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2015 - Winter Edition

           

Bargaining Process - Behind the Scenes - A message from the President

By: Dave Kuntz - President
Happy New Year to everyone.  I hope you all enjoyed the Christmas and New Year’s holiday time and managed to get some rest and relaxation.

As you are aware we are in the process of bargaining a new collective agreement with SaskTel.  The Union and SaskTel proposals are available on the SaskCouncil website (http://www.uniforsaskcouncil.ca/).  To maintain the integrity of the bar.gaining process, specific details of proposals and their status cannot be discussed.  People are encouraged to attend general membership meeting for updates, information, and to ask questions related to bargaining.

We have a very good, mature collective agreement with SaskTel.  This does not mean there isn’t room for improvements.  We are asking for improvements to parental and adoption leave; leave of absence for public office; improvements to the grievance and arbitration process to speed things up; improvements to the job bid process; better shifting and scheduling; better pensions and benefits; and others, including a fair wage increase.  Our members are being asked to do more with less; meet tighter deadlines; and meet moving targets.  I constantly get re.ports from people who are experiencing these situations, whether they are people on the sales compensation plan, queued environment, outside craft, engineering groups, IT groups or clerical.  People are being worked to the point where they are starting to break under the pressure.  The number of people on various types of sick leave due to job related stress, anxiety, depression and other work related mental illnesses is increasing drastically.  I re.member a time when we were able to do our work without being micro-managed.  We could do a good job and make sure the customer was satisfied without having to rush to the next one in the queue.  We were able to mentor with the senior people in our department and take the time to actually learn our job without being thrown right into the deep end of the pool!

This company was built on good customer service.  I believe one of the reasons we have maintained  market share, profitability and success is because of this customer service provided by all of you over many years.

Strangely enough, some of the problem is our own good work ethic.  The culture and work ethic of you, the employees of SaskTel, has always been to do the best job possible; keep the customer happy and satisfied; and meet tough deadlines.   This work ethic is being taken advantage of and people are being worked and pushed to the breaking point in some areas.

Things to remember when doing your job:

· Put in a fair days work for the pay. There are only so many hours in your day and if you are busy doing your job and the work is still not complete it is a management problem.  It could be an indication of a staffing level shortage and management needs to deal with it.

· Take your coffee breaks.  Your body needs both a physical and mental break from performing work duties. Working through your breaks hurts your personal well-being as well as masking a staffing level shortage.

· Overtime is voluntary.  As per our Collective Agreement you do not have to work overtime (exception to this is for critical situations such as an isolated community, 911 services or something medical etc.)  Working overtime because of workload issues is also masking staffing level shortages.

· We DO NOT have “On Call” or “Standby” language in our Collective Agreement.  I hear about situations where members are being asked to take cell phones home, particularly in some of the IT areas.  Whether it is peer pressure or management suggesting this be done, the bottom line is you don’t have to take these phones home after your shift.  There is no requirement to do this.

Is there room for improvement in our Collective Agreement?  The answer is YES.  Keep this answer in mind as we work through Collective Bargaining.

What happens behind the scenes for SaskTel and the bargaining process?  As we bargain, there are a number of stakeholders involved because of the fact we are a Crown corporation.  We don’t see all of the SaskTel stake holders at the table even though they are indirectly involved in the background working behind the scene.  Internally, we have the SaskTel Executive Board, made up of the President and Vice-Presidents.  We have the appointed SaskTel Board of Directors who oversee the activities of SaskTel.  The government also gets into the bargaining mix.  We have to deal with The Personnel Policy Secretariat who provides support and advice to the Cabinet Committee on Public Sector Compensation, client employers, and government ministry's with respect to the management of collective bar.gaining and compensation activities and general human resource policy initiatives in the provincial public sector.  Finally, we have to deal with the CIC (Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan), which is a financially self-sufficient holding company for Saskatchewan’s commercial Crown corporations.

I want to provide a bit of  history on Crown Corporations, with respect to SaskTel.  This information was obtained from the CIC website.

Prior to 1930, Saskatchewan’s first commercial Crown corporations were established because essential services such as telephone, power, and hail insurance for crops were not available from private companies or not available to all residents on a fair and equitable basis.  The province’s relatively small and widely dispersed population continued to pose service challenges in the 1940s and Crown corporations were established to provide general insurance and transportation services. The key points to know are:

· Crown corporations are companies owned by the Saskatchewan government on behalf of the people of the province.

· Crown corporations were established in Saskatchewan to provide certain essential services  not offered by private companies or not available to all residents on an equitable basis.

