Toronto Environment and Climate Change Branch - Annual General Meeting - Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Time: 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Location:  Virtual


  1. Introductions
  2. Review of Previous Minutes (Attached. Note that the previous AGM occurred in 2019) 
  3. Treasurer's Report
  4. Branch President's Report (update on Branch activities, the future of Downsview, return to the work site, Labour-Management Consultation at ECCC, and more)
  5. Election
    1. Treasurer
    2. Member-at-Large (Six positions, with Vice President and Secretary being selected at the first meeting of the Executive) 
  6. New Business
  7. Door prizes
    1. Five Gift Certificates 
  8. 1:00 p.m. Adjournment


  1. Introductions

President, Bill Sukloff (Bill) opened the meeting, welcoming all attendees. He stated that we have 534 members and gave a breakdown of various groups represented. He then acknowledged the presence of Nairra Tariq (PIPSC Employment Relations Officer assigned to ECCC and IAAC offices in the Ontario Region), Anna Deptuch-Staph (President, Toronto ECCC SP Subgroup) and Xiaolan Wang (President, Downsview RE Subgroup) and welcomed new members and first-time attendees.

  1. The agenda was reviewed. Bill introduced the Branch executive members and stewards. The agenda and previous minutes from the last AGM in 2019 (which had been circulated), were approved.
  1. Treasurer, Amir Shabbar (Amir), presented a financial report. Amir noted that because of a lack of ways to spend the 2021 allocation of funds, the branch will receive less funding for 2022.  Jeffrey Karn (Jeffrey) asked what happens to the money that is not allotted if the branch receives less, noting that we paid into the fund through our dues. Amir replied that our dues will likely not decrease. Bill added that all union groups are experiencing this, and that PIPSC has a large surplus. A dues holiday is possible but that would require making changes in the Phoenix pay system which most do not want to do. Amir stated that there was a dues holiday in the past. Bill said that the executive would look into it and include any updates in the next information bulletin.

Bill asked for a motion to approve the Treasurer’s Report. Paul Makar put forward the motion, seconded by Diane Pendlebury with nobody opposed.

Branch President's Report (Bill Sukloff)

  • Bill noted that while he still sees some members virtually every day, he has not seen many since the start of the pandemic. The lack of interaction and networking can impact our mental health, causing feelings of isolation. Social gatherings can help to alleviate this. He suggested that the Branch could have a lunch get-together with specific topics for discussion, or games, and that a partnership with the Government of Canada Charitable Work Place team in Downsview for joint events was being considered. Bill asked that members with suggestions or an interest in helping to organize events contact him.
  • The requirement for Public Service Employees to be vaccinated is top-of-mind.
    • whether you are teleworking, working remotely or working on-site at a federal government facility. 
    • PIPSC has posted the following statement on it’s web site:

As the union representing the scientists who approved the COVID vaccines, PIPSC welcomes all efforts to increase vaccination coverage in Canada. PIPSC supports vaccination for federal employees – with necessary exceptions. 

