It all started in 2019. At the time, and still today, medical clearance was required in order to work at sea with the CCG. However, there was a very specific policy on kidney stones. If the employee had even a history of a kidney stone, they could be clear of stones but would still be restricted to a “Near coastal voyage, Class 2means a voyage (a) that is not a sheltered waters voyage; and (b) during which the vessel engaged on the voyage is always (i) within 25 nautical miles from shore in coastal waters of Canada, the United States (except Hawaii) or Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and (ii) within 100 nautical miles from a place of refuge.” This meant members could not complete their current assignment and have to be accommodated on Non operational vessels. It was clearly stated that if an employee had a stone, they could not work more than 25 miles north of their home port.
Mike Johnson, President of Local 90915, received his first call regarding an UCTE member having difficulty working with the policy in place at Transport Canada. The problem for workers in Mike’s area, and in many other areas, was that CCG shipments travel on average 200 miles from the port of embarkation. Our member had been denied requests by Health Canada and Transport Canada to continue working at the CCG due to his kidney stones.
Intrigued by the circumstances, Mike began an investigation which led him to discover that five other members of his Local had the same problem. UCTE and Mike were working to ensure that members in the same situation did not miss work and put them on the boats being repaired on shore. Brother Johnson wondered how these problems would be resolved, saying, “It felt like we were going nowhere.”
This issue was a source of great frustration and UCTE took steps to address it. At the time, a lawyer was hired directly for one of our members and a lot of political pressure was brought to bear. Several requests for accommodation were filed for workers affected so that they might work while a solution was sought.
After a few months of struggle, Transport Canada issued an announcement: any policy dealing with kidney stones would change and allow our members with this condition to return to work at sea.
In the end, Mike counted seven such members, five of whom returned to work. The actions of UCTE, Mike Johnson, and our fighting members had a very big impact on changing the policy, as well as having a positive effect on members in the long term. We are very proud to have fought this battle for our members, and it certainly will not be the last. We are very grateful for the role Mike has played here. Solidarity!