· The four guiding principles of the Crowns were the services they provided should be universal (available to everyone), reliable, of high quality, and offered at a reasonable cost.

· As the Crowns have grown, there is a requirement they contribute to the economy and provide a return on investment to their shareholder, the government, on behalf of the people.

As you can see, the bargaining process is very complex.  We negotiate at the bargaining table and dis.cuss our proposals and SaskTel’s proposals.  We work through the process and all of the approval hoops knowing there are many fingers in the pie because we are a Crown Corporation.  It can be a difficult process to work through, but knowing we have your full support to continue improving the working conditions, pay and benefits of our Collective Agreement, we are able to navigate through the complexity. 

In Solidarity,

Dave Kuntz

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From the Editor's Desk

By: Gail Sawatzky - Recording Secretary / Editor of The Busy Signal

How often do you hear these things:  What do unions really do for me?  Why do I have to pay union dues? Unions are corrupt and we don’t need them anymore.  Ever wonder where those statements come from or why unions are attacked?  Could it be that they are somehow seen as a threat and the only way to get rid of the threat is to make them appear bad?

Unions have made a difference over the years and we all enjoy paid vacations, statutory holidays, shorter work weeks and higher wages to name a few because of union members who fought for those rights.  It is easy to forget people didn’t always enjoy the extra time off with their families as it has existed for most of our working careers.  Some people believe we would keep all those rights even if we didn’t have unions.  I’m not convinced that’s true and I don’t think it’s a chance we should take.  There are a lot of arguments saying people working for non-unionized companies get the same or better benefits than unionized workers. One has to wonder if there were no unionized companies setting the standard would those other companies really provide those benefits.

 

Another complaint often heard is Unions protect lazy, unmotivated people and ensure people get jobs that should go to more qualified people.  Unions do not promote or endorse bad behaviour, they protect people from punishment that is too harsh or unjustified and work with companies to find out the cause of the behaviour and try to change it.  Seniority plays an important part in unionized environments, an employee who has invested their time and energy into a company deserve to have the opportunity to have a position they are qualified to do or can be trained to do over someone with less time with the company.

Unfortunately the message that union employees are paid too much for the work they do is successfully convincing people including some union workers themselves that they should feel guilty for making the wage that they do. When it comes to negotiating wage increases or improvements to benefits in collective agreements we hear comments about how not only are we lazy, we are greedy too!  The cost of living consistently increases and we know our paycheque doesn’t go as far as it once did yet we start believing maybe we are being a little greedy we should just bite the bullet and cut back on all those extras, like cauliflower, we buy.  If the CEOs and management can get raises there is no reason employees who work hard to make companies successful shouldn’t expect a raise as well.

We need to be proud to belong to a Union that fights for all working people and strives to raise the bar rather than to settle for the lowest common denominator.  Union members live and work in communities, they spend money and pay taxes and the more they are able to contribute, the better it is for economy.  We all deserve to be paid fairly for the job that we do and to be able to provide the necessities to our families.

 Crowns & Politics - SaskTel's Political Reality

By: Jennifer Demchuk - SOS Crowns

From the beginning of the last century, SaskTel has been a huge part of the Saskatchewan way of life.  Some may still remember SaskTel linesmen climbing telephone poles or operators connecting people throughout the province over more than 11,000 miles of wire, all before 1913. More recently, you may remember SaskTel being an industry leader being the first provider in Canada to offer a long distance savings plan, build a complete fibre optic network, and deliver television service via High Speed Internet.

Although Crown corporations, including SaskTel, are owned by the people of the province, they are still an extension of the government and virtually all Crown Corporations activities are subject to government oversight.

But how does this affect the operations of SaskTel?

Regardless of which political party holds the most seats in the Legislature, the Government of Saskatchewan can make changes to existing regulations and legislation or introduce new pieces of legislation.

In 2004, the Saskatchewan legislature, including support from all political parties, passed the Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act. This piece of legislation requires significant analysis prior to the complete privatization of a Crown Corporation, although it is limited to nine of the major Crowns including SaskTel.

Prior to the 2003 provincial election, former Saskatchewan Party leader Elwin Hermanson discussed the possibility of privatizing SaskTel, which was widely unaccepted throughout the province. During the following election campaign in 2007, Saskatchewan Party leader, and now Premier, Brad Wall, stated “Crowns are not going to be privatized and (subsidiaries) are not going to be wound down.” However, the current government’s actions do not seem to reflect Wall’s statement as much as Hermanson’s.

