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Steward Notes: Use your vacation days!

By Alexander Delorme, Communications Staff

Jul 26, 2023

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With so many of us working short, it’s more important than ever to take time off. 

You are entitled to paid time off. 

Workers all over the world toil day and night to meet their bosses’ deadlines and quotas. We work five, six, and even seven days a week to keep businesses and services going. But life is not all about work, and paid time off is how workers like us get to actually live our best lives. 

This is especially true for AUPE members. If anyone deserves time off to rest and recharge, it’s us. 

We are the front-line staff who go above and beyond to assist our fellow Albertans. Government cuts and the COVID-19 pandemic have made recent years even harder for us, and we know it. There are no band-aid solutions that will make our workloads and short-staffing issues go away. We must help ourselves, and part of that is taking the time off that we deserve. 

As a steward, it is your responsibility to defend your coworkers if management tries to deny them the paid time off that they are entitled to. 

The time-off approval process can look very different from worksite to worksite. A small worksite may have a simple, almost casual process for requesting and approving time off. Larger worksites, on the other hand, can have entire programs and systems dedicated to time-off requests. Most AUPE members working for the Government of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, and Covenant Health know how frustrating huge systems like this can be. 

If your coworker has had trouble requesting time off, your first step as a steward is to ensure that they followed the proper process and guidelines when putting in their request. If the request was made improperly or past a specific deadline to make requests, you might not be able to do anything if the request is denied. 

Collective agreements can have different language for which requests are reasonable or unreasonable for management to deny. However, as long as operational requirements allow, there really should be no reason for management to deny time-off requests. Personal days, for example, are often guaranteed by collective agreements and granted without question. If you need that day off, you get that day off. 

If your coworker followed all the proper steps and management still denies their request, especially if they approved others’ requests, you may have a grievance on your hands. Be sure to document the relevant details, including when the request was made, the amount of time off the worker is entitled to, and whether any other staff members have already booked the requested dates off. Timelines are especially important, as with all grievances.  

So long as you have a solid case, time off grievances are straightforward and winnable. Thank goodness, because paid time off is more important than ever. 

Union stewards also need time off work. It can be tempting to dedicate your personal time and paid days off to your steward duties, but burning yourself out is not good for you or your coworkers in the long run. Help your coworkers take care of themselves, but don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. 

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