Issues with the ASMP process and application

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Is it time for us to be allowed to share our Opinions?

We have just passed the 10 month mark since the implementation of ASMP across the whole OPS.  I would hope that the employer would engage (as in employee engagement) the employees of all groups in a survey to get feedback on how this Program is impacting them and whether or not it is working.  As all levels of management like to remind us, they care, but they cannot fix something unless they know there is a problem.

So for everyone of a management level on up in the OPS, I am here to tell you that there are several problems.  And, as indicated above, I hope that you will not just take my word for it, but allow all OPS employees the opportunity to speak freely and honestly about issues that they personally have encountered or are assisting others with.  I hope that the form of the survey is not one of the ones we usually get from the employer where questions are slanted to direct answers to support a specific point of view or avoid real concerns (the WDHP survey of last year was one such survey), but I hope that it is a survey to get real data, read real issues and provide meaningful feedback for those who would feel comfortable doing so.

This program has had real problems in its application, its training (as promised in the documentation) and in its achieving its stated goal of being supportive.  For these reasons the employer needs to hear from individuals about how it is not applied “consistently”, nor is it applied “fairly” and it sure does not come across as anything but an employer attempt at intimidation and control.  And yes that has been shared with me . . . a lot.

All individuals who are subject to this program should speak out about how they feel it is functioning (or not), achieving its stated goals/objectives (or not) and certainly share any thoughts as to how it may be improved should it be shown necessary to keep it.

What is happening in regard to my experience with ASMP?

As for my personal experience in helping others in regard to this program, I have seen no evidence of what it has promised or is expected to accomplish.  What I have seen are a few isolated incidents where individuals with a level of responsibility have made an effort to address the issues of the program (thank you very much as your help is appreciated) with a majority of situations where strict adherence to the program is apparently taking place, but those tasked with administering it or supporting it are not adhering to the policy or the program at all.  This has caused great concern and hardship for employees I have been assisting with matters related to ASMP.

Fact – at least nine individuals that I am directly aware of have been asked to participate in multiple level meetings.  In almost all of the cases the individuals had apparently passed the threshold for level 1 at least two months before the employer indicated that they were to meet for a combined level 1 and level 2 meeting.

Fact – Eight of those nine individuals were not aware of any part of the documentation of this program or the related policy.

Fact – combining meetings, even though allowed under the program, does deny employees the right to use the voluntary option at the lower of the two levels the meeting is for, which the program clearly spells out it is the individual’s right to do.

Fact – in five of the instances where I was involved providing support and assistance, it was determined that the individuals were indeed eligible for preclusion or bundling of absences that would have wiped out the need for a meeting for at least the lower level.  But again, without any real understanding of the program and policy, the individuals were not aware of those options nor were they supported by the employer in getting an understanding of how those approaches to handling could help.

Fact – In four of those five cases, those tasked with dealing with absence issues or supporting management in dealing with them were inaccurate in what they presented to employees and had to be corrected on even the most basic matters of the program and policy by me with references to the documentation.

Fact – The employer has distributed through the OPS e-mail system at least fourteen messages with references to the ASMP.  In at least half of those messages the item which was referred to was not readily “visible” without the need to scroll through the e-mail.  This fact made it difficult – if not impossible for employees, who are doing their best to keep up with workloads that generally increase within the declining workforce, to actually know that those messages existed.  Without direct management intervention in the form of stating that they will be allowed on work time to review the material, there was even less likelihood that they were read.

Fact – the employer has stated that the employees could take the online course ASMP for managers.  OPS employees were indeed told that they could go to the learning site to take the online ASMP course.  However, no effort was made to move the link to that training from the “management only” section of the learning site to avoid confusion nor was the note below it that stated “for management only” removed.  This caused many individuals to not review the training, as the site indicated that they could not.  Before anyone from the employer side tries to make excuses for how people “should have known” they could take it anyway, I will say this – the employer “should have known” before directing anyone there, that this could have been a problem and taken the simple steps of relocating the link to the “All OPS Members” section and remove the statement that it was for management only as well.  Very simple, yet effective changes, that the employer did not make.  Nor have they as of this point in time.

Fact – all units have no doubt by now had an “information session” on the ASMP.  Information sessions are not training.  Period.

Fact – OPS wide training is mentioned at least twice in the ASMP documentation and it has yet to materialize.

Fact – there are currently twelve courses listed on the OPS learning site as “Mandatory for all OPS Employees” and ASMP is not one of them.  Why?  Give the list to any employee and ask them to rank ASMP against the other twelve listed as to order of importance and see what the result is.  I am sure it will not surprise anyone if it ended up very high on the list.

Fact – key ASMP documents talk about preclusion of absences based on “disability”, yet in the definitions section of those same documents they do not provide a definition of that term.

Attendance Support? Management Program

I view those “facts” as evidence of what is probably a much larger problem across the OPS than just issues within the local I am accountable for.  A local with members in TBS, MCGS, MAG and MOHLTC, plus a few stragglers in other ministries as well.  So what I see from all of this and so much more based on my personal experience and understanding of the documentation, is that the reality of the “Support” implied in the name of the program is certainly not readily available.