In October 2008, the Saskatchewan Party introduced the “Saskatchewan First” policy for all Crown Corporations. Although there is no formal written policy, the government uses four bullet points from a news release to determine the future investments of every Crown in the province. The policy is very far-reaching and states that Crowns, including SaskTel can no longer invest outside of the province, and investment within the province is limited to areas where private business is not interested. As the Star Phoenix report.ed at the time of the announcement, “with citizens reluctant to relinquish ownership and politicians seemingly unwilling to lead on the issues of direct privatization, what we end up with are silly policies such as the Sask First directive that hamstring the companies to the point that their long-term viability is put at risk.”

SaskTel has experienced the Sask First Policy firsthand, with the sales of Navigata, DirectWest Canada, AgDealer, Saskatoon Square and the Hospitality Network (HospNet). These decisions were not based on sound financial management, but rather ideology.

The government was quick to offer up Navigata for a mere $1.25-million for the company’s physical assets and infrastructure, claiming the small subsidiary had been money-losing venture. In 2011, the new owner of Navigata decided to redirect the core focus of the company, resulting in the sale of their microwave communication towers for $18-million. Also in 2011, SaskTel announced the sale of Saskatoon Square – a building in Saskatoon that SaskTel owned 70 per cent of and occupied 20 per cent. Noting that Saskatoon Square was not recognized as “core” to SaskTel’s business, the building was sold yet SaskTel remains a tenant of the property in a long-term lease.

The sale of HospNet was a particularly concerning one. Although the sale was attributed to the restrictions of the Sask First Policy, HospNet was a SaskTel subsidiary that provides telephone and television services to hospitals and healthcare facilities in Saskatchewan and across the country. What exactly does the government consider SaskTel’s core business if it is not telephone and television service? The sale price of $36.6 million was a bargain price for a subsidiary that represented over $150 million in profit for the people of Saskatchewan over five years prior to its sale.

SaskTel is a successful telecommunications company that regularly in.vests in capital infrastructure and various business ventures. A world class cellular network, High Speed Internet, and digital television are all services that many Saskatchewan residents have access to, regard.less of the cost to provide the service or the area in which you live. This also includes employing Saskatchewan residents from all over the province with stable full-time employment, benefits, and a collective agreement. However, more and more areas of SaskTel are being contracted out to private companies. 

There are many myths about the benefits of contracting out work, including that moving work from within the Crown Corporations into the private sector will save money. The truth is that contracting out often raises costs for both SaskTel and the public. This was certainly the case when SaskTel contracted out Max Television installation work to Ledcor Technical Services. The contract showed that Ledcor was charging SaskTel a basic rate for installs that was much higher than the cost of having a SaskTel employee do the same work. Plus, Ledcor completed the actual installation only, leaving SaskTel responsible for the sales, pro.visioning, dispatch, and support areas, among others.

All businesses, public or private, require money to operate. A Crown Corporation’s annual operating activities are affected by the dividend structure required by the government in any given year. For example, in 2014 SaskTel handed over 70% in dividends to the General Revenue Fund (GRF), but some years have seen numbers as high as 100% in 2010. As James Wood explained in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, “The government’s decision to take 100 percent of the company’s profits this year as a dividend will require SaskTel to borrow about $10 to $15 million while a planned $35 million payment from the government’s general revenue fund to help pay for the completion of rural high-speed internet service has been deferred and may perhaps never be paid, meaning the company is also covering that amount of borrowing.”

But what does this look like for SaskTel? The overall health of SaskTel has also been impacted by government decisions by forcing the Crown to take on more debt resulting in a debt ratio that has increased from 27.7 per cent to 52.8 per cent since 2007. In order to make up for financial mismanagement, the government ties the hands of Crowns like SaskTel, while selling off their profitable assets.

In a province with aging infrastructure and major geographical considerations for upgrading this infrastructure, it is nearly impossible to meet customer demand when a company is only able to retain 10 per cent or less of its profit.

Crowns are political entities and must be treated as such. Every decision that is made within SaskTel has a direct link to politics and the government of the day. In 2016, the people of Saskatchewan are once again having the opportunity to ask themselves if this current government is making the best decisions about our Crown Corporations, in particular SaskTel, and what our future is going to look like. If we do not take the opportunity to reflect on the past actions of Brad Wall and his cabinet toward the future success of SaskTel, we very well may not have another opportunity to do so.

 

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STEPPP - SaskTel Employee's Personal Problem Program

By: Andy Malinowski - Chief Steward - Yorkton and District

Did you know that STEPP:

  •  Is an Employee Family Assistance Program that is available to all SaskTel Employees and their family members AND to Retirees and their spouses?
  •  Is a joint program of SaskTel and Unifor that was launched in 1983?
  •  Offers education, advice, and referral to outside experts and agencies to help you and your family deal with many of life’s difficulties including marital problems, parenting challenges, depression, grief, addiction, financial troubles, legal issues and problems experienced by children and teens?
  •  Is voluntary?
  •  Is totally confidential?

