track record of helping to get big wins for union members, including CUPW members. She deserves the same justice she fights for for other workers.

What started all this?

Aalya was president of her staff union Local CUPE 1979 and on their negotiations team with CUPW, which was demanding huge concessions from staff, when a conflict with a co-worker arose, during which she was subjected to bullying and threatening gestures. Aalya had previously been bullied at CUPW and was trying to get anti-bullying training in the workplace when this happened. As a result, she suffered a serious mental health crisis. Management unfairly put all the blame on Aalya for the incident and its aftermath, and ignored her medical condition, driving her out of the workplace and forcing her eventually to resign after repeatedly harassing her when she was on disability leave.

What are the issues and why is the IWW involved?

It’s about the way Aalya is being treated by CUPW’s management team with the full knowledge and collusion of the CUPW National Executive Board. We believe CUPW’s internal politics are a factor in the many abuses she endured, including the withholding of tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and entitlements upon her constructive dismissal. The IWW originally got involved because of this wage theft. We estimate the Board’s spending on lawyers on these matters far exceeds what Aalya was originally owed.

Have you tried talking to CUPW?

Yes. repeatedly We first contacted them in the fall of 2018, demanding Aalya be made whole and requesting to meet with them. We have repeated this request both in writing and by holding small and peaceful information at their national office. So far. they’ve either ignored us or accused us of harassing them by picketing, which is a weird position fora union to take (especially a union like CUPW). This should never have come to the point where we had to set up pickets but we did so only after their repeated refusals to talk.

What does the IWW want?

CUPW management originally withheld almost S30,000 from Aalya while persecuting her for fighting for her rights by filing a human rights complaint against them for discrimination on the grounds of disability. Against medical advice, they forced her into small claims court over a much smaller amount that she was already paying back To prevent the boss from dragging things out for years at the expense of her mental health, Aalya agreed to forgo some of the money she was entitled to in order to get her human rights complaint heard. We believe CUPW management has been treating this situation like a personal vendetta or ‘lawfare’ financed by their members dues. We want representatives who haven’t been directly involved in this dispute to review the wage theft issue and work with us to remedy it.

Do you have proof to support these claims?

Yes, we have extensive documents from emails and letters between CUPW management and Aalya. to letters from her doctors to the data on her stolen wages You can find it all on our Facebook page @ottawaoutIWW and on the Ottawa IWW website at OttawaIWW.org.

I’ve heard a different story from other sources.

Aalya was the target of a smear campaign designed to muddy the waters. The National Executive Board sent a statement about her to all CUPW representatives and staff nationwide, twisting the facts to make it look like she acted inappropriately. Her former CUPE Local 1979 objected to allegations in the statement. Prior to CUPW’s convention and elections, the smear campaign got really vicious. Collins’ predecessor and advisor posted Aalya’s RateMyProfessor page (an anonymous website often used for racist and sexist attacks on university workers) and disparaged her good work at CUPW to thousands of members. The smears are false but the smear campaigners rely on the fact that most folks won’t read through a massive pile of letters and emails to see the truth for themselves. They have also influenced members and staff to claim that Aalya is attacking them by simply trying to defend her rights as a worker and exercising her right to freedom of expression. This is a serious slur against someone who has dedicated her life to the labour movement.

Why is the IWW picketing when Aalya was a member of a staff union at CUPW?

The staff union (CUPE Local 1979) represented Aalya on some of the issues described here and we supported them in doing so. However, she is no longer working at CUPW and the wage theft issues are not resolved from our point of view. Aalya is also a member of the IWW Ottawa-Outaouais is General Membership Branch. Her other CUPE Local 4600 (representing teaching assistants and part-time professors at Carleton University) has written a letter to the CUPW National Executive Board in support of Aalya and its members have joined our pickets. That’s what solidarity looks like.

Don’t you support postal workers?

Yes we do and so does Aalya. Last winter the IWW everywhere walked CUPW’s picket lines and our members were even arrested in support of postal workers. In spite of how she has been treated, Aalya actively demonstrated her solidarity with CUPW members. Many postal workers are upset about how she has been treated. Our issue is exclusively with the paid representatives on the National Executive Board.

Statement Concerning CUPW Convention

We have been asked if the IWW plans to picket CUPW Convention this week and we have heard that members’ money has been spent on booking extra security and hotel space to keep us out. We remind all CUPW Convention delegates and members that we continue to be strong allies of postal workers. We have no intention of interfering in any way with CUPW’s convention.

The attempt by CUPW’s national officers to demonize the Industrial Workers of the World is not only absurd, it’s tragic. Your legendary union is currently being led by people complaining about being bullied by picket lines that are set up on behalf of a bullied worker they refuse to settle with. Those who are playing victim continue to use their vastly superior resources (your dues) to destroy this worker’s reputation with blatant lies while continuing to attack her mental health and silence anybody who speaks up for her.

