To understand someone they say you have to walk a mile in their shoes or as Kevin Goodfellow says, “You have to put yourself in their boots.” For his advocacy on behalf of injured workers Goodfellow is well respected. As a result he is often called upon within his union local and throughout the Kingston area.
Goodfellow has walked in those boots; he too is an injured worker. A fall on an icy sidewalk at work left Goodfellow with serious back injuries, including a ruptured disc. His seven-year odyssey ended at the appeals tribunal stage where he eventually won his compensation claim. The experience left him keenly sensitive to the needs of injured workers and determined to prevent these injuries altogether.
A lab technician at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Goodfellow is a member of the Union of National Defense Employees (UNDE) Local 641, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
Also a Workers Centre-qualified instructor, Goodfellow has union responsibility to oversee all joint occupational safety and health committees within the local. This allows him to monitor incidents and injuries and spot weaknesses across the board. From his vantage point, Goodfellow knows identifying injuries and illnesses and seeking just compensation may also be a critical first step towards prevention.
He says a decade of deep cuts to the Department of National Defense (DND) saw their membership dwindle, workloads increase and safety improvements put on hold. With some funding restored says Goodfellow, “We’re now able to introduce some ergonomically designed equipment which is helping reduce our injury rates.”
Goodfellow insists workers must know their basic rights and responsibilities. When they don’t, he says bluntly, “The ignorant suffer. I know too many injured workers with a large degree of disability now because of what wasn’t done.”
Knowing the needs of injured workers were going unmet, three years ago Goodfellow pressed for basic training in workers’ compensation for union stewards and rank and file supervisors. Supported by his component and PSAC, Goodfellow pushed for joint training in the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Occupational Disability Response Team (ODRT) programs. The project, administered by the OFL and funded by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, provides comprehensive training to all stakeholders in the compensation system.
Goodfellow reports 20 military supervisors and 30 Local members have completed training up to Level II (Rights and Obligations and Benefits and Representation), another three union members have completed Level III training in appeals and dispute resolution. In addition, 15 from other government departments have also been trained. Goodfellow himself has completed Level V ODRT training in medical orientation.
Constantly honing his skills, Goodfellow assists injured PSAC members throughout Eastern Ontario but insists, “I don’t fight people’s battles for them. I actively involve the injured worker in their case. It’s an educational process.” He also helps coordinate return to work programs for his union to ensure those same injured workers aren’t further harmed in the workplace.
Befitting his name, half of Goodfellow’s compensation caseload is on behalf of unorganized workers, advocacy he performs as a volunteer with the Injured Workers Support Network of Kingston and Area.
David Lake is president of UNDE Local 641 and one of Goodfellow’s biggest supporters. “Kevin puts a lot of care and effort into helping not only our members but many other workers in the area. His knowledgeable, selfless approach makes him an indispensable resource. He garners tremendous respect within our local and broader community.”