More information and contact numbers are available on the SaskTel Source at http://thesource/career/health/steppp/index.htm.

 

                                                                                                                                      

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Annual Kids Christmas Party

By: Gail Sawatzky - Recording Secretary/Busy Signal Editor

The Local 1-S Annual Kids’ Christmas party was held on December 13, 2015 at the Turvey Centre.  Thanks once again to Randy Weir and Claudine Stom for putting together another fun filled afternoon of visits with Santa, colouring con.tests and games.  There were a few changes made this year to the stage and all new toys were available as prizes for playing the games.  The face painters did an excellent job of drawing snowmen, snowflakes, candy canes as well as kittens and reindeer.

We were honoured with the presence of Elders Florence Isaac and Anne Perry of the Circle Project as they accepted the donation of unwrapped toys and donations collect.ed from those attending the party.

A special thank you to all the volunteers who come out year after year to help make this a special after.noon for the children.

 


Volunteers
  • Randy Weir
  • Claudine Stom
  • Dave Kuntz
  • Tara Bast
  • Dawn Thomas-Cameron
  • Brandi Thomas
  • Jason Cameron
  • Damian Thomas
  • Justin Sauers
  • Sheryl Spence
  • Gabby Ledoux
  • Bret Ledoux
  • Bryce Ledoux
  • Brandt Ledoux
  • Ken Ledoux
  • Elaine Stom
  • Greg Olson
  • Gail Sawatzky
  • Rick Ostlund
  • Val Senger
  • Jacquie Donald
  • Raymond Otzinger
  • Courtney Cameron
  • Nicole Gormican
  • Ellen Jackson
  • Jan Fehr
  • Al Schaefer
  • Bert Wenzel
  • Arlene Wenzel
  • Judi Livingstone
  • Sarah Morhart
  • Cassie Zwirsky
  • Shauna Morrison
  • Makayla Smith
  • Madde Smith
  • Emma Braaten
  • Presley Memphis
  • Richesse Mailhot
  • Denise & Dan Smith


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Dog Therapy at the CSC

By: Sheri Duncan - Chief Steward F

You want to what?  Wow!  That came from left field.  I was caught off guard while sitting with Jason Durant and Darla Montgomery.  Darla asked if I thought the union would have any issue with them trialing a Dog Therapy program within the Customer Service Center (CSC).  Our call center would be the first to do such a thing to help lift employee morale at the Regina work center.

What a wonderful idea, why not give it a try.  If it even helps one person, I would consider it a success.  Darla had done her homework and made sure that everything would be covered. A survey was sent out with questions such as allergies to dogs, fears, etc.  This got the whole place talking.  I even heard others from different departments talking about it.

Let me tell you a little about the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.  This is a community based service offered by St. John Ambulance Volunteers.  It gives people a chance to talk with the volunteer and the dog.  Allows the individual to feel, touch, pet, stroke and/or cuddle the dog.  Through the visit the employees of the CSC can find some peace in the gentle contact with this dog and in its quiet presence.  Some benefits of these visits include reducing stress levels, lowering blood pressure and calming the nerves.

We have had two dogs visit us, Bailey and Dakota.  They come for an hour each time and employees here have been able to book a 10 minute time frame with the dog.  There are day and night appointments so that everyone gets an opportunity to be with them.  The love that people receive from their time with them is unconditional.  I have heard that one of the employees who had a fear of dogs has spent time with them and is overcoming that fear. I have seen people come out smiling after their visit and that smile remains when they get back on the phones.  Not only those who have had a scheduled visit end up smiling, while the dogs are coming into the building, waiting for an appointment, or just walking around the 7th floor, they interact with people from the security desk, the elevators and agents still on the phones. 

Not every dog is able to become a Therapy Dog.  My ankle biter, Ludo, would not even make it to the training portion of this program to be evaluated.  He is a little too high strung.  Bailey and Dakota along with their handlers, Darla Montgomery and Kathy Calvin (also a SaskTel Employee) were able to join the program.

 because the dogs were well-socialized with the right temperament and successfully passed extensive testing.  The handlers are able to control the dog at all times.  No pulling, lunging or jumping.  If you are more interested in the St. John's Ambulance Therapy Dog program you can visit http://www.sja.ca/saskatchewan.

