Steve Geick is the new president of the Yukon Employees’ Union.
The 53-year-old registered nurse has served as the union’s second vice-president for the past six years.
Ten of the 13 members are new to the executive. And five are under the age of 35, “which is a first,” said Geick. “It’s something that we’ve been trying for a long time.
“I think you will be something we definitely need, and that’s not just for new blood, but for new ideas.”
Geick, along with vice-president Loralee Kesler and secretary Becky Nash, will provide some institutional memory over the next, three-year term. “We need to have a little history come along with us,” he said.
The union represents 4,000 members. Most, who work within the Yukon government, will see their collective agreement expire in January, so bargaining preparations will start soon.
Geick lived in Dawson City until a year and a half ago. He helped start the first local there about five years ago. Several others have since sprung up, in Dawson, Watson Lake and Mayo, which Geick lauds.
“Communities need to have a direct voice,” he said.
Geick’s involvement in the labour movement began at age 16, when he joined the Teamsters as a truck driver in Sudbury. He became a registered nurse in 1992.
The YEU’s parent organization, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, has warned that the Conservative federal government has plans to raid Ottawa’s pension fund. That could affect workers in Yukon’s bureaucracy, as their retirement benefits are administered by the federal government, said Geick.
So far, the territory has managed to avoid much of the pain experienced elsewhere in Canada following the global credit crunch. “We seem to be in this bubble that protects us from everything,” said Geick. “But I don’t think that bubble is going to be there forever.”
For that reason, he hopes to see the union “united with other like-minded organizations.”
Newer Yukon government workers are prone to being bounced from one temporary assignment to the next, rather than receiving a permanent position. Geick isn’t sure what the solution is, “but it’s definitely one of the things we’re going to look at.”
Geick replaces Laurie Butterworth, who served as president for the past six years. Butterworth is now holed up in a small office, not much bigger than a broom closet, to help with the transition for the next two months.
Then he’s hitting the road. He’ll be retired, and he reckons he’s weathered enough Yukon winters to take one off with his wife, aboard their truck and trailer, to search for “short-pants weather.”
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