Reconciliation in the Workplace

This year we have celebrated 150 years of Canada, its history, people and landscape. But one area that we have to improve on is reconciliation with our Indigenous population.

Workplaces are where we spend a large amount of our time, so it is important for both employees and employers to be aware that reconciliation is a really important topic to deal with.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a document with 94 calls to action that were divided into ‘Legacy’ and ‘Reconciliation’. One of the sub-categories under Reconciliation was titled ‘Business and Reconciliation’ and called on the corporate sector in Canada to ‘adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.’

This document describes both individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples all around the world, not just Canada. It also offers guidance on cooperative relationships with Indigenous peoples based on ‘the principles of equality, partnership, good faith and mutual respect.’

Jessica Dumas, is a past chair of the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce in Winnipeg. In an interview with CBC News said that education and discussion will break cycles of stereotypes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers. She said having a workplace where there is an environment for people to feel comfortable asking questions is key.

Labour unions have a long history of standing up for human rights and have taken pride in standing by Indigenous people in Canada. Unions stood beside Indigenous people in the call for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Indigenous workers earned 8.47/hour more with a union, than without a union.

Canada is an amazing place to live and work, and together we can make sure it is for all Canadians no matter their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity.

Working in Extreme Heat

This summer in Alberta can be described with one word – hot. In July there seems to be a heat warning every other day and a day below 25 degrees is rare.

Patios are packed, local swimming pools are full and Albertan's are taking advantage of the sun.

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But for people who work outside, extra precautions need to be taken.

According to Metro News, Alberta does not have any ‘hard and fast regulations about how hot is too hot for work.’

In the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Code in Alberta there are no specific requirements related to working in the heat or cold. The Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of workers and the Code requires employers to ‘assess and control hazards workers may be exposed to at the work site.’

OHS in Alberta recommends being aware of the signs of heat stress and stroke so it can be treated right away.

Being a union member means that you have people looking out for you in the workplace, ensuring that you are not forced to work in unsafe working conditions such as extreme heat. If you are ever feeling as though a workplace is unsafe, you can notify a shop steward or a business agent.

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Early warning signs of heat stress and stroke

  • headache
  • confusion
  • dizziness and fatigue
  • dehydration
  • heavy sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • changes to breathing and pulse rate

How to avoid overheating

  • drink lots of water
  • take breaks
  • wear protective equipment designed to reduce heat stress
  • minimize physical activity in hot environments
  • know the signs of heat stress

Robb Nash Spreading Message of Hope Through Music

Robb Nash may look like your typical rock musician, with guitar in hand and tattoos covering his arms.

But that guitar is used to write songs of hope for young people across Canada and the tattoos are made up of more than 100 signatures from suicide notes of young people who have attended his concerts.

"I know what that feels like, you feel alone … I want to show them, you're not alone. These are all people who have had those thoughts, and they're still here, and they're conquering the world around them," Nash said in an interview with CBC News.

When Nash was just 17 he was in a serious car crash, where he almost died. He had a difficult recovery struggling with depression and now uses music to share a message of inspiration when facing tough topics such as suicide, addiction and bullying.

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According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, youth are among the highest risk populations for suicide. It accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16 per cent among 16-44 year olds and is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24.

Suicide can also be even more prevalent in vulnerable communities. LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and suicides among First Nations youth (aged 15 to 24) was about five to six times higher than non-aboriginal youth in Canada.

Nash takes the time to reach out to these vulnerable populations, most recently visiting Pimicikamak, also known as Cross Lake First Nation, where a state of emergency was declared last year because of an outbreak of suicides.

Teamsters 362 started an initiative last year called You Are Not Alone, with the goal of raising awareness and reducing stigma surrounding suicide in Canada.

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In Alberta, we currently have the second highest rate of suicide in the country. Our eight-part docuseries travels around Alberta to hear from those who have been directly affected by suicide and advocates who are speaking out and trying to raise awareness.

It also looks at the state of mental health in the province in the wake of the fires in Fort McMurray and the troubling times in our economy. We examine what resources are needed and where.

Teamsters 362 first saw Nash at a CMHA event and we were so impressed by his powerful performance. After seeing him live, we sponsored two more performances, as we strongly believe in Nash's power to change lives. Nash operates on fundraising and for more information on his project and how you can help visit

No one should have to suffer in silence, and with more people like Nash, Canada will be able to openly talk about suicide and create change.

Alberta Introduces New Bill Regarding Labour Laws

After much public debate, the Alberta NDP government tabled Bill 17: The Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act. This marks the first amendments to Alberta’s labour laws in nearly 30 years.

In early March the NDP started to consult the public about what changes should be made, and these new laws have taken 10 weeks to put together.

Labour leaders around the province have applauded many of the changes included in the bill, pointing out we have been out of step with the rest of Canada for too long.

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But of course there was opposition.

The Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives have stated that they believe the changes should be split into two bills to allow for more consultation.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean said the NDP is trying to pressure opposition parties to vote for all of the changes in the bill by including them with ‘compassionate leave for workers.’ He also added he thinks secret ballot voting for unionization should still be used every time.