So where does this go from here?  As I said, it is a trial program.  We do have employees in our other centers, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon ask for this to be brought to them as well.  So far, so good.  The stress of being on the phones is crazy at times, so a 15 minute release may just be what is needed to make the "beep" on the phone more tolerable.  Who knows, other call centers in Canada may also start this if all goes well.

 

Celebrating 100th Anniversary of Women Achieving Right to Vote

Reprinted from unifor.org 

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the first province in Canada, Manitoba, to grant women the right to vote and be elected. Unifor is marking this anniversary and encouraging continued political action.

On January 28, 1916, white, middle and upper class women in Manitoba finally had the right to vote in provincial elections.  Of course the right to vote wasn’t granted to all women and to be accurate, it wasn’t granted, but achieved after a long, hard-fought period of activism spearheaded by the Political Equality League.

In 1914, Nellie McClung was part of a delegation to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.  She made it clear that the delegation had come not to beg a favour but to obtain simple justice.

“Have we not the brains to think? Hands to work? Hearts to feel? And lives to live?” she demanded. “Do we not bear our part in citizenship? Do we not help build the Empire? Give us our due!”

The Conservative premier at the time, Sir Rodmond Roblin, advised that nice women weren’t interested in the vote and that if women had the right to vote, it would break up the home. He was defeated in the next election and women continued to mobilize and agitate until legislation was finally passed in 1916. Two years after the victory in Manitoba, the Federal government granted rights for some women to vote in 1918, and the right to vote continued to roll out through the rest of Canada up until 1960.  Despite gains starting in 1916, most racialized women including women of Asian or East Indian origin were prohibited from voting at the provincial and federal level until the late 1940s. Shamefully, it took until the federal election in 1960 for Aboriginal women to be able to exercise their right to vote when the government extended the franchise to all Aboriginal peoples.

As trade unionists, we know that political activism is vital to defend and strengthen working women’s rights, and that labour women are fundamental drivers of any equality agenda. ‎We must continue to be active agents of change in electoral politics.

Unifor is proud of the exemplary women activists who have been elected from our own union, including: Peggy Nash, former MP Parkdale-High Park in Ontario and Joy Langan, former MP Mission-Coquitlam, British Columbia; currently in government is Carol R. Hughes, MP in Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasin, Ontario; newly elected Tracey Ramsey, MP in Essex Windsor, Ontario and Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West in Alberta; along with Mable Elmore who is MLA in Vancouver-Kensington. We are currently working to elect our sister Niki Lundquist on February 11 as the new MPP in Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario.

On this January 28th, Unifor encourages women of the union to re.commit to being active in political campaigns: from the by-elections in British Columbia and Ontario, to the provincial elections in Manitoba and Saskatchewan this spring.  Remember - we must never take the right to vote for granted. 

Stay connected, subscribe to the Unifor Women’s list – email women@unifor.org.  For more info on the history of women’s suffrage in Canada please visit:  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/womens-suffrage/


Famous Five Monument—Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, honouring the the 5 women who challenged the Supreme Court of Canada

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History of Rights and Freedoms

By: Colin Carbno, Retired Member

How did an enslaved people, Britains, caught under feudal rule with a powerful nobility and limited freedoms become free?  One of the first significant events in this chain happened 800 years ago with the signing of the Magna Carta (1215).  In England at the time, the king was demanding and dragging the Barons (a low level of nobility) into all kinds of wars, and the Barons felt they had to limit the power of the King.  They banded to.gether, confronted King John in the early months of 1215 CE.  When the Barons first approached the king, they came with a thick document for discussion called "the articles of the Barons" that captured input from the Barons and the church leaders.  By June of that year they forced King John (with the threat of war) to sign the Magna Carta.  Looking back, many historians see in the Magna Carta the beginnings of many of the rights and freedoms that we now en.joy.  These include notions such as having rights; right of trial by jury; and the right to be fairly represent.ed; legal status of women; and the specification of due legal process. 

Now, the Magna Carta granted none of those things.  What the Magna Carta did specify was that it granted certain powers and rights to Barons and limited the powers of the King.  It also granted the church and local governments more independence from the King and the Barons.  Mayors of towns, for example, would now be established by local elections and not by appointment by the King, Church, or by the Barons.  There was also to be a council of Barons that would collectively decide major country matters, such as when and where the country would go to war, and that the Council held the ultimate legal power in the land.

The church and state of course were totally welded together at this time and church officials had almost all the legal and social powers in the land.  However, even the church was under the power of the King, and was growing tired of the King's meddling and his draining of its financial resources.  The church and Barons thus both wanted to get out from the under the King and were willing to grant each other favors in support in their fight against the King.

