All posts by Andrew

Election Results

I am pleased to announce that I have been elected to the position of Regional Representative for VIA Rail Agreements 1 and 2 in Ontario and Agreement 2 in Quebec. I want to take this opportunity to thank my supporters as well as those who were on my election team. I couldn’t have done it without your support and assistance.

Special thanks go to Marc-Alexandre Léger for a well-run and engaging campaign. His dedication and commitment to our Council and its members says a lot about the kind of person he is, and I look forward to working with him during the coming three years.

Finally, I vow to work very hard to earn the trust of those who supported other candidates, and am honoured that so many of you have placed your trust in me. I will work hard to maintain that trust.

Thanks again to everyone.

Deuxième Tour !

L’heure est presque arrivé pour le deuxième tour du scrutin du conseil 4000. Vous devriez recevoir vos bulletins de vote avant le fin du mois. Ils doivent être reçus par la comité des élections avant le 19 juin.

Je fais ce genre de travail depuis longtemps, et j’ai eu la chance d’être là pour beaucoup de gens dans leurs grand besoins, et le travail fort et les nuits sans sommeil valent bien la peine pour que je puisse faire une différence dans leurs vies. Avec votre appui, je pourrai continuer à contribuer positivement dans la vie des gens avec lesquels je travaille.

J’ai rencontré beaucoup d’entre vous ici et là ces derniers mois, et j’ai hâte de rencontrer le reste aussitôt que possible. Encore une fois merci mille fois pour votre appui dans cet élection : ensemble nous pouvons accomplir des grandes choses.

Second Round!

The time is almost upon us to vote in the second round of the Council 4000 elections. You should be receiving your ballots by the end of the month and they are due back no later than June 19.

I’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time and I’ve been fortunate enough to be there for people when they needed someone the most, and the hard work and sleepless nights have all been worth it to make a difference in those lives. With your support, I will be able to continue to make those kinds of contributions to the people I work with.

I’ve met many of you in my travels over the last few months, and I look forward to meeting the rest of you soon. Once again I ask for your support in this election: together we can accomplish great things. Thank you.

The Ballots are in the Mail!

By now many of you should have received your ballots in the mail. Below is a guide on how to make your vote count!

If you haven’t received a ballot in the mail, click here to let the Election Committee know.

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The envelope you have will contain five things:

  1. An instruction form from the Election Committee
  2. An envelope marked “BALLOT/BULLETIN DE VOTE”
  3. A stamped return envelope addressed to National Council 4000, Greenfield Park, Québec
  4. A blue ballot for the position of Secretary Treasurer, Council 4000
  5. A pink ballot for the position of Regional Representative, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Regions.


INSTRUCTIONS:

Clearly mark each ballot in the box next to your chosen candidate.

Place your ballots into the “BALLOT/BULLETIN DE VOTE” envelope and seal it.

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Place the “BALLOT/BULLETIN DE VOTE” envelope inside the larger envelope addressed to Council 4000, and then seal the larger envelope.

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Mark your name and return address in the top left corner of the larger envelope.

SealedAddressedEnvelope

Send the larger envelope via Canada Post, to arrive in Greenfield Park no later than May 1.

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Thank you for voting and making our Union stronger!

What is a Regional Representative?

One of the questions I’ve been hearing a lot lately is, “what does the Regional Representative do?” The answer is pretty complicated, so I decided to write this synopsis for those members who may not know what the job is all about.

The Regional Representative is responsible for Step 3 grievances: the final step of the grievance procedure before the case could be referred to arbitration. This step is addressed to VIA Rail’s Labour Relations department, and is our last opportunity to make our case to the Corporation. Accordingly, we need someone with a clear understanding of the circumstances pertinent to any given case, as well as the specific legal and labour relations climate surrounding the case. This includes someone with good language skills and the ability to make sound judgements based on fact, not emotion.

Similarly, the Regional Representative is charged with preparing briefs for mediated arbitration and arbitration. This includes compiling the grievances made at each step of the procedure, in addition to writing several pages regarding the relative merits of the case. This presentation is our opportunity to refute the employer’s arguments and strengthen our own, based on the actual or anticipated positions taken by the opposing side. The Regional Representative then argues the case before an arbitrator: this aspect of the job requires the successful incumbent to be able to think quickly on his or her feet and rebut any arguments the employer presents that may not have been part of their responses to our grievances. Frequently, VIA does not respond at Step 3, choosing to keep their arguments for arbitration: therefore, the ability to do broad-based research of past arbitration cases, federal court decisions, etc. in preparation for the arbitration process is very important.