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Some of the highlights from the bill include:

·      The minimum work age will be raised to 13 from 12 years old.

·      Employers will be prevented from docking employee pay if a customer leaves without paying

·      Job protection for unpaid leave for personal reasons such as illness, injury, domestic violence, family responsibility or disappearance of a child.

·      Unions could be certified without a secret ballot if more than 65 per cent of employees had verified membership cards, but less than 60.

·      Family members who are employed on a family farm would be exempt from employment standards.

Mobbing: One of the Worst Kinds of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is a major issue in workplaces across Canada and can take many different forms. One of the ones that is the hardest to deal with is what is known as ‘mobbing’.

Mobbing is when a worker enlists co-workers to ‘collude in a relentless campaignof psychological terror against a hapless target.’

According to psychologists, the target of the bullying is typically someone who is different from the rest of the group and tend to be women or racialized workers. They also pointed that 30 per cent of all workplace bullying is mobbing, and the trend is growing.

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They said that workplaces that are organized by bureaucracy or hierarchy are the most susceptible to this type of bullying.

In Alberta, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has taken notice of workplace bullying and have talked of implementing workplace harassment policies into an update of its code.

If you are experiencing mobbing or bullying at work it is important to document everything that is happening – keep a journal, keep emails and text messages.

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Make sure you have mental health support to deal with the bullying. Whether it is by a single person or a group, dealing with bullying can have a huge toll on your mental well-being.

Another option is to contact your trade union about the bullying behaviour – reaching out to a shop steward, business agent or any member you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. If you are not yet a part of a union, calling them and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that definitely includes workplace harassment.




Statistics Canada Census Shares Important Information About the Workplace

The Canadian 2016 census was released this week and there were some important findings for Canada’s workforce.

For the first time since Canada began conducting the census, there are more senior citizens than children living in Canada with 5.9 million people aged 65 and over. Statistics Canada attributes this to the post-war baby boom.

Currently there are more people entering retirement than entering it.

The prairie provinces, including Alberta, have a younger population than the overall average. Calgary has the highest percentage of working aged people.

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Despite this, youth employment opportunities remain low in major cities while the opposite was true for older workers. Researchers think that one factor could be lack of employment opportunities when young people leave school.

Another important factor and is that the majority of seniors are women and there are a number of issues they have to consider.

Women are outliving men so they need to plan better for retirement. They also continue to face a gender pay gap while working, which will follow them into retirement.

Women are more likely to enter and exit the workforce to raise children, this effects their advancement and also their ability to save for retirement.

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Being a union member is one way to help address these issues.

According to the Canadian labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union. With a collective agreement, women can ensure that they will be paid equally for equal work.

Joining a union also means that you also can start saving for retirement with a pension. At Teamsters Local 362 our pension program is something that we are very proud of and our members always comment on.

As our population ages we need to make sure Canada takes care of our seniors in the workplace and in retirement.

Getting Loud for Mental Health Week

This week marks the 66th annual Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Week. This week is meant to encourage people to ‘learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health.’

This year they are asking people to #GETLOUD for mental health. They are asking Canadians writing their MPs, speaking out on social media, and donating our time and money, all in the name of getting loud for mental health.

Mental Health issues cost the Canadian economy over $50 billion each year and more than one in four Canadians are at high risk for mental health issues.

But some people are at more risk than others according to a new Ipsos report.

They found that millennials, women and people with low incomes are the most susceptible. They also found that based on Canadians levels of stress and depression 41 per cent of Canadians are at high risk for mental illness, up from 35 per cent last year.

The study found that 63 per cent of millennials were in the high-risk category, compared with 41 per cent of Gen X and 24 per cent of Baby Boomers. Forty-seven per cent of women were at high risk, compared to 36 per cent of men. Nearly 50 per cent of those earning less than $40,000 a year were at high-risk.

The regional breakdown put B.C. as number one for residents falling into the high-risk category, followed by Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Teamsters 362 has been fighting to end the stigma surrounding mental health with two major initiatives – Make it Mandatory and You Are Not Alone.

Make it Mandatory was created after tragedy struck some of our members in 2012. Travis Baumgartner fatally shot three of his coworkers, Eddie Rejano, Brian Ilesic and Michelle Shegelski, a fourth, Matthew Schuman, rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound.

We wanted to do more to bring attention to mental health support in the workplace after this incident and encourage the government to make mental health support in the workplace mandatory.

You Are Not Alone was a docuseries that was created when we saw rising suicide rates in Alberta.

Our eight-part docuseries travelled around Alberta to hear from those who have been directly affected by suicide and advocates who are speaking out and trying to raise awareness.

We have also negotiated mental health support into collective bargaining agreements.

Ending the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide is so important for all Canadians, so make sure you take the time to #GETLOUD this week.


Alberta Receives a Poor Grade For Gender Wage Gap

Alberta recently received a grade in a study released from the Conference Board of Canada, and it was not good.