The Pope upon hearing about the signing of the Magna Carta was furious, and promptly annulled the charter and issued a note to the Archbishop of England to excommunicate a number of church leaders and Barons.  While the archbishop refused to carry out any of the excommunication orders of the Pope, the King happily reversed his decision on the Magna Carta.  Naturally, a war between the King and Barons soon broke out.  The King surprisingly quickly gained the up.per hand, and managed to defeat more than a third of the Barons, and appeared to be on the way to over.coming all the Barons, when he came down with a nasty case of dysentery and died.  With the King gone, in the ensuing confusion, the Barons quickly regained the upper hand and they forced the newly appointed King to again agree to yet another version of the Magna Carta.  This new version was greatly simplified, and more sweeping in scope.  Amongst notable things put in new Magna Carta were:

  • A feudal council of Barons was pro.posed and the power of this council specified (decision of war, etc.) 
  • Power of a widow to inherit their husbands estate without any taxes, complications, or any legal process.
  • Widows could not be forced to re.marry and would retain full rights as Baron holders. 
  • That all wills must provide reasonable portions to wife and children.
  • No free man can be taken, imprisoned, harmed, forced to arms, except by legal judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.
  • All persons shall be free to come and go in times of peace, except for outlaws and prisoners of the state.
  • Considerable limitations were placed on the power of sheriffs, bailiffs, and what we would now call the police.
  • Lands could not be seized for the payment of debts, and a process of debt resolution was established.

Despite the signing of the Magna Carta, the status of the Magna Carta itself remained somewhat in the air for several centuries after this be.cause of the annulment of the Pope. Fortunately, even before the Church of England broke away completely from the Roman Catholic Church in 1543 it had a certain level of independence.  For example the Church of England (formed 534 CE) had from somewhere around 700 CE been formulating its own versions of worship and freely allowing its priests to marry.  And as one can see from 1215 event, the Church of England was by this time independent enough to continue to ignore the Pope's demands for excommunications.  The result was that the Magna Carta remained in effect but that its status was not on really solid ground.

A full telling of the history of rights and freedoms would surely also have to cover events such as:

  • Peasants War (1524)
  • Reformation (1517-1750)
  • Enlightenment (1700-1789)
  • French Revolution (1789-1800)
  • Anabaptists and Baptist movement (1500-1700)
  • Labour movement (1800-2015)
  • Suffragette movement (1800-1940)
  • United Nations (1945-)
  • Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual/ movements (1940-)
  • Disability rights movement (1995-)

All played critical roles in the formation of ideas and process of freedom.  Let me touch briefly on a few.

In Medieval Europe citizenship and membership with the church were identical.  The Act of Cobbit (1653) in England was thus hugely power.ful, in that it separated church mem.bership and state citizenship, and it took the recording of births and deaths out of the church and made them entirely a civil rather than a re.ligious matter (it also did a similar thing for the act of marriage).  It might seem a small thing to us now but hundreds of thousands of people died horrible martyrs’ deaths during the Middle Ages fighting to obtain such a separation of religion and state.  The Baptists were particularly strong on fighting for freedom of religions and liberty of con.science, separation of religious bodies and state, and voluntary religious membership.

The act of the Bill of Rights and Freedoms in Britain in 1668 cement.ed all the following rights that had already been gained between the time of the Magna Carta and 1668.  It make it absolutely clear that:

  • Only parliament can make and annul laws, parliament must meet frequently (several times a year).
  • Religious courts are totally illegal and have no civil powers.
  • Granting of prerogatives by the crown was illegal.
  • King cannot accept legal petitions and make legal judgments.
  • Raising, training and keeping of an army except by act of parliament was illegal.
  • Bearing of arms for protestants was permitted under law (but not for Catholics).
  • Suspension of all unusual or cruel punishments.
  • Regulations around appointment of jurors, bails and fines.
  • All kinds of bribes (buying off) for legal proceeding were made illegal.
  • Free elections of members of parliament.
  • Parliamentary immunity and freedom of speech -- no speech in parliament can be subject of any court or legal proceedings.
  • Crown cannot grant a license to do what is illegal otherwise. (Sorry James Bond!).

