Written by President Barb Cape
Workplace safety has always been paramount within SEIU-West, regardless of whether you work in education, municipalities, retirement homes, community based organizations or health care. Coming home from work safe is one of the things that drives the work and the campaigns that we do as a union. But what if going home isn’t safe? What if the dangerous conditions aren’t at work,
but are present at home?
Domestic violence IS a union issue…because it doesn’t just stay at home. It follows you mentally, emotionally, physically, and everywhere. It’s not only the pain, exhaustion, or fear, but the abuser can also stalk, intimidate, and threaten the safety of the workplace. An abuser’s presence is a part of the personal and working life of our members who are experiencing domestic violence.
Let’s not kid ourselves, there is stigma attached to domestic violence. And that is simply wrong; we don’t know what others are experiencing or what their world is like, and we know domestic violence rates are high in Saskatchewan. So when we suspect domestic violence, our job as union members should be to support our co-worker; provide a safe person to talk to; and assist in finding help or resources. Our questions shouldn’t be ‘why didn’t they leave?' it should be ‘what can I do to help?’
Domestic violence has gained more awareness in recent years because we need to talk about this issue; there is no hiding from it. It is wrong, unacceptable, and we need to work together to put an end to it. Abusers rely on silence and stigma in order to keep control and continue their behavior; as a union, it is our duty to support our members at work, at home and in the community.
To that end, we provide a two-day Domestic Violence Workshop to ensure our members in the workplace have the knowledge and skills to be an ally and support to survivors; our Young Worker Committee has lobbied the provincial government to provide paid leave for survivors of Domestic Violence; and we have a suggested protocol for what happens when this is disclosed to the employer, including the development of a safety plan for the member, providing professional resources, and tools for the member to take control of the situation.
If you are looking for help or resources, please call the Member Resource Center Centre (MRC) 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298 who will work to assist. Remember, we’re not only stronger together, but safer as well.