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All Local Officers, Stewards, OHS Reps, Art 29 Members - Employer Mandated Return To Work - BCGEU

You are receiving this as a BCGEU local executive, steward, Article 29 Union/Management Committee member or Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) activist working in the B.C. Public Service.

Our union continues to monitor the process around your return to working in the office, as announced by your employer last week and outlined in the BC Public Service COVID-19 Response FAQs published here. As a member activist, your help is needed to monitor your employer's plan and support fellow members to ensure all relevant health and safety laws are followed and enforced. 

It is important that BCGEU members know the following:

  • The decision to return employees to worksites is at the sole discretion of the employer. Some media reports have incorrectly reported that the BCGEU "approved" this plan. This is not correct, and we have requested that the media correct this. The Head of the Public Service, Deputy Minister to the Premier Don Wright, briefed us on these plans. The BCGEU has no legal ability to stop these plans in our collective agreement. These are government decisions, and our role is to represent your interests through the framework of the collective agreement and relevant health and safety laws.
  • It is our union's understanding that government is planning a graduated return to the office.
  • Some members may have needs to be accommodated as the result of individual or family circumstances. These accommodation requests by members should go through you to your Ministry and the BCGEU. 
  • Existing evidence strongly suggests that masks are important and protect both the wearer and others. Members are encouraged to wear masks whenever possible. If you or fellow members have not received a BCGEU mask, please request one here.

As members prepare to return to your worksite, please advise them to consider the following to protect the health and safety of themselves, their family, fellow members and the public:

Review in full the employer's COVID-19 Safety Plan and any new protocols. At a minimum, COVID-19 Safety Plans should include the following to meet government and WorkSafeBC requirements:

  • Measures to allow workers to maintain a physical distance of least two metres between one another and between clients/customers
  • Policies to ensure that workers or clients (where possible) that are ill or required to self-isolate are not allowed in the workplace
  • Enhanced workplace cleaning, especially high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces like light switches and doorknobs
  • Easy access to facilities and adequate time for workers to wash their hands frequently
  • Allow reasonable time to follow new protocols
  • Consideration of allowing workers to work remotely where possible
  • "Engineering controls" – like plexi-glass barriers or other changes to the physical workspace to facilitate physical distancing, and to separate workers and/or clients where distancing is not possible
  • "Administrative controls" – like rotating or staggered schedules, restrictions on the number clients, or sharing documents electronically to facilitate physical distancing and reduce contact with potentially contaminated surfaces
  • Where physical distancing is not possible, provision for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, eye protection, gloves and/or gowns
  • Updated protocols for Occupational First Aid Attendants (OFAAs)
  • A training plan for all staff on the Safety Plan and the measures identified in the Safety Plan

Understand that, in addition to having a safety plan, your employer should:

  • Develop the safety plan in consultation with workers and your workplace's Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representatives;
  • Make the safety plan readily available to workers;
  • Ensure workers are trained and know how to keep themselves safe, including use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if required;
  • Ensure supervisors are trained;
  • Ensure supervisors are monitoring the workplace to confirm policies and procedures are being followed.

Ensure your questions and concerns are answered by your employer to your satisfaction. If they are not, or if the above things are not being done in your workplace:
Exercise your right and responsibility to immediately notify the following people:

  • your supervisor; and
  • your Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) representatives (either your local BCGEU area office, or our union's OHS department).

Consider invoking your right to refuse unsafe work.

In addition 
to health and safety issues, our joint labour management committees provide a useful forum to discuss ministry-specific plans. Your worksite's Article 29 committee representatives are available to raise your issues with your ministry's management representatives. We have a committee established in each ministry so please direct your issues and questions to your BCGEU committee reps.

We know these are difficult times for many BCGEU members. Please be assured that, as your bargaining committee, we are committed to representing your interests to get through this pandemic.

In solidarity, 

BCGEU Public Service Bargaining Committee
Stephanie Smith, President
Paul Finch, Treasurer
Kari Michaels, Executive Vice President
Dean Purdy, Component 1 Vice President
Kusam Doal, Component 5 Vice President
Judy Fox-McGuire, Component 6 Vice President
Cynthia Mepham-Egli, Component 6 Second Vice Chairperson
Maria Middlemiss, Component 12 Vice President
Matt Damario, Component 12 First Vice Chairperson
Robert Davis, Component 20 Vice President
Doug Dykens, Director - Field Services & Negotiations
Mike Eso, Secretary
Lisa Lane, Support Staff