The Enlightenment produced atheists such as Voltaire (1694-1778 CE) who admired the Baptists and said that they had a dangerous truth -- that all people are born equal.  The principal goals of Enlightenment thinkers were liberty, progress, reason, tolerance, and ending the abuses of the church and state.  Labour movements in (1800 CE-) fought for fair and safe work places, and for reasonable due process around labor disputes.  The Suffrgettes fought hard for women's right to vote, winning first in New Zealand (1893) and much later in Canada (1915).  In most of the civilized world during the 400 CE-1950 CE period same-sex sexual activity was a criminal offense punish.able by death.  It wasn't decriminalized until 1969 in Canada.  Same-sex unions only became fully allowed in Canada in 2005.  Disability rights didn't come into affect in most countries until the 1990s.

We need to be highly aware of slippery nature of rights and freedoms.  Corporations and governments are often negotiating conditions with impacts to our rights and freedoms to things like clean air, uncontaminated food, clean water, and fulfilling employment.  Corporations for the most part are still run as little kingdoms and employees are treated as serfs with little say.  The democratization of corporations may be the next great frontier for human freedom.  Isn't it kind of strange that the punishment of firing (or being laid off) can happen without any due legal process?  How can such a significant act not fall under due legal process, with independent judges and jury of independent working people?  If we feel some.times like the serfs of medieval ages, could it be perhaps we are still in some ways serfs?  Even our right of collective bargaining and the right to join and form unions is under constant threat.  Corporations such as Wal-Mart, in my opinion, abuse their economic power to evade unionization.  Are the new Barons of our time the multinational corporations that exploit our land and water, and is the King of everything Capitalism?  Capitalism has brought us many blessings but we should not give it the Divine Right of Corporations to rule as it wishes without due consideration of environment, society and employee input.  We still have a long ways to go towards full rights and freedom for everyone.  The United Nations is on many fronts leading the way in ideas even as nations drag their feet on implementation.  Involvement in your union is a start point in protecting and increasing your personal freedoms and rights.

Anyone that wants to give me feedback can do so by emailing carbino567@hotmail.com with the subject ‘Union Article’


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 The Operator Legacy

By: Pat Crossman - Chief Steward B

From the stupid to the sublime, that was a-day-in-the-life of an operator.  There were great swaths of tedious and mundane calls followed by moments of delight, surprise or stress.  We connected people near and far, happy and tragic calls alike. 

The best part of the job was always the comradeship we shared with our co-workers.  Operator Services was an isolated island of shift workers in a sea of “regular” office workers.  We had few opportunities to meet or mingle with others so we stuck together.  As with many customer facing and/or shifted workers, Operator Services was perceived as an undesirable job and pretty low on the corporate totem pole.

This was a work world where people could be denied bathroom breaks (inconvenient timing or too frequently requested), and disallowed deadheading (placing calls from the board).   Happily, most of us will have a hard time imagining an office where you can never take a call from home or your child’s school or make a personal appointment.  The office professional dress code was strictly enforced.  One woman whose skirt did not meet the standard was sent home without pay in order to change into more appropriate work attire.  Tardy people could lose pay if they were late as little as 3 minutes, 3 times in a single week.  Just like the letter carriers’ commitment to deliver, the operators’ work was performed regardless of snow, sleet, hail, bus schedules, traffic snarls or sick children and always on time.

Three a.m. on a full moon brought out folks who, depending on the news events, wanted to be connected to the Queen, the President or the Pope.  Interestingly I never had a single request for a Prime Minister or a Premier.  The requests were always made with quirky beverage fueled confidence.  The call initiator was convinced that the request was both possible and reasonable and further that their opinion was going to be welcomed by the recipients.  Much to my amazement there were public numbers for Buckingham Palace and the White House.  It must take an army of telephone receptionists with the patience of Job to handle the barrage.

Before the days of 911 and long before the landline address was automatically identified by the system, people in trouble called the operator and we jumped through hoops to assist.

On a dark and stormy winter night a young Ontario mom who had been newly transplanted to a farm en.countered an emergency.  She and the children had arrived at their new home and the dad was to follow lat.er.  The mom needed help and frighteningly she was unable to provide directions to the farm.  She did not know her land location, and she had no idea the closest neighbour or town to call, in order to reach an RCMP detachment.  The only piece of data that was always known to us about any inbound caller was the NXX (first 3 digits).  Unlike today, these 3 digits were unmovable and always associated to a particular town, village or city.  It took very little time to find the right RCMP detachment but finding a useful farm address was a bit more complicated.

During a Saskatoon flood of historic proportions the Chief Operator of Directory Assistance, Peggy Galvin, canoed to work in order to lend a hand. 

In a few extreme weather events the call load dictated that it was not possible to leave the office at shift end.  I can remember one snowstorm where we were hit with thigh high snow in just a few hours and vehicular traffic ground to a halt.  I walked home at 11 pm in a winter wonderland of silent falling snow.  Other than snowploughs the streets were empty, not even buses or taxis were running.  I was very lucky that my parents were able to walk to daycare and get my son because I could not.

