Mel Myers Labour Conference March 17-18, 2019

Report submitted by David Najduch

The Conference is in its 16th year and brings together lawyers, presenters and union members from across a wide spectrum. The two-day session is an excellent opportunity to here about the latest trends related to the labour movement as they are being decided in the courts, arbitration panels and the legislatures across the province and beyond. It is also one of the rare opportunities to network with a broad range on “union” representatives who work on the front lines every day.

I attended 4 workshop and 4 plenary sessions. The following reflect a few of the highlights from the conference.

Interactive Session: Investigative Meetings

This seminar is built around a number of scenarios in which a “union member” is being asked to a meeting with “management” and a “union representative” selected from the audience. Each scenario has a different curve provided either by the “member”, “management” or sometimes both. The audience participant works through the issues as they arise. The scenarios are then debriefed by the lawyers involved and the audience members. This format was adopted a number of years ago and provides a hands on method of talking about the role of the union rep when confronted with these types of concerns. As in previous years, this was a great learning opportunity.

What I Do on My Own Time Is None of My Employer’s Business…Right

This session was particularly important for those who work in the educational field because we are held to a higher standard than individuals employed in most other areas. The panel reviewed a series of cases which have helped establish what is and is not acceptable conduct. Without getting into the details, the take away from this session is be very careful about what you post and do on your own time because it may impact your employment status.

Plenary Sessions:

“Understanding and Tolerance in Our Changing Workplace” was presented by the co-founder of Islamic Social Services. She provided a very informative and interesting picture of issues facing Muslims within the work force. Ms. Sideki discussed the role of unions in helping their Muslim members address concerns in a caring and sensitive manner.

A second keynote consisted of a panel that discussed “Union Engagement of Indigenous Peoples”. Many of the same topics addressed by Ms Sideki in her keynote were discussed but from an Aboriginal perspective. Themes such as racism, religious tolerance, and gender roles came through as items unions need to be sensitive to and be able to address both within there own structures and the work environment.

Top 12 Cases of the Year is done as a rap-up at each conference. Twelve cases are provided from the last year and discussed within the context of labour management relations. Each case in its own way helps either support a labour position or in a number of the cases discussed not support the position of labour in a particular area.

The workshop provides a binder full of materials which makes for interesting reading and reflection after the sessions are over. I have attended this conference repeatedly and find it strikes the right balance between providing the basis’ for those entering the fielding of union work along with relevant information for those more experienced union representatives.

I would like to thank the WTA Executive for supporting my request for funding to attend this conference.