We believe that these actions will ultimately hurt the rank-and-file CUPW members whose picket lines we have walked, and, in fact, all union members who look to CUPW for leadership. However, it is not the place of the IWW to decide whom you elect. Regardless of who you elect, they will continue to face our ongoing demand for meaningful justice for our member, Aalya Ahmad.

We are no longer very interested in meeting with the CUPW representatives who have been previously responsible for the ongoing witch-hunt and wage theft against our member. We would like to meet with CUPW representatives who are actually committed to resolving the issues, not indulging in a vendetta subsidized by their members’ dues.

We also encourage CUPW to conduct a truly independent investigation, led by neutral rank and file members, into how your Human Resources Committee has conducted themselves in this matter (including how much money has been spent). But ultimately it is CUPW members that need to hold their leadership accountable.

Also, the IWW recently received a notice of libel from a lawyer representing CUPW’s National Executive Board. This notice makes reference to a statement produced by the Women’s Caucus of CUPE 4600 that we shared on our Facebook page. The claim is that we are somehow defaming CUPW by reproducing another union group’s report on an incident involving CUPW board members’ interactions with participants in our information picket.

Our members were walking the picket and witnessed what happened to the Women’s Caucus member. Based on our members’ own recollections and the recollections of CUPE members, the account is accurate. True accounts are not libel. The CUPE 4600 Women’s Caucus has not received a threat of libel. Why are we being targeted?

The notice claims that we have made numerous defamatory statements but does not specify any. We have no idea how to respond to such vague accusations. If we or other allies of FW Ahmad have made any errors, we would correct them, but without having any idea what they feel these errors are specifically, it is quite literally impossible for us to respond in a meaningful way.

The notice attempts to target our union members individually. Going after individual (and typically low-waged, precarious and contract) union members for participating in a union campaign is extremely low. Our members are volunteering their time and dues to help an injured worker. Given the evidence presented to us, we believe the employer acted in breach of their responsibilities and the rights of our member.

The notice also accuses us of targeting the only two women executives of the National Executive Board. We strongly disagree with this disgusting characterization. We hold the entire board accountable for their actions taken against our member, our supporters and our branch. In our communications, we have named board members directly involved in the case at hand with the goal of clearly laying out the facts and circumstances of the case. This does not absolve other board members of their responsibility for holding their colleagues accountable, nor does it specifically target the members of the NEB who are women. The abusive behaviour detailed in our publications has nothing to do with the gender of the board members. People of all genders and identities are capable of abuse, and it is our collective responsibility as union members to point any abuse out and stop it.

FW Ahmad has previously received two similar threats to sue her for libel, neither of which were followed up on, as they were without merit. We expect the same result and feel that our actions have been based on the truth and are consistent with the principle of fair commentary and the right to express ourselves on this matter.

Doing Their Dirty Work

The bosses at CUPW hit a new low by dragging another union that represents some of their staff into this fight. COPE 225 was persuaded to side with the boss and amplify their lies.
It’s a shame that COPE 225 didn’t do its due diligence and investigate the situation thoroughly as we did (for months.)

Although COPE 225 sent their letter to the NEB confidentially, somehow rank and file postal workers had it and were sharing it on Facebook the next day. Great job respecting confidentiality there, NEB!

We are not going to share the COPE letter, not only because they requested confidentiality, but because it contains egregious lies that we want their executive to investigate and retract before any more harm is done to our member. If you wish to see the COPE 225 letter, contact laura.lozanski@cope225sepb.ca.

We will, however, share what we wrote to them:

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

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 10:30 AM.

At around 10:45 AM, 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 1:11 PM, less than two 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 7:23 AM, 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 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 2:37 PM.

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 been unable 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.

Handling Harassment Complaints Like a Boss

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 aggressive 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.

Response From CUPE 1979 to CUPW’s Statement

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?



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

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.

Call to Action: FW Ahmad vs Executive Members of Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)

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.

Ottawa-Outaouais IWW Rescinds Protest and Boycott of CAA

Following a meeting on September 9, 2014 with representatives of CAA North & East Ontario, the Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is calling off actions targeting the automotive insurance group. The dispute began when one of CAA NEO’s independently owned and operated contractors, Glen’s Towing, failed to provide overtime and termination pay to former employee Deepan Budlakoti. He was also provided with a fraudulent Record of Employment and T-4 that didn’t account for all the hours that he worked, as it did not include the many overtime hours worked (paid out at the regular non-overtime rate), attributed to a “commission” line on his pay stubs.

