WORKING THROUGH BILL168-My Story Cont’d
“Thank you for treating me like a human being.”
A few days later, I was notified of my grievance meeting. It was scheduled for the next day. In the morning before the meeting, I watched the Chief Stewart join management for a smoke. It was not unusual for them to smoke and chat however, fellow union members grumbled about this practise; that it looked bad. In the past it didn’t bother me. But, this day, I felt something tighten in my stomach. They put out their cigarettes and I watched the Chief Stewart walk across the parking lot to my office. I followed her back to the Board and tried to settle into the black leather high-back chair. I immediately noticed the Executive Director and the Union Representative for head office was missing. I wondered what that was all about. The management team included the new Human Resource Manager and the Business Director, the Chief Stewart and myself. Within a few moments, their agenda became very clear.
I was surprised when the Chief Stewart began talking. She thanked everyone for coming then, she expressed some “confusion” about the meeting. The point in question was the grievance or “was it a grievance or a conflict resolution” . There were giggles from across the table. As people started talking, it seemed none of them were clear about the issues of the meeting. Management said the matter was cleared up with the report of the Independent Investigator and the union said the issues should have come to the union immediately to determine the course of action. At this stage, the union was not sure they could proceed. I could feel my frustration as I tried to advocate for myself. I reminded the Chief Stewart neither she, nor the union representative was available for consultation at my time of need. I did not tink there was anything funny about being bullied and harassed in the workplace. I just failed to find the humor in this matter and I was not going to ignore what was happening to me. The outcome of the meeting was an agreement by both sides to get more information and direction from their higher management. As people dispersed, I realized I was not going to get any support from either side. I went back to my office and tried the Ministry of Labour again.
The womans voice on the other end of the phone sounded very sympathetic and understanding. She believed I had the right to disclosure of the report and she said she was sending my case file to the London office where I would be assigned a Labour Board official. She gave me a file number and said I would hear from them in a few days. If I didn’t, she instructed me to call the Ministry of Labour office in York Region and she gave me the phone number.
While I was waiting for the call back from the Ministry of Labour, checked out Charity Village, the website for jobs in non-profit agencies. I was disappointed and knew I needed to find another job. Unfortunately, the only jobs in the area were with the same shelter. I continued to seek support. I called Schepell Employee Assistance Program. I explained my situation and I was told their Consultant would call me back. Within a few hours, I received the call from Schepell. After explaining the situation, I was told there was nothing they could do. Surprised, I asked why? The Consultant explained that Schepell was contracted by my employer, therefore it would be a conflict of interest for them to advise me of any action against my employer. I tried to explain that I would be willing to work collaboratively with my employer to address the issue and ensure it would not happen to other employees. The answer was “No, but thank you for calling Schepell”…
A few days later I called the Ministry of Labour. The woman said my case was assigned and she would have the officer call me back. A few hours later the officer was on the phone. He explained there was a mistake. The person I filed the claim with was new and misunderstood the Ministry guidelines. The only thing his office could do, was to drop in and make sure the agency has posted a policy about Bullying and Harassment in compliance with Bill 168. If there was no policy posted he could cite the agency but, it’s just a warning and they would be given time to post the policy. Sometimes it can do more harm than good because he would have to disclose the name of the employee who called. Wow! So you drive around and check to see if there is a plaque on the wall? I asked him how he scored a job like that. He laughed, thanked me for calling and wished me “good luck” before he said goodbye and hung up.
The last client that I saw while still employed by the shelter in the capacity of Housing Worker, was a man who had been labeled as the hardest to serve. He had multiple addictions, mental heath and high anxiety. Staff speculated that he had burned bridges with most of the social service agency’s in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). He was loud and abrasive but he would straight up tell you what was on his mind, honest to a fault, I valued and enjoyed these traits. I drove this client to view several rooms that were for rent. He asked me to turn up the music and we sang rock and roll songs as we cruised from place to place. He seemed immune to potential Landlords that frowned at his unkempt appearance and the holes in his shoes, until he was turned down at the last appointment on our list. The landlady was a tall thin blonde holding a cigarette with a long ash. She seemed to scowl as we walked up to the porch. “If you are here for the room, it’s rented!” she said. Her voice had a thick accent that I couldn’t place. When we got back into the car, the client said he didn’t feel like singing. I turned the radio down as Stairway to Heaven played softly in the background as we drove back to the shelter. I saw a tear roll down his cheek. I had no words of comfort to give. I parked my car said that I was sorry. He wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. He told me I didn’t have anything to be sorry for then he said ” I hate when people lie to my face and think I don’t know it. Treat ya like garbage…trash!” he said. I nodded. He opened the door of the car then, turned to me and said “Thank you for treating me like a human being”…TO BE CONTINUED