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In 2019, CEU was able to negotiate the ability for Members, in certain classifications, to work at home for up to 36.25 hours per month. It was a difficult win at the bargaining table and the language was limited in its scope. Having said that, the Bargaining Committee was excited to see some progression in the work at home language. We hoped that the experience of Members working at home in those select classifications would convince the Employer that working at home was possible in nearly all classifications. We knew that Members would be responsible with their time and that the Employer’s “customer service” worries were just that – worries.
Fast forward to Spring 2020. More than 90% of CEU Members were moved to working at home full-time. Initially, lack of laptops, remote login rights, and technology transfer generally were the most commonly voiced concerns of our Members. People were also concerned about childcare (when schools closed) while trying to work from home. The overwhelming majority of Members at that time, however, expressed relief to be working at home. In fact, they told us that they loved working from home and that they actually got more work accomplished in a day.
The CEU is proud to participate in the broader labour movement and is affiliated with our friends and colleagues at the BCGEU and the BC Federation of Labour. I have had the opportunity to lobby and meet with many BC Members of Parliament demanding improvements in legislation. Nationally, we are a part of, and participate in, NUPGE (National Union of Public Government Employees) and the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress). This provides us with opportunities to share our experiences, learn from other Unions and communities, and work together to amplify the voices of Union Members across Canada. As we say in the labour movement, an injury to one is an injury to all. A combination of many years at WCB and being involved at these levels has helped me learn about our Membership and their needs, allowing me to serve them better.
One year later, we still see over 90% of the Membership working at home full-time. Overall, CEU Elected Representatives and Staff continue to hear from the Members that they love working from home, but they would like the ability to go into the office occasionally (post-Covid). This is certainly reflective of the Employer’s surveys showing that over 93% of workers want the ability to work at home in some capacity after Covid (even if not full-time). The experience of the past year has demonstrated to the Employer that our Members are responsible, conscientious workers. The sky hasn’t fallen.
But like most work arrangements, we also now know that there are pros and cons to working at home. We now know that back-to-back MS Teams meetings are exhausting. And we know that ongoing ergonomic support and proper work equipment are musts for our work at home offices. We also know that working at home can be isolating for some. We have also found that without clear Collective Agreement language anticipating full-time work at home, certain issues have arisen. For example, one of the ongoing issues between the parties is the pull between: 1. the Employer’s obligation to safeguard our Members’ safety while working at home alone; and, 2. the Article 26 language applied to our B Type Members’ which states that B Types are those, “not working under direct supervision”.
These, and a plethora of other work at home issues, will need to be addressed and negotiated at bargaining. Given that the Employer has recently announced their desire to enter into a “hybrid work model” following Covid (based in part on the feedback received from Members), we imagine that work at home conditions will dominate bargaining in 2022. To this end, you can expect to see many questions and opportunities to provide feedback to the Union on the CEU Member Bargaining Survey. This Survey will likely be distributed in September 2021. And in the interim, if you have any feedback on your work at home experience (positive and negative), feel free to email any of your CEU Executive Members or me directly at email@example.com.
– Laura Snow, President