Your union has your back: Jennifer’s fight for fairness

April 20, 2016

Jennifer Froese, an employee at TransLink, was at dinner with a former coworker when she found out she wasn’t getting what she deserved at work.

Froese’s former colleague mentioned that she had left her job at TransLink because she’d been hired at the top step for pay and felt she had no room for advancement.  This was news to Froese, who works in a similar role, with similar education and experience, but had been told she’d had to start at the bottom step. 

Questioning the fairness of her employer, Froese turned to her union.  She spoke with Cheryl Popeniuk, her union representative at that time, and they looked at what the collective agreement said about such hiring practices.  Together, they discovered that the language allowed room for pay steps to be determined by experience and education and they decided to work to get what Froese deserved.

But Froese’s situation wasn’t so clear cut. She started at TransLink a few years earlier when she left the demanding marketing field for more work-life balance, and more time to spend with her daughter. She started in an exempt position as Confidential Assistant to the Director of Marketing. A few years later, when a marketing rep position opened up a TransLink, she decided to make the jump back into her area of expertise – marketing. 

Though Froese has a degree and years of experience in marketing, because she made the jump from an excluded position, to a full time temporary and then to her current full time permanent position, her employer told her that her pay step would be determined as if she was a new hire – starting at the bottom.

Froese and her union rep, now Stephen Von Sychowski, worked hard together and armed themselves with the language in the collective agreement and provisions in the labour code to help her case.  She took the grievance to a stage one meeting where the employer continued to deny her case.  However, when the case was delayed for a few weeks, she began having confidential discussions with other coworkers about how their wages were determined when they were hired.

She found that not a single other employee in a similar position with experience and education had been hired at the bottom step. Many had been contractors for the company before and were hired at the top step, some had been hired at step two or three based on their experience.  Froese was confused and frustrated, as she had at least double the education and experience required for her position.

But she wasn’t defeated.  She and her rep continued to push the employer and eventually the employer made an offer – to move her up a pay step, backdated for three years to the start of her time in the position. She accepted the offer.

Froese said that if it hadn’t been for the support of her union and the hard work and motivation from her reps, she probably wouldn’t have received what she deserved. 

When it comes to fairness and respect in the workplace, your union has your back.