At a crossroads: union direction and a personal journey of activism

The Report: May / June 1999 vol.19 num.7


In contemplating what to write for my report as Director for Region 1, mythoughts cross many boundaries. There are many things I want to communicate to and aboutmy members, the people who work in our 41 HSA sites on Vancouver Island from Duncan north,the Sechelt Peninsula including Powell River, and the Squamish to Pemberton area.

Some of things at this crossroad are personal, and others are aboutwhere we as a union have been during the past year and of course, where we might beheading.

From an organizational standpoint one of the big crossroads for us inthe past year has definitely been bargaining, as nearly every single one of us in theregion has been affected. We have been part of each of the tables bargaining under theHEABC and the CSSEA collective agreements. In Region 1 we have been very well representedon the respective bargaining teams. At the paramedical professional table we had twobargaining team members and at the CSSEA community and social services table we haveseveral bargaining team members from many different certifications. The integrity andcommitment of your representation has been commendable.

From a personal perspective, standing at a crossroad in life has alwaysbeen filled with emotion, for the very meaning of arriving signifies tremendous change andchallenge. I remember very clearly one of the most symbolic crossroads in my life, January1989. It was at that time in my life when Kelly Finlayson the union activist was born. Thelife that I had grown accustomed to for 19 years was over for my husbands employmenthad suddenly been terminated. My income was now the primary source for a family of fiveand although I was somewhat familiar with my rights under my collective agreement, it wassomething I had always taken for granted. I asked a question at a union meeting andhavent looked back since.

As I learned what HSA as an organization stood for, the personalprogression and transformation occurred. In my 10 years as an activist I have neverencountered a more dedicated group of people. I believe we are all cut from the samecloth, from the elected members including stewards, to all staff members who tirelesslyserve you, the general membership. I am extremely proud to be part of this group.

The crossroad in my personal journey of union activism is that I neededto decide whether I could commit another two years of my life to the position of RegionalDirector. The members of Region 1 helped me make that decision.

Between December and March, I traversed parts of the region severaltimes, walked three picket lines (Nanaimo, John Howard Society, and Comox ValleyTransition Society) and attended two rallies. I attended 14 chapter meetings and answeredmany questions about job action policies, bargaining and our union constitution.

What impressed me over and over again as I spoke to members was thedepth of questions and the resolute manner in which information was digested.

My job as Regional Director is to formulate an opinion after listeningcarefully to members questions and represent your interests at the Board ofDirectors table as that is where decisions are made between conventions. All concerns haveequal merit whether they come from a member who works in the acute care sector of healthor the community and social service sector of health.

For the groups of members who have completed job action and bargainingand who now enjoy the benefits of a ratified collective agreement and for those of youstill struggling I challenge each and every one of you to remember your job action. Try toenvision the countless hours that went into the process to help you in your workingenvironment. Perhaps you too will arrive at a crossroad with a decision to make.

Kelly Finlayson represents Region 1 on HSAs Board ofDirectors.