Their report card compared provinces and territories, as well as 15 peer countries in a number of categories including economy, education and skills, innovation, environment, health and society.

One of the most striking statements in the report is how bad Alberta measures when it comes to measures of equity. One of the worst? The gender wage gap, where we received a D grade.

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The report pointed out that Alberta has a difference in median weekly earnings of close to 25 per cent between men and women, making it the third-highest gender wage gap of all regions in the report.

But the gender wage gap wasn’t the only area where Alberta faired poorly in terms of wages.

We also received a C grade for the immigrant wage gap with nearly a 26 per cent gap between immigrants and Canadian born citizens. There was also a 66 per cent wage gap between people with disabilities and those without.

Craig Alexander is the board’s senior vice-president and chief economist. According to CBC News, he said that these numbers indicate some key social challenges in Alberta.

"Improving labour market opportunities and conditions for disadvantaged groups can help the province boost social and economic performance," he said.

One way to do this is through unions. It is well known that unions set the bar when it comes to wages for women, immigrants and those with disabilities.

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Unions have played a major role when it comes women’s rights in the workplace, including the Teamsters with contracts that have lead the way when it comes to gender equality. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

A collective agreement can ensure that all workers are treated equally and have rights to protect them in the workplace.

Unions are also very much involved in social activism, fighting to make sure that our government and society are treating all people fairly. With continued unionization, we can push for Alberta to go from a D to an A.

Building Trades of Alberta Makes Recommendations For Changes to Alberta Labour Code

This year the NDP government will be taking a look at Alberta labour laws, many of which have been untouched since 1976.

Labour Minister Christina Gray told CBC News that the government is ‘committed to reviewing Alberta’s labour laws to ensure they reflect today’s workplace.’

"In some cases, Alberta's labour legislation has not been reviewed in decades. The nature of work life in Alberta has changed a lot in that time," said Gray.

The Executive Board of the Building Trades of Alberta, including Teamsters Local 362 Secretary - Treasurer and Principal Officer Rick Eichel, submitted their recommendations to the provincial government when they review the laws.

"It's been over thirty years since any progressive changes have been made to our labour code and these amendments will be extremely welcomed by the working people of our province," said Eichel.

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Here are just a few of the issues the executive board feels should be changed:

Double Breasting

Double breasting, also known as spin-offs, is a major issue in Alberta especially in the construction industry. It allows employers that have unionized employees, to have a ‘spin-off’ or separate arm of the company that is non-unionized. This circumvents the bargaining process and puts ‘worker against worker.’

The executive board recommends changing the laws that allow this to happen so easily.

Certification Related Issues

When employees want to unionize in Alberta, they are forced to vote twice to do this. They first vote outside of the workplace to join a union, and then must vote again at a ‘formal vote’ held in the workplace. This allows employers time to pressure or inappropriately influence the employee to vote against the union.

The executive board recommends amended to allow for automatic certification, as is provided for in most other Canadian jurisdictions, if the Union applies for certification with proof of support by more than 50% of the bargaining unit employees.

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Access to Sites

Many workers in Alberta are employed and housed in remote locations where they live in camps that are under strict control of the employer. Union organizers have no ability to meet privately with workers on site or on their days off. This is ‘highly detrimental to their ability to exercise their right to join a union.’

The executive board recommends that union organizers have access to such remote sites on terms set by the Alberta Labour Relations Code.

To view the full list of recommendations visit

Rudeness – One Of The Biggest Issues in the Workplace

Employers can follow regulations and codes, but one of the biggest risks to a workplace is actually something that isn’t always properly addressed.

That issue is rudeness.

Whether it is walking by someone without saying hello or leaving someone out of after work drinks – rudeness can be found everywhere.

And it isn’t a minor problem, it is one of the biggest issues facing workplaces today. Especially when it comes to lack of productivity, where studies have shown that it can cost companies up to $14,000 per employee due to lost productivity.

Here are some of the major ways rudeness impacts the workplace.

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Health Issues

A join study from University of Calgary and London School of Economics and Political Science found that people who were treated rudely at work experience ‘higher levels of embarrassment and lower levels of belongingness.’ Those feelings transfer into feelings of job insecurity and extreme stress.

These can also create physical issues – increasing risk of chronic diseases, stomach problems, headaches and sleeplessness.

Destroys collaboration

Studies have shown that rudeness can hurt collaboration in the workplace, destroying workers ‘sense of psychological safety, and hampering team effectiveness.’ Workers can shut down without even realizing it as negative thoughts creep in.


A study from the University of Florida found that rudeness can spread like wildfire. Once someone perceives rudeness towards them, they are more likely to be rude in return. The rudeness can spread like a common cold.

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Leaders set the tone

When managers or leaders treat team members fairly and with respect, employees have been found to be more productive and even go above and beyond. The whole team also benefits when you talk to the whole team about civility or even sign up for training.

Union members always have the option to reach out to their shop steward or business agent if they are experiencing rudeness that is effecting their job performance, or mental or physical health. Being a part of a union means you are a member of a family, and you always have support.