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CUPE joins CLC clear language train-the-trainer

March 2005–CUPE facilitators are now better equipped to deliver clear language workshops thanks to a train-the-trainer pilot at the CLC Ontario winter school. CUPE had five member facilitators and two education reps at the February 13-18 clear language communication session. It was the first time that experienced member and staff facilitators together received this type of instruction.  

With the training, CUPE facilitators can now deliver a 10-hour workshop on clear language that will help locals make their written communication more user-friendly and effective. 


CUPE National and the CLC co-sponsored the participants.  Those chosen to attend had solid experience and a plan for delivering clear language workshops in their home region. 


From Literacy News - March 2005, Vol. 4, No. 1




CUPE education builds in clear language

March 2005–The Union Development department is making clear language an everyday practice in union education. As a start, the department has created a Workshop Feedback Form.    

The six-page questionnaire asks member and staff facilitators to evaluate CUPE workshops and suggest improvements in three areas: content and design, participant material, and facilitator notes. The new feedback form asks questions like, “Do activities draw out the experience and knowledge of participants?” and, “Are handouts easy to read and use?” Union Development will use the answers to revise workshops and set priorities for new workshops.   

This will bring education even closer to members,” says Morna Ballantyne, director for Union Development. “We’ve always asked participants to evaluate workshops. Now is the facilitators’ chance!”


Union Development also has a new style guide for workshop material. Using clear language and design principles, the department has created a common format for workshop material, including facilitator instructions and participant handouts.  


With the feedback form and this style guide,” says education officer Josey Finley, “we’re listening to member facilitators, the lifeblood of our education program.”   


From Literacy News - March 2005, Vol. 4, No. 1




 A safety rule: add clear language  


 October 2004–One of Keith Allan’s union jobs within CUPE 122, City of North Bay, is being a workers’ advocate in dealings with the Workers Safety and Insurance Board (formerly Workers’ Compensation Board).    

I need to be half lawyer, half doctor and a little bit of a counsellor at a cheaper rate,” he laughs. “My job is to make sure my brothers and sisters understand WSIB policy and procedures.   


When there’s lots of red tape, people just want to back away, so I help them fill out the application forms.”  


The forms ask applicants to choose the language they would like for their WSIB hearing. “I check off the box that says English, and then I write ‘and in clear language’.”   

Since his own journey to literacy began in 2000, Keith has done what he can to raise awareness about the need for literacy in the union, in the workplace and now in the health and safety field.    


For the last four years, Keith has been co-chair of his CUPE 122’s Health and Safety Committee. Two years ago, at an Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) workshop in Sudbury, Keith stated on his evaluation form that he would like to see clear language and workplace literacy as topics of a future workshop.  


Angela Poitras from IAPA’s northeastern Ontario office contacted Keith, met with him and two representatives of the North Bay Literacy Council (where Keith was upgrading his reading skills), and then invited the three to talk about literacy and health and safety at an IAPA lunch meeting in North Bay.    


One of the chaps who was at that meeting took a tutor course and is now on the Board of the North Bay Literacy Council!” Keith says.  On October 5, Keith and two members of the Literacy Council travelled to Sudbury to present an afternoon session on the impact of literacy and clear language on health and safety to IAPA conference delegates.   


According to Keith, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are a big issue. “The problem is it’s awkward to understand them, so a lot of people just don’t bother to look at them.” Keith wants to change that. “We’re going to have to work at the government level to get legislation that would make the sheets in clear language.”    


From Literacy News - October 2004, Vol. 3, No. 3




Clear Language helps CUPE 1975 members claim what they have earned

October 2004–Two shop stewards — Gail Lasiuk (a member of the national Literacy Reference Group) and Julius Dinter — decided last winter that their local needed a clear language project to deal with a bad payroll system.   

 “It was maddening,” says Julius. “Members were losing pay and spending hours getting errors corrected.”    

Food service at the university is managed by Aramark. The computerized payroll system was set up for full-time permanent employees. The fact is: only five out of 150 food service workers at the university have those kinds of jobs.   


The other 145 food service workers are term or casual and face three layoffs each year. Many cover two or three jobs during one pay period.  Their pay stubs have been complicated, unclear and sometimes incorrect. Workers have to track their own hours, and the different rates of pay for different jobs, to make sure they are paid fully. 


CUPE 1975 is using literacy education as a way to deal with the payroll problems. At the same time as confronting management, the local is giving members the skills and tools to secure their rights.  


First, the local sent Julius to a Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) workshop to learn about literacy and clear language. When he returned, Julius worked with Gail to develop a plan and budget.  With funds from the local and the CUPE National Literacy Project, and help from two educators, the second step was a two-day workshop with food service members in June.  


This group: 

• identified problems with pay documents; 

• decided what should go into a clear language pay guide and workbook; and 

• developed an outreach and education plan.  


This fall, educator Liz Quinlan will work with the stewards to carry out the project. Gail is excited with the results already.  


Members see the union asking for input and helping in concrete ways,” she says. “In our national project, we talk of ‘integrating’ literacy into everyday life of the union.  Here we are learning math and language skills to claim our fair share — now that’s integration!” 


From Literacy News - October 2004, Vol. 3, No. 3




CUPE 1505 determined to have clear language collective agreement  


 October 2004–At the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in northern Alberta, CUPE 1505 is working with the employer to translate their 101-page collective agreement into clear language.  During the last round of bargaining, the union and employer signed a Letter of Understanding that requires the collective agreement to be in clear language by December 2004. Monty Hillier, president of CUPE 1505, hopes to have a clear language “comparison booklet” ready to circulate to the local’s 300 members in the spring.   

The members will be able to look at the old and new versions side-by-side before they ratify the clear language agreement. “We deal with the contract all the time,” says Monty. “What we find is that most people have a hard time understanding it.”   

In early June during a meeting with their national representative, CUPE 1505 issued a call for help.  The local needed to sit down with management to begin the work of creating a clear language collective agreement, but they weren’t sure how to proceed.  


Alberta education rep Josey Finley suggested that CUPE provide local 1505 and the employer with a week of clear language training that would include time to work together on the collective agreement.  


With support from Sylvia Sioufi, the coordinator of CUPE’s Literacy Project, Josey managed to make the workshop a reality a month later. The employer paid for travel, accommodation and meals. CUPE paid for Sylvia and Josey’s time as facilitators. 


The workshop was held during the week of July 14, with three union executive members and three managers from human resources.  


From Literacy News - October 2004, Vol. 3, No. 3