On June 19th the union I am a part of voted to begin a work stoppage and today July 11th is the first day back to work now that the strike has concluded. As I write this, I have yet to leave home for work, and there are many thoughts running through my head.
First and foremost is gratitude for returning to work, and being able to once again serve the clients I do who are among the most vulnerable in society, receiving social assistance.
I imagine some of them have in that 3 week interim, lost housing and are now homeless, have ceased to apply for jobs because they lack the means to access the internet, may have lost employment because they couldn’t reach someone for advice or help dealing with some issue, and some may even be in jail or worse. Those who don’t work in the profession may scoff and think I’m attributing too much credit to the role I and my colleagues play, but it’s the truth.
Secondly of course, I’m glad to be back because of the income. It’s not that I’ve lost a house or had a car repossessed, but no matter who you are, the money from employment is counted on to live a certain way, and in my case, my wife and I live modest lives. We’d just negotiated new terms for our mortgage and changed amounts we pay on various financial commitments prior to the strike, so getting that income back is important to us.
What is difficult I imagine is going to work and working with those who lined up on the opposite side of whatever position one took in the strike. Even within a union which screams solidarity, there are divisions and differences of opinion. Some like myself, think the strike should never have happened in the first place, and others thought differently and voted to be out there striking still. Working together may take longer for some than others.
One thing I did like in the agreement we voted to accept, was language that talked about repercussions for those who intimidate, bully or coerce others in the workplace. And the organization itself takes a negative view of bullying in the workplace at any time. I hope no one ends up being disciplined, but for some who wear their emotions on their sleeves, it may be harder.
I don’t think it appropriate to share what the details of the strike were about. For the majority of the members, in settling, an extra year has been added to the contract making it a 4 year deal. What was proposed prior to the strike and rejected was accepted 3 weeks later. For a minority in the union, there are some changes that affect them from the original proposal. As 81% of us opted to return to work, let’s get on with it and move forward.
It feels good to be going back to work! You see, one of my 3 weeks off was a pre-arranged vacation and I’m fortunate to therefore be paid for that week. While that’s good, I can tell you that my wife and I did not enjoy that week as we had planned. No camping trip, no ‘stress-free’ relaxation. No it was checking employer and union websites for daily updates, and conserving money because it could have dragged on and on; hardly relaxing.
One of the most upsetting things about this strike is how the employer – my employer – was portrayed. I didn’t like the use of words like, ‘bully’ or ‘fight’ when we were assembled and being talked to by my own union. This is the best employer I’ve ever worked for. I don’t want to pick a fight with the employer, and I’ve never seen the employer act as a bully in any way. My employer has leadership circles, strives to have us all understand and reinforce corporate values, which I endorse. When words like this are spoken, it’s not always easy to flick a switch and then just forget all those nasty words and tactics.
Ah, but it is good to get back. Today being Friday, I imagine we’ll have to get our security back, get IT to reinstate our passwords and email access, retrieve keys to the building in my case, and start getting caught up. Maybe some of us will be asked to do different jobs to help out others. Who knows? It’s all good.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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