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Evergreen Forestry Management Ltd.: Employee Assistance Program


Evergreen Forestry Management Ltd. (EFML), a joint enterprise of the Hay River Dene Band and the Fort Providence Dene Band, has developed an initiative to combat alcoholism among its employees to improve their health and productivity. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) treats alcoholism through education, intervention, and community support. Since the program's implementation in 1992, EFML workers are healthier and have developed better relations with management. Management says this improved company atmosphere helped them to succeed again in winning the contract to fight fires near Hay River and Fort Providence.

Background

In 1990, Evergreen Forestry Management Ltd. won a five-year contract from the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) to fight fires in the area around the communities of Hay River and Fort Providence.

At peak season, EFML employs approximately 100 residents from the Hay River, Fort Providence, and Kakisa communities. Thirty-five of these employees are permanently engaged as fire fighters, and five as lookout tower watchers. The remaining 60 work at various positions, ranging from fire-management researchers, to cooks, drivers, and support staff.

The company recognized early on that employee alcoholism threatened its success. Absenteeism and low productivity were chronic problems. These issues were critical, as the company's contract with the GNWT stipulated that the absence of one crew member could result in the dismissal of an entire team. Members of these communities also recognized that alcoholism played a major role in social problems such as family violence.

Prior to developing the Employee Assistance Program, supervisors tended to ignore alcoholism or dismiss addicted employees.

In 1991, the company contracted Roy Fabian, a local addictions treatment consultant, to research its employees' addiction problems and develop a comprehensive plan to treat alcohol abuse.

Practice

The Employee Assistance Program is a pro-active, community-supported initiative which treats the problem of alcoholism through education and intervention.

The EAP outlines the action management must take when dealing with an addicted employee:

  • Stage One - the supervisor notes symptoms of alcoholism and poor job performance and encourages the worker to seek treatment; the emphasis here is on getting the worker to take responsibility for his/her well-being;
  • Stage Two - if symptoms persist and job performance continues to deteriorate, the supervisor may temporarily suspend the worker and refer him/her to treatment; and
  • Stage Three - if the worker refuses treatment, the supervisor may place him/her on indefinite suspension.

Beatrice Lepine, EFML's manager, emphasizes that the EAP does not employ a heavy-handed approach. The EAP uses what she calls "constructive confrontation" and solicits family and other community members to support the affected worker as much as possible.

EFML recognized that in order for the EAP to succeed, they had to have community and corporate support (see Figure 1 on page 76):

  • The company developed a number of training sessions to educate EFML workers about addiction and how the EAP works.
  • The EAP enjoys strong support from the company's Board of Directors, management and community leaders. The Board, which includes two band councillors from each community, teaches sobriety through example.
  • EFML ensures all members of the company are subject to the same alcohol policy.
  • Both communities have local treatment services: the Natse Jee K'eh Treatment Centre on the Hay River Reserve, and a drug and alcohol program in Fort Providence.

Results

The implementation of the Employee Assistance Program has yielded impressive results. Worker absenteeism has decreased markedly, while productivity and the sense of ownership employees have in the company has increased. Management and labour have also learned to work more cooperatively. Beatrice Lepine calls the EAP "good for people and good for business." EFML's efforts have been validated by the GNWT, which has renewed the company's fire suppression contract to the year 2000.

Image of Figure 1: Evergreen Employee Assistance Program
(larger image here)

Contact

Beatrice Lepine
Manager
Evergreen Forestry Management Ltd.
Hay River Dene Band
Box 3062
Hay River Reserve, NT X0E 1G4
Tel: (403) 874-6544
Fax: (403) 874-3229

Prepared by
Su-Anne Yeo
Northwest Territories Regional Office
August 1996

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