Monday, December 7, 2015

Treatment of Staff, 2nd Draft, New Worker-Owner Director

This is interesting. The newly-elected WSM Worker-Owner Director (Charles Traitor) and I disagree over the proposed new wording to the clause in Board Policy 'Treatment of Staff' which deals with employee participation in decision-making. Nicely disagree. But reasonably significantly disagree.

Here is our exchange on the internal WSM social media platform (Slack - General Section - Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6). I had to use my department manager's computer. Which will cause some giggles among the WSM corporate office management team. Even though I followed protocol by announcing that it was me doing the posting.

If any of this moves you, you still have today (but only today) to submit comments to the WSM HR Manager. Contact details will be on the document which was put in your WSM mailbox a week ago. Now, the opinions of Charles and me ...

[Charles] "Greetings, friends,

As ever, I hope these few words find you in good spirits.

As representative-elect I want to offer my perspective on the second draft of proposed changes to the Employee Policy Handbook and the Board Policy.

The new draft is a good response to our concerns. Thank you to everybody who spoke -- whether it is a conversation with a coworker or a call to HR, each sharing helps to build consensus. Thank you, Deborah, for the work of compiling and presenting both the employee’s perspective and the Board’s action.

Regarding “Section 1: Policy Handbook”: I consider the articles non-controversial. These changes amount to good faith efforts at compliance and consistency.

Regarding “Section 2: Board Policy”: Most of our objections to the proposed changes were addressed.

A. The Board restored its role as the court of last resort in the grievance process.

B. The Board removed the language regarding at-will employment. The removal of the language does not alter the fact that we are an at-will employer, but it does open up the space for a stronger appeal to the policies which safeguard our rights.

C. The Board restored transparency to the process of decision-making.

D. The Board restored the language regarding an employee’s right to ethical dissent. I approve of all of these revisions.

Also, I am not concerned about the removal of “participation” from the section governing treatment of staff. The new language makes more specific and measurable demands on the general manager, and I believe that it gives us a clearer standard on which to base grievances.

That said, it is imperative that we set in stone the concept of employee participation. I believe that the place for that language is in the Ends chart.

Under “Shared Economics,” along with pay/benefits, worker dividend and advancement, we must add ‘participation.’ If you agree, please contact Deborah and urge the addition of this term. I will push for it, but my voice is much stronger together with yours.

Under “Shared Knowledge” the only suggestion of employee participation concerns the “Co- op Plan” event. This is not sufficient. I understand “shared knowledge” to mean the full range of talents and abilities that each one of us brings to our workplace. We need language that affirms our participation in the workplace and the free exercise of our unique perspectives and abilities. Again, if you agree, please contact Deborah and let her know your good thoughts.

Please let me know if you have any other concerns!

*Once again, I apologize for the lack of a translation into Spanish and Karen. Hopefully we will start to set up a system for translation in January/February 2016."

[Geoff] "Thank you Charles, for your comments on the 2nd Draft of the Proposed Changes to ‘Treatment of Staff,' and for your efforts.

I agree with all you say, save for your suggestion that exclusion of ‘participation’ from ‘Treatment of Staff’ might be harmless.

When the review of this section was begun, we were clearly told the purpose of the rewording of this section was clarification alone.

I would suggest the test is whether proposed wording does, indeed, only clarify, or if, in fact, proposed wording dilutes the impact.

My contention is that the proposed wording, which you appear to support, does quite clearly reduce the impact of the section, not least because of the removal of ‘participation.’

The existing wording is convoluted. Too many negatives. But the impact is, in my opinion, still clear: all paid staff are to be allowed the opportunity to participate in decisions and also to shape the guidelines for decisions [with no distinction made between policy, governance or operational decisions].

With respect, that stands in stark contrast to the proposed wording, which offers only that we be consulted, at a time when it suits management, and in the manner of their choosing.

I would prefer that, at the Board Meeting this coming Wednesday, December 9, you might support language along the lines of the following:

"(The GM must not:)

Be unresponsive to employee needs or operate without a transparent system for communicating information to paid staff and for allowing paid staff the opportunity to participate in decisions and shape guidelines for decisions."

I believe this clarifies this section, without diluting its impact.

Now, if you wish to see the word ‘participate’ included elsewhere – as well – you have my full support, provided it also appears in the above section.

If others want to have a further discussion about perhaps diluting this section in the future, that is another discussion, for another time. But again, the stated purpose of this exercise was clarification, not dilution.

Furthermore, if folks think this wording is so sweeping as to be almost impossible to implement, with respect, I would disagree.

A consultation exercise was held in 2007, to more narrowly define the decisions to be covered. The resulting document can be found on

I have for three years now been advocating for the follow-up consultation exercise. Namely, the one where all paid staff further shape the guidelines for decisions by designing the systems and processes that would allow for fully inclusive decision-making at department, unit and co-op level.

Perhaps, you could now encourage the Board to persuade the General Manager to hold that further consultation exercise in 2016?

Many thanks once again. I will be attending the Board Meeting on Wednesday. For the sake of clarity, these are my personal opinions. And this document was created off-the-clock."