This text is part of the special 75th anniversary of the FEESP
What do Amélie Benoit, Carmelina Santoro and Kevin McLean, Chair of the Women’s Committee, Chair of the Training and Union Life Committee and Chair of the Health-Safety-Environment Committee of the FEESP respectively, have in common? Looking at their professional and union histories, there are few things except one: it was a bit of coincidence that led them to their current position.
“It was a colleague who suggested I introduce myself,” says Amélie Benoit. Not because I knew the file well, but rather because I worked in the school environment, which is predominantly female. Carmelina Santoro had a different journey. “I’ve held several elective positions within my union at the Casino de Montréal,” she says. But one day I wanted a new challenge and I chose to become a union trainer. Then I joined the committee. As for Kevin Mc Lean, he took a different path: “I came to the STM as a subway engineer,” he explains, “and as an employee, I could observe certain health and safety deficiencies. It challenged me. and so I chose to participate.”
Among the current issues on the agenda of the Committee on the Status of Women is one related to the pandemic. “During the crisis, Amélie Benoit explains, many employees started telecommuting and because we know that women still do a large part of the household chores today, working from home is more complicated for them. Not to mention that the pandemic has contributed to the isolation of people. These two factors had an impact on the mental health of the workers. The committee is currently studying what will happen when these workers resume normal professional and social lives. †
Also in the crosshairs of the Committee on the Status of Women, the changes made by the law to modernize the health and safety system. “This new version of the law contains rules on matters that primarily concern women, such as psychological harassment. The committee has the task of ensuring that all trade unions affiliated to the FEESP are aware of these changes and that they have the tools necessary for the proper application of the new text. †
Kevin McLean couldn’t be clearer. “Health and safety at work is everyone’s concern, both employees and employers. And any new practice that could endanger the health and safety of workers must not only be denounced, but also corrected. †
He gives the example of locking tools. “On a construction site or in a workshop, all tools that are not in use should be locked with a padlock to prevent them from being activated accidentally. This is the case, for example, with petrol engines. On the other hand, and this is especially true in the transport sector, we are seeing more and more electric motors. If a petrol engine starts accidentally, you will hear it, but an electric motor will not, it is quiet. New rules must therefore be developed for the interlocking of electric motors and to ensure that they are consistent in all workplaces. This is one of our committee’s priorities. †
Training and union life
The Committee on Education and Trade Unions differs from the other two committees because its mission is specific. “He is responsible for developing all the training that the FEESP offers to the affiliated unions,” explains President Carmelina Santoro.
Some of these trainings are generic and focus on union responsibilities: how to perform your duties as a union official, how to handle grievances, how to negotiate a contract, and so on. Other courses are more specific. “We provide training in ergonomics for people who work with a screen. The committee is also responsible for setting up training at the request of the other two committees, or by a sector of activity, or even at the request of a particular trade union.