Regional Representatives are also tasked with representing members before the CSST (Québec) and WSIB (Ontario). Therefore, the Regional Representative needs a good understanding of the relevant legislation and procedures of these two bodies in order to protect the membership he or she serves.

The Regional Representative serves as a resource for other Union representatives, and therefore must have a firm grasp on a wide variety of labour relations issues. He or she must understand how a particular case relates to the history of our Union, past decisions by arbitrators and courts, other active grievances, and many other things. For this reason, a Regional Representative needs to be able to focus on the details of a given case while keeping a constant eye on the big picture, fitting the issue at hand into the broader context. He or she must act as a leader, with a solid understanding of the hurdles we may face in advancing a case; while simultaneously exercising patience, understanding and encouragement to the other representatives and members he or she comes into contact with.

Finally, the Regional Representative is responsible for representing his or her constituent members at the bargaining table. The position requires the ability to listen well, understand what the needs of the membership are during this period, and to take those priorities with him or her to the bargaining table. This involves highly developed communication skills and the ability to synthesize information without one’s own bias interfering in the process. More than communication with members, however, the Regional Representative needs to be able to effectively communicate the membership’s demands to the employer. This takes a talent for nuance and the ability to find the appropriate moment to insert those demands into the bargaining process. Because we negotiate for all VIA bargaining units simultaneously, the Regional Representative also needs to be able to work as a member of a team consisting of the other Regional Representatives, the Secretary-Treasurer, Staff Representatives, etc., and to ensure the demands he or she is bringing to the table are consistent with those of the other regions. This is a bit of a balancing act, but it can be done with perseverance, intellect and the sincere desire to make positive change in our workplaces.

I believe I possess all of these skills in abundance, and am excited to put them to good use serving our members. I hope you will agree with me and lend me your support during this election and over the next three years. Thank you!

Off to the Races!

The campaign for Regional Representative begins today! I am excited and honoured to have been nominated for this position, and to have served as Local Chairperson in one of Council 4000’s largest bargaining units over the last five years: the longest tenure by a Local Chairperson amongst the candidates in this election. Elections are always difficult times for the membership, but overall they are an opportunity for us to renew our strength and our commitment to working together towards a common goal. I wish the other candidates the best of luck, and want to acknowledge their commitment to making our Union stronger.

Serving as Local Chair has taught me that the right answer is not always obvious, and not to give up until a solution is found. Over the last five years I’ve dealt with innumerable issues, but the thing that makes me the proudest is: the work I’ve done to bring members back to work after unfair dismissals, and the agreements I have negotiated to maintain the employment of others. Without the countless hours of work put in by the grievance committee, these members would have been unable to put food on their tables or a roof over the heads of their families, and I feel privileged to have played a part in their stories.

My vision for the role of Regional Representative is to increase the participation of rank-and-file membership in establishing demands for bargaining; to protect our rights through the grievance procedure and at arbitration; and to bring my experience and intellect to the nuanced areas of contract negotiation and arbitration. In these difficult years, we need strong leadership from a creative team of people, willing to leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of our objectives. The old ways of doing things will not suffice any longer, and I believe I am the one who can deliver this positive change with an eye to the future.

I hope to meet many of you on the campaign trail; however if I don’t see you, feel free to drop me a line by using my contact page.

Workplace Democracy

Many different things come to mind when we talk about democracy. The most common element, of course, is elections; but is this the only thing that makes a democracy? In fact, the exercise of democracy relies on participation from the people who are directly affected by the decisions made by their leaders. Without this participation, even an organization that has democratic practices and institutions can be undemocratic if not enough people participate in the decision-making process.

Democracy is an important concept to the labour movement. Most corporate workplaces are designed to be top-down, autocratic institutions, where the boss makes the rules and his/her subordinates have no choice but to follow those orders. Unions seek to address this fundamental power imbalance by introducing a democratic element into the workplace: Union membership gives employees the ability to vote for their representatives, bargaining proposals, contracts, strikes, etc. The idea that each member has one vote is important to establishing an important level of equality amongst the employees in a workplace, as well as giving those employees a say into the terms and conditions of their employment.

Unifor is one of the largest and most democratic unions in Canada, where the membership is the highest voice in the Union. Each member in good standing may vote on motions at meetings, stand for elected office, and elect Union officers. Between meetings elected representatives are empowered to make decisions on behalf of their coworkers and are subject to regular re-election.