When the Edmonton Tornado happened switchboards across Canada lit up like Christmas trees.  In Edmonton the damaged infra.structure and system overload made it impossible to reach family and friends and that obviously increased people’s fear and worry.  It was physically impossible to call loved ones in much of Alberta for many hours and some parts of Edmonton for days.  We practiced all our skill and sensitivity when attempting to complete calls because too often we had to share the unwelcome mes.sage that they must continue to try again later.  Even when we were re.assuring people that everything possible was being done, I’m sure it was cold comfort.

Emergency calls were typically only a very small part of the workload.  People called to find the current time in Paris or Toronto, the local weather and occasionally people called for their own amusement.  Think of the calls that you would expect between Bart Simpson and bartender Moe.  Kids called us with childish gems pretending to be asking for a “collect calls to Mr. Freely. Collect to Mr. I.P. Freely”.  Or my personal favourite.  Kid: “do you know Seymour?” Operator:  “Seymour who?”  Kid:  “Seymour Butts”.  Then you could hear three 10-year-old boys cracking up before they’d quickly disconnect.

An April Fools prank was orchestrated by CFQC radio DJ’s Wall and Den.  Their April Fools prank very nearly crippled the phone system for an hour.  This pair of characters told their enormous listening audience that SaskTel was “spring cleaning and needed to blow dust out of the line and that at precisely 10 AM everyone was to assist SaskTel by taking their phone hand.set and placing it in a plastic bag for 10 minutes”.  This action overloaded the circuits and caused re-orders, in.complete calls and general havoc. 

Incidentally overloading the circuits was also commonly caused by heavy Mother’s Day and Christmas Day cal.ing, popular radio concert ticket giveaways, and wild weather.  Now we live in an age of engineered reliability and redundancies and those troubles are by and large the stuff of the bad old days.

Can you imagine a time or a phone system that could not auto-identify callers and relied on the honesty of people to self-identify?  Operators were responsible for hotel billing, wake up calls, conference bridges, 3rd party billing, collect calls, Person to Person calls, message service, overseas calls, ship to shore, TTY (deaf telewriter services) and other calls that are now routine, fully automated or handled by an App.  Looking back it was a quaint world of personal interactions that completed a call.

It is almost impossible to believe that before mobile phones you could find yourself in a hotel where the switch.board was closed between midnight and 6 am and no chargeable calls could be placed.  How did we live so well and yet so unconnected?

Gone.  Gone.  Gone.  Operator Services became a SecurTek service effective November 2015.  The Operator Legacy Event was a chance for ex-operators to say goodbye to 100 years of Operator Services at SaskTel. On November 26th, 2015 at the Main Exchange in Saskatoon a tea was held for past and present operators to mix and reminisce. 

Official letters invited some operators, others learned about it on Facebook, and still others through The Source.  The Source noted it was a come and go tea from noon to six pm and registration was requested.  There was no agenda and most guests came and went throughout the 6 hours, unaware that they were missing the opportunity to hear the official program.  I was told that Ken Keesey’s speech was lovely, funny and touching. 

The lack of notice, no agenda, no guest book, only a post card for a meme.to and a tiny coffee room barely able to accommodate the regulars, let alone the addition of guests, summed up the effort put into this farewell event.  SaskTel has always done a classy job of celebrations, milestones and anniversaries but that skill was barely evident at this event.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            


Retirements

October  November  December
 Debby Marriot (20 years)  Ruth Pullman (34 years)  Raymong Boudreau (35 years)
 Gary Calcutta (32 Year)
John Bissett (36 years)
 Louise Mayer (20 years)  



With the formation of Unifor the new constitution makes provisions for retired workers within the Union. Below is an excerpt from the Unifor Constitution: (Article 12)

Local Union Chapters of Retired Workers

4. Twenty-five or more Retired Workers can apply to establish a Local Union Retired Workers Chapter by submitting its proposed By-Laws to the executive of the Local Union. When such an application is made the Local Union will review the proposed By-Laws and amend its own By-Laws to establish the retired worker chapter.

5. The Chapter shall hold regular meetings of its members.

6. The Chapter’s members shall elect a retired worker to be a representative of retired members on the Local Union Executive Board with voice and vote, using election procedures which conform to this constitution.

7. The Local Union President or designee shall be a member of the executive of the Local Union Retired Workers Chapter with voice and vote.

 For more information please contact the Local office at 306-586-7271 or email uniforlocal1s@uniforlocal1s.ca

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