  • ~ 3% of members in the Branch have contacted stewards in Downsview about vaccination requirement
  • PIPSC has a team of Employment Relations Officers ready to help members if their request for accommodation is denied. Nairra Tariq added that members can request an accommodation based on a disability, religious or medical reason, and can file a grievance if their request is denied. 
  • Bill stated that there is a FAQ about vaccines on the PIPSC web site, that good consultation with the employer did not happen, but that concerned members can contact Nairra Tariq (PIPSC Employment Relations Officer).
  • Stewards in Downsview have been helping members navigate the process. 
  • However, questions regarding the appropriateness of the government policy, or PIPSC’s statement, should be directed to the President of PIPSC.
  • Bill added that now more than ever, we must treat our colleagues with kindness and empathy. There’s a process for supervisors and staff to work through. We must allow them their privacy. No need to challenge people, or gossip about who and who may not be vaccinated.  Unions have fought hard for a respectful workplace. Let’s keep this top of mind.   
  • Returning to the work site will occur in the following four phases:
    • Phase 0: Business Continuity Management Planning (BCMP) activities (i.e., critical services), staff in the storm prediction centres across the department, and some employees working in laboratories and the field. 
    • Phase 1: Staff who cannot perform their work remotely, and whose health can be adequately protected, starting with high priority functions. 
    • Phase 2: Those who perform functions where onsite presence is of benefit, and the employee is able and willing, or employees who are able and it is their preference. 
    • Phase 3: All other employees. When effective vaccines are developed, and Public Health confirms sufficient vaccination. 
    • Currently in phase 1. 
    • Branch Executive will keep members updated on issues in Downsview.
    • Executive needs to hear from members about concerns or suggestions. Concerns may be shared with Waheed Khan, President, PIPSC National Consultation Team for ECCC, so he can raise them at the departmental consultation forums.
  • Few new problems with the Phoenix pay system.
    • Some members have outstanding issues from years ago. 
    • ECCC has a Pay Team who can correct many Phoenix issues, except those involving T4 slips. Those who have delayed following up with the Pay Centre on an old issue should try again. As soon as you receive a phoenix ticket number, forward the information to the ECCC Pay Team to see if they can correct the problems. Contact a steward if you have questions about this process.
  • Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) plans a cabinet submission on future scenarios for the Downsview buildings, which may include selling the land and moving us, or refurbishing the building. The future of work will include hoteling, where you book a cubical each time you come to the office. Most will not have permanent offices. With the prevalence of telework going forward, this isn’t as much of a concern as it was before the pandemic, but there is concern that they may not outfit Downsview to allow concurrent work with teleworkers and employees in the building.
  • As a result of the pandemic, the Government of Canada is looking at all aspects of the future of work in the public service, including staffing. We may see a time where the area of selection will be Canada-wide by default for jobs that don’t require a physical presence at a work site.
  • The long-delayed asbestos abatement project is underway. All ceiling tiles in the main building will be replaced, even though some of them are not the original tiles that contained asbestos. 
  • The retirement workshop held on June 28, 2021, was a great success. For members who missed it, a second workshop is planned before the end of the fiscal year. 
  • Bill reminded members to use the two personal leave days before the end of the FY and suggested to use these days first when taking vacation leave at the beginning of a fiscal year, so it’s one less thing to remember.
  • Each member should have received a ballot for the PIPSC election of members of the Board of Directors, including the President of PIPSC. Debi Daviau chose not to run again, so it’s an important decision. Bill stated that he was happy to answer questions one on one if members want more info about the candidates. 
  • In closing, Bill thanked the Executive of the Toronto Environment and Climate Change Branch, and PIPSC Stewards in Downsview and the IAAC, for their hard work and support over the past two years. He summarized their work together producing information bulletins, Lunch and Learn presentations, supporting members as stewards, and representing members at regional and departmental LMCC’s. He expressed his pleasure at working with such a dedicated and enthusiastic group of people. He added that Dawn McDonald and Harry Keess have decided not to run again and acknowledged their substantial contribution to the team. 
  • Bill then opened the floor to any Executive member who would like to say a few words and announced that he and some of the stewards and Executive would stay online after the meeting officially ends to answer questions.
  • Anna Deptuch-Staph (President, Toronto ECCC SP Subgroup) thanked Bill for supporting her Subgroup and announced that an AGM will be held later this year. 
  1. Election: Run by Jeffrey Karn (Jeffrey)
    1. Treasurer
  • Amir Shabbar announced his willingness to stay on as treasurer and was acclaimed. 
  1. Member-at-Large (Six positions, with Vice President and Secretary being selected at the first meeting of the Executive)
  • Andrea Darlington, Qian Lee, Diane Pendlebury and Jian Feng expressed a desire to run again.
  • Jeffrey encouraged members to run to gain exposure to union operations, to meet people, network and to serve members.
  • Glen Horenblas stated that if it wasn’t for the union making noise, the asbestos abatement might not have happened. He encouraged members to get involved and make a difference.
  • Chantale Cerny volunteered to run for Member at Large.

With all positions acclaimed, the election was closed.

  1. New Business
  • There was no new business to conduct.
  1. Door prizes
    1. Five Gift Certificates 
  • Andrea Darlington conducted the draw using a random number generator and the list of attendees. Bill stated that he would get in touch with the winners regarding delivery of the gift card.
  1. 1:00 p.m. Adjournment
  • Bill called for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Chantale Cerny put forward the motion, seconded by Andrea Darlington, and the meeting was closed.

Question Period:

Glen Horenblas asked if there was any information available about when we would be returning to the building. Bill replied that we are in Phase 1 and that there was no timetable yet, but that Toronto was likely to be near the end of the process. Bill said he hoped that Phase 2 would begin around March and Phase 3 perhaps in summer of 2022.

Wesley Plant said that they have been talking for years about upgrading the sick leave system and wondered whether there was any information about upcoming changes. Bill replied that for now it was still the status quo (no changes).

Amir Shabbar asked about the enforcement of vaccinations at the work site. Those granted exemptions or accommodations will be tested twice a week. Amir asked if the vaccination status will be checked when entering the building. Andrea Darlington replied that currently they are only using our attestation of our vaccination status.

Paul Makar (PM) asked whether we would have to return to the building while the asbestos abatement was still underway.

PM also brought up the issue of senior scientists being asked to review many grant proposals over a very short window of time. This related to a fund created from a fine paid by Volkswagen after losing a large case with the government. He stated that normally a scientist has 4-6 weeks to review proposals. In this case, scientists have been given proposals for which they have no expertise. He sent a message to management stating that they are being asked to do fast reviews, which by necessity will not be very good, and he wanted this to be on the record. He stated that decisions about millions of dollars being awarded were being made under duress because the scientists feel that they have no choice. He asked what the union can do. Bill replied that this issue is affecting the whole department and that this issue should be brought to Waheed Khan. PM said that his Director said that the DG made her assign the proposals for review and that she had no choice. Bill suggested that there could be a meeting of the RE subgroup to discuss the impact of this. PM added that this cannot be allowed to happen again because it makes the department look bad, and that they will have a difficult time defending comments made about the proposals if there are any requests to do so.

Glen Horenblas suggested that the issue of ongoing asbestos abatement while people are working in the building could be brought to Anna Deptuch-Staph (ADS) at an OHS meeting.

ADS added that the OHS committee are also discussing mental health and the issue of members feeling overworked and pushed for results.

Kim Laird asked if there is a minimum amount of notice required before employees are expected to return to the workplace. ADS replied that the policy had been 3 weeks but has been changed to 6 weeks.