Letter to the Editor

Fear and loathing in the Yukon civil service Editor’s note: Last week, we received this letter on the workers’ advocate firing from a…

Fear and loathing in the Yukon civil service

Editor’s note: Last week, we received this letter on the workers’ advocate firing from a civil servant.

The writer despises anonymous letters, and yet he felt strongly he must ask for anonymity.

The reasons for his request said much about the Yukon civil service, both its operation and its state of mind under the current government.

And so we’ve printed both.

I think anonymous correspondence is the realm of cowards — I have great disdain for it — so let me explain my yellow streak in this situation.

I bounced this off my wife — she said, “Are you walking the plank?”

I bounced this off one guy at work — he said, “These people are criminals and thugs with long memories.”

I bounced it off another guy at work who said, “You are sticking your head up — you risk having someone virtually stand over your shoulder for the rest of your YTG career watching for any slip up — everyone around you can be surfing Facebook all day — but as soon as you go there — BLAM! You are busted!”

You’ll notice that I kept that item 100 per cent politics free — in fact, I carefully scrubbed any politics out of it — but yet three bright people took a look at it and, though agreeing it was politics free, it rang political bells for them.

Think how dim people in cabinet will read it.

I live in a city I want to stay in and all of my non-YTG job options probably pay half the ludicrous salary that I get for the amount of work I actually do.

I have at least 10 years to go before I retire and I have a mortgage.

I work in an area where people are carefully selected for promotion and have bullshit jobs crafted for them and then the hiring process carefully managed to ensure they end up in those jobs (PSC may not think it works that way, but if PSC ever came out of their offices they might be very surprised).

The process could be easily reversed.

The primary criteria for promotions seem to be the number of DUIs you have (the more the better).

Since I’m not a drinker, my job is already precarious enough.

If I keep my head down and shut up they forget I’m there — I get paid every two weeks and everything is cool. But if I get lippy, I can see being out the door in under a year. Two if I have no pride.

I think, realistically, there SHOULD be, and probably is, little risk in me attaching my name to this. But I think there is a little risk and it affects others as well as myself.

Sorry. I know where you are coming from. I’d love to put my name behind this — I actually think I did a not-shabby job of writing it (you should have seen draft 1 — that would have got me fired tomorrow!)

I just think there is a risk, and I’m too cautious to take that risk at this point in my career/life.

 Thoughts on the

independence of the

workers’ advocate office

The recent termination of the workers’ advocate is obviously a difficult situation for all involved and it will doubtlessly be some time before it is resolved.

Putting aside the personalities and hot potato that the whole issue has quickly become, I think the situation illuminates a critical flaw in the structure of the office of the advocate.

The workers’ advocate provides assistance to Yukoners who are bringing forward workers’ compensation claims.

An individual approaching the workers’ advocate for assistance would expect that the workers’ advocate is providing independent guidance, in particular, independent from the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board and independent from the injured worker’s employer.

However, as the recent termination of the workers’ advocate has brought into sharp focus, the workers’ advocate’s office is by no measure independent of the Yukon government.

This is actually clear on the workers’ advocate’s website and in the Workers’ Compensation Act.

It’s clear — but the ramifications may not be clear.

Since the workers’ advocate is a Yukon government employee, the government has the right to monitor the advocate’s electronic and paper records.

There is no evidence before us that such access to the workers’ advocate’s files has taken place — but, we have not received any assurance that such access did not take place.

If I were an injured Yukon government employee who had a grievance arising from my injury and had correspondence with the workers’ advocate — I may have cause for concern.

I think it would serve to bolster the effectiveness of the workers’ advocate office if the government were to issue an assurance the advocate’s electronic and paper files are secured and remain confidential, until a new advocate is appointed.

Under the current organizational structure, any injured Yukon government employee approaching the workers’ advocate for assistance should exercise discretion in discussions with the advocate.

At this time, there appears to be a risk that your employer may be able to access your communications with the workers’ advocate.

Take this hypothetical case — an injured Yukon government employee is involved in a grievance that arises from circumstances surrounding their injury.

This employee feels slighted by a particular individual in the Public Service Commission, and in launching a WCB claim seeks assistance from the workers’ advocate.

Later, the workers’ advocate is terminated, a dispute arises over time worked and the advocate’s e-mail correspondence becomes critical in this dispute.

It is conceivable that the very same individual from the PSC who the employee had a personal issue with could be combing the advocate’s e-mail records seeking to validate or invalidate the advocate’s claims.

I really have no sense of how likely or unlikely this or similar circumstances are — the issue is that such a situation can be imagined and that alone draws the advocate’s independence into question.

Given these conditions, injured Yukon government employees do not have the same access to independent advocacy services that other injured workers may enjoy.

I would urge the government to devise policies to ensure that injured Yukon government employees have advocacy services on an equal footing with other injured workers in the territory by assuring all injured workers that their dealings with the workers’ advocate will remain confidential, regardless of disciplinary actions against the workers’ advocate.

In the longer term, I would suggest that the government consider creating a truly arm’s-length organization so that the workers’ advocate would have a similar degree of independence as that enjoyed by the Yukon workers’ compensation board.

The office of the ombudsman would provide a fine model.

If the workers’ advocate cannot carry out his or her duties independently and with an expectation of privacy, one must question the value of the office at all.

Name Withheld

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