Navdeep Dhaliwal

University program prepares BCNU’s future leaders

BCNU is planning for success by educating emerging leaders such as Navdeep Dhaliwal.

Leadership education is an ongoing priority at BCNU, ensuring the union’s capacity to carry out its number-one role: serving members. BCNU has embarked upon an exceptional new way to pursue that goal and support members as they progress into leadership roles — the prestigious Industrial Relations (IRC) Certificate in Labour Relations from Queen’s University.

What makes the IRC Program so special? It’s a custom program created specifically for BCNU, and tailored to the unique aspects of BC’s health care system. And, as Navdeep shares here, the program fosters exciting new models of collaboration that will benefit all members in future.

“I was struck by the variety of students and instructors from all across different health care settings in BC, public and private.”

Navdeep is an LPN in private care, a steward coordinator and a first-cohort graduate of the IRC Certificate program.

“It was an amazing experience,” she reports. “I was struck by the variety of students and instructors from all across different health care settings in BC, public and private. And we were learning from lawyers, judges and arbitrators who actually work in labour relations. It’s a very unique approach.”

Navdeep says the IRC Certificate was definitely a huge step for her. But maybe not so surprising — only a few years ago, she had left a banking career to become a nurse. Her nursing journey started when she witnessed the remarkable care for her father in hospital, and the inspiring teamwork among nurses.

17graduates of the Queen’s IRC Program in 2016
150new stewards in 2016

“That sparked my interest. Something just moved in me,” Navdeep recalls, and decided to follow her long cherished goal.

Fast-forward to 2011, when she began working at a private, unionized diet and health clinic chain. The employer’s attitude around job issues soon compelled her to become a steward, and Navdeep’s talent for labour relations became obvious. After several people drew her attention to the IRC Certificate, she decided they must be onto something, and went for it.

The IRC Certificate program was designed specifically for experienced BCNU stewards and labour relations professionals in BC’s health landscape. The program empowers future leaders’ with new capabilities and skills to strategically manage labour relations issues and develop more streamlined and efficient practices for handling workplace conflict.

In the classroom, IRC candidate students learn hands-on, practitioner-focused approaches managing grievances and labour issues. Future leaders increase their knowledge of employment law, grievance management, workplace investigations, and the arbitration process.

“I think it’s a phenomenal program,” says Navdeep. “I mean, how many opportunities are you going to have, with multiple people so trained in their field, such experts? Have them all in the same room, with unlimited, uninterrupted time with them?”

The question answers itself — it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. But Navdeep cautions it is far from easy, that labour relations is a complex field, and students are exposed to its full scope, in long intense days. Taught by Queen’s renowned faculty, the program combines lectures, discussions, simulations, case studies, and assessment tools. She was initially a bit apprehensive.

“As a steward you want to always do the best you can, to do the best for the people you represent. And you want to give them the best-case scenario. So, this program gives you the tools, and also lets you see things from such a different perspective.”

“But with support and guidance from BCNU, I did it, and actually went quite far with it.”

“It was eye-opening. We were seeing some of management’s perspectives as to why they would approach a certain situation, and then also hearing other union members as to how they would approach a similar situation. We looked at things from all perspectives, brainstorming and learning.”

Now graduated, Navdeep says she gained knowledge, tools and confidence to be more effective in her current role.

“I’ve been able to bring back some best practices we are trying to apply,” she says.

It also spurred her to think seriously about larger roles in future, and to continue learning more about managing labour relations.