Until recently, Glen’s Towing has operated in the Ottawa area as one of CAA’s contractors. The IWW has learned that CAA NEO ceased contracting with Glen’s Towing in July 2014. The IWW is pleased with the outcome of our meeting with CAA NEO representatives.

Picket actions took place at CAA locations in Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario. These actions informed the public about this issue; a meeting between CAA NEO and the IWW took place shortly thereafter. The IWW has agreed to end actions targeting CAA NEO given their demonstration of social responsibility in this matter. The IWW is satisfied that CAA NEO has ceased contracting with Glen Comeau, an employer who routinely violates the Employment Standards Act, and with other measures that CAA has taken to remedy the situation and effect a settlement of this dispute.

However, Mr. Budlakoti’s fight continues. The fraudulent Record of Employment that Glen’s Towing provided Mr. Budlakoti, fails to document any of the overtime hours worked. This has caused Mr. Budlakoti’s Employment Insurance application to be denied due to insufficient hours worked, resulting in further financial hardship. I f all hours worked were properly attributed, Mr. Budlakoti’s EI claim would not have been denied for this reason.

Glen Comeau, who also operates multiple towing companies including 514 Towing in Montreal, continues to avoid all contact with the IWW and the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The IWW is continuing to support an employment standards claim against the employer, Glen’s Towing, and continues to seek an outcome that will make Deepan whole with respect to his EI entitlement by providing him with proper documentation of the hours that he worked.

The IWW wishes to thank Deepan Budlakoti’s supporters in the Ottawa-Outaouais region, as well as members of the Montreal and Toronto IWW branches for their part in organizing actions.

The IWW is a member-driven organization that is willing and dedicated to achieving justice for working people. For more information about the IWW please visit http://iww.org.

Contacts:
Ottawa-Outaouais IWW Secretary;
Deepan Budlakoti, member,
Ottawa-Outaouais IWW, 613-265-1364

IWW Pickets CAA

Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

MEDIA RELEASE

August 29, 2014

For Immediate Release

IWW TO PICKET CAA IN SUPPORT OF DEEPAN BUDLAKOTI

OTTAWA – Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members and supporters of Deepan Budlakoti, a member of the Ottawa-Outaouais General Membership Branch, will hold an information picket on August 29 at 12pm, at the CAA Travel office located at 1224-1226 Wellington St. West. This picket will inform the public about CAA’s role in an ongoing wage theft case.

Mr. Budlakoti was employed by CAA subcontractor Glen’s Towing, owned by Glen Comeau, which was established in Ottawa at CAA’s behest.  Although he had seven months of successful service, Glen’s Towing terminated Mr. Budlakoti after CAA demanded a criminal record check. Glen Comeau systematically defrauded Mr. Budlakoti and other employees by failing to pay overtime and requiring his drivers to work beyond the maximum allowable hours per day. Furthermore, Mr. Budlakoti’s Record of Employment was issued with falsified information, failing to accurately report his hours of service in order to hide the illegal nonpayment of overtime.  As a result, Mr. Budlakoti is further penalized by appearing not to meet the minimum hours of service to qualify for Employment Insurance benefits.

Glen Comeau has been the subject of past Employment Standards violations, a fact that doesn’t seem to concern the CAA North and East Ontario President, Christina Hlusko, who refuses to meet with IWW representatives regarding this matter. The IWW intends to bring this to the attention of the public as CAA is the primary customer of Glen’s Towing. Users of CAA services deserve to know about their complicity in this issue. The IWW is asking people to voice their concerns to both Glen’s Towing and CAA North and East Ontario and boycott both organizations until Mr. Budlakoti is paid what he is owed and receives accurate paperwork. IWW branches across Canada support Mr. Budlakoti.  Montréal members picketed CAA-Québec on Thursday, August 21st. More actions in these and other cities across the country are pending, should CAA continue to refuse to meet with the IWW to discuss what concrete actions they can take to remedy the situation.

Ottawa-born Mr. Budlakoti is no stranger to combating injustice. He is known for being targeted for deportation by the Canadian government despite being born in Canada and not holding any other citizenship, making him functionally stateless. His case is before federal courts and has received extensive media coverage. Further information is available at www.justicefordeepan.org.

Wage theft is a growing problem.  “This case has affected me financially based on the fact that I can’t get Employment Insurance because my ex-employer falsified my Record of Employment and shorted me on hours,” states Mr. Budlakoti, who adds “CAA is supposed to be a reputable business yet they did not attempt to rectify the situation.  They are not doing due diligence on their side.  They are choosing which policies to enforce and not enforce.”

For more information, please contact the Ottawa-Outaouais
IWW Secretary info@ottawaiww.org, and Deepan Budlakoti, 613-265-1364.