As part of CUPE’s Year of Health and Safety, each month a new profile will be published on cupe.ca highlighting the work of CUPE’s health and safety activists, celebrating health and safety victories, and discussing health and safety resources available to members and locals. More information.
“My only regret is not having been involved earlier,” says Heather Croft, a Continuing Care Assistant from Bridgewater, Nova-Scotia, and member of CUPE 3936. Croft is the acting president of her local, and participates in many of the union’s activities including sitting on the labour-management committee, the grievance committee and acting as chief shop steward.
As a Continuing Care Assistant, Croft travels around the community providing services to clients in their residence with the goal of keeping seniors, disabled and sick persons living healthy, in their homes and in the community as long as possible. The position often requires her to work alone, and in a mobile workplace – her vehicle. Croft’s employer has very little control over her physical working environment, which inspired her to become a health and safety activist and work with her employer to identify and mitigate hazards.
Having safe access to a home or building in the wintertime when parking is limited or restricted and the streets and walkways haven’t been cleared or de-iced creates a dangerous working conditions for Continuing Care Assistants. Croft identified such a situation to her workplace health and safety committee and employer, and together they were able to mitigate this hazard. The result was that Croft was to park her vehicle safely in a nearby parking lot, then take a cab into her place of work and submit the receipts to the employer for reimbursement.
Croft laughs as she admits that “when we became unionized in 1997 I was against it, but then we received a wage increase, group insurance, paid holidays, and the employer started being accountable for our health and safety.”
Now she’s very supportive of her union and her local: “CUPE has provided us with education, knowledge, and resources including the assistance of a regional occupational health and safety specialist. Thanks to our union, we feel safe and that we have a voice and can be heard and supported.”
Croft is a strong believer in being proactive with health and safety and identifying hazards before incidents arise. As an experienced activist, she also believes in investing in younger workers to ensure that “they know their rights and are able to grow within the industry and be the next wave of leaders who will hold the government and employers accountable.”