Take for instance a situation where the employer through a manager knows of a person with a specific issue that qualifies under their published documentation as a “disability”.  You would think that in a supportive and fair workplace the individual would be advised, or if it is assumed that they were “trained”, they would be reminded that they can benefit from absences they have that qualify for consideration.

From the ASMP Guide

“Each time an employee triggers into a new level, he/she will have a meeting with his/her manager and/or employer representative(s). The purpose of the meeting is to advise the employee that his/her non-culpable absenteeism is a concern and to offer support. It is a proactive step in helping employees overcome difficulties with maintaining regular attendance at work.”

ASMP Guide Pg. 3

I am sorry, but if you want to be “proactive” as indicated above, let the individual know this information or confirm that they know and understand it – before they enter any level.  That would be “supportive”.  That would be “fair”.  This is not an isolated incident.  There are numerous situations that exist where people are not being given the information that they are entitled to and deserve and that the non-existent ASMP stated training should provide.

Ask just about any manager or Disability Accommodation Specialist (a DAS) what the “required” medical note should state in regard to identifying a disability and you will not get a straight answer.  This is so wrong.  Why? Because they know what they evaluate your note you submit against to make a determination of whether or not it is acceptable.  You are entitled to know that as well, so that you can be successful in “removing any barriers” to either support or accommodation for you based on the fact that you have a disability.

In a case that went to the Supreme Court of Canada regarding medical information being requested or evaluated by the employer, Justice Shore wrote in part:

“. . . If the employer is dissatisfied with these other options, including and in particular a medical certificate tendered by the employee, it has the duty to clearly explain to the employee or state the reasons why the information is insufficient.  Again, this respects the employee’s rights to privacy and allows him or her to assess the employer’s objections and produce other information if needed.”

I can tell you now, that from experience that the standard answer from the employer is “It does tell me about your restrictions and limitations”.  That is not sufficient in my mind based on what Justice Shore has written above.

I am not sure if the employer has been dealing with these issues of information sharing, document creation or the lack of sharing key information in an arbitrary manner, or if they have done so in a deliberate way.  But regardless of what point of view you have, would you personally rather know of Preclusion and Bundling before hearing about how to handle those absences to which they may not apply as you go through the documentation?  Would you really like to know what the employer considers a definition of “disability” with regard to the ASMP rather than that of “absence” or “manager” which are included in the Attendance Management Policy?  Wouldn’t you like to know that support for your situation is available in that any information that the manager may have of you and your medical issues, as to how it is related to this policy, would be freely shared and not kept from you?

Wouldn’t you like to see the employer provide a template letter for you to use when seeing your doctor for disclosure of your medical situation within the purview of this policy while respecting your right to privacy?  As mentioned earlier, they must have criteria for evaluating all submitted documents so there should be no problem for them to provide one.

Ask for the support and assistance you need and feel that there is a good reason that you are entitled to it.  Put it in writing and then work with a bargaining agent to determine if the response provided may indicate that you are being disadvantaged should the decision not be one that respects you, your dignity, your privacy and your rights under all legislation.

Again, as for those in roles of responsibility that already do their best and put employees first – I thank you.

I have covered a fair bit here and I hope that my “opinions” shared are taken as being constructive and, as intended, meant to bring about positive change.  Anyone who knows me can attest that what I really strive for is a better workplace for all OPS members.

One last comment on the idea that the employer has that they have met the requirement of training through information sharing as they have.  From an employer produced document I saw recently from the Privacy Office on how they can improve.  It said in regard to information and applying it:

“We don’t know – what we don’t know”

And that was explained as, unless the proper and most effective channel of information sharing is used, you cannot know what that which you are supposed to know if you don’t know what it is that you are supposed to know.  The employer has said it and I agree.

 

Frank Wendling

President, OPSEU Local 468

2 comments

  • Well stated and an important read for all OPSEU members.

  • Excellent article and a must read for all OPS employee’s, including management! This article brings back many memories of my time with the OPS going back at least 10 years ago where the same issues were discussed at the table with the employer – specifically the terms “punitive” and “disciplinary action” which we requested they remove from the program document – the employer denied that was the “intent of the program”, so they changed the name of the program to include “support” in the title but left the wording the same. That changed nothing in the content! They have apparently enhanced the “disciplinary action” and while demanding more from employees, “do more with less…a lot less”, they have created a poison work environment. Sorry folks, but I am so glad I no longer work for the OPS! But I am also very proud to be an OPSEU member! I would have had a heart attack for sure! The employer has set it up for complete failure by stating they have provided training but do not allow you to take the training! What’s with that??? If the employer truly wanted this program to actually work in a “supportive manner” there would be time provisions made for each and every employee during their hours of work. Employer “harassment” (yes, that is what I would call it) is forcing employees to come to work sick as well as making your illness worse with stress! I would advise all OPSEU members to be fully aware of their entitlement to union representation at any meetings with the employer – you’re going to need it! You have to fight this punitive program!

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