“The government must take action to ensure that the basic rights of its employees are safeguarded, and that no one is penalized for trying to stop workplace harassment,” Sid Wonitowy, a member of SGEU’s Public Service Negotiating Committee, concludes.
Regina (26 May 2011) - Frontline government workers who are harassed on the job too often find themselves victimized a second time by an employer harassment policy that gives too much power to senior managers, according to the Saskachewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE).
“Many of our members find that the deck is stacked against them when they make the difficult decision to file a formal harassment complaint,” says Sid Wonitowy, a member of SGEU’s Public Service Negotiating Committee. “The harassment policy gives the government the power to investigate itself,” according to Wonitowy. "That runs counter to the principles of natural justice.”
SGEU has never agreed with the process laid out in the current harassment policy and refused to endorse it. The union has asked the government to establish a committee of union and management to create a harassment policy and a process for reviewing harassment complaints that is fair to employees and the employer.
“Every complaint that is deemed to meet the definition of harassment should be investigated and the investigation must be carried out by a third party,” says Wonitowy.
“Everyone has the right to a fair, impartial hearing and that means an independent investigation and a final decision rendered by an unbiased party. But, unfortunately for harassment victims, that is not the way many harassment cases are being handled by the government,” adds Wonitowy.
Currently, deputy ministers have the power to refuse to investigate a complaint or can choose to have someone from within the ministry carry out an investigation.
“We have repeatedly expressed our concerns to government officials but they refuse to take the rights of harassment victims seriously,” he adds. “Workplace harassment is so insidious because its victims are often powerless against managers who have so much control over their lives and their future economic security. That is why we, as a society, have acknowledged the need for fair, unbiased policies and processes to ensure that justice is done and that workers are not re-victimized when they stand up for their right to a respectful and harassment-free work environment,” according to Wonitowy.
“The government must take action to ensure that the basic rights of its employees are safeguarded, and that no one is penalized for trying to stop workplace harassment,” he concludes.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE