SFL Summer School – Karen Carle

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

Women, Work and Ability Workshop 

June 9 – 13, 2013


I was extremely lucky to attend the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour’s “Prairie School for Union Women” in Waskesiu located in northern Saskatchewan.  There were approximately 160 Union Sisters registered and they came from across western Canada representing many different Unions.

I was registered in the Women, Work and Ability workshop and we had 11 participants and 2 awesome facilitators.  I chose this workshop to help me in my role of Union officer.

This course was designed to explore the myths, mistaken beliefs and assumptions regarding disabilities and to raise awareness of barriers women with disabilities have experienced over the years in the workplace.  We learned that the list of disabilities is extremely long and includes both visible disabilities and invisible disabilities.

We touched on many subjects including Duty to Accommodate & Return to Work, Harassment, Human Rights and our role as a Union in representing members.  We discussed the stigmas that are attached to persons with disabilities and the history on how its changed over the years but still exists to some extent.  One statistic that surprised me was that women with disabilities are less likely to work than men with disabilities.

A Duty to Accommodate is primarily an Employer obligation but both the Union and the accommodation seeker have a legal obligation as well.  The parties have the obligation to take measures short of undue hardship to remove barriers that prevent a worker with a disability from being able to work.  We discussed how sometimes our own members try to put up barriers because they don’t understand the need for an accommodation.

I was surprised to learn that out of the 13 women in the workshop that they all (including the facilitators) had a disability except myself.  They all had stories to share on the difficulties they have endured.  This added a tremendous amount to the workshop as we listened to their personal stories and hardships that they have had to face and how they overcame them or are still working on it.

We came away from the workshop with some excellent handouts, gained some tools on how to make the workplace accessible, disability friendly collective agreement language, issues and facts regarding disabilities and some arbitration cases that have been successful.

It was an excellent workshop, very informative and helpful!

Respectfully submitted by,

Karen Carle