Member Stories: Greg

June 15, 2015

MoveUP job stewards and union representatives spend a lot of time helping individual members with workplace problems, but often the work stewards and reps do goes unrecognized beyond the members directly affected. If you don’t experience a problem yourself, you might not see the work your union does in between bargaining. Here is one member’s story.

In 1987 Greg was walking in downtown Vancouver with a friend when an intoxicated man passing by punched him hard in the jaw. The attack caused a blood clot that led to a stroke and partial paralysis on the right side of his body. He was only 26 years old.

Greg spent about six months at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre and became able to walk with a right leg brace, but was never able to recover full use of his right arm.

In 1992 Greg started working for BC Hydro answering customer inquiries via phone and then later, by email. In 2003 BC Hydro contracted their customer service work to Accenture and Greg became a Customer Service Account Representative for them in Burnaby. Greg helped BC Hydro customers with everything from routine billing inquiries to unusual research requests.

“There was always big targeting on making sure our numbers were good, and that increased over time. You had to answer the email or the phone call in a certain amount of time and if you went over, that wasn’t good and you had to work on getting your talk time or your email time down,” Greg explained.

Throughout this time Greg also contributed to his co-workers’ morale by starting an employee band. The group spent months practicing each year to play at the annual summer barbeque for customer service and billing staff.

“I hadn’t played drums for many years since my stroke and really needed to play again. My disability made me that much more determined to succeed,” says Greg, who also sang in the band, which still continues today under a new group of customer care centre musicians.

In March 2014, after more than two decades of assisting BC Hydro customers, Accenture became concerned about Greg’s ongoing disability and suggested he might retire early and take severance. 

“Being forced to retire would have been very bad for Greg and his family, as his wife also suffers from serious health issues,” said Tony Geluch, the MoveUP union representative who took on Greg’s case. “In cases like that, it’s extremely important to have access to ongoing medical benefits.”

“The situation was very upsetting and the stress level was very high for me. I had worked for the company for over 20 years and even though I have health problems, I’m not ready to retire just yet,” said Greg.

Geluch negotiated with Accenture to find a better way, and finally the company came back and suggested Greg apply for Long-Term Disability.

“I went through all the rigamarole and got the forms and submitted them to the insurance company. Finally, I was approved,” Greg explained.

Greg is still concerned about his health and ongoing LTD claim, but he’s relieved that he and his wife have access to the medical benefits they really need.

“Through all of it, Tony was just the best,” Greg said. “He fought for every little bit. I was worried I was going to be pushed out the door but Tony did everything possible to make sure that didn’t happen. He demanded that the company honour our collective agreement.”