Update: This week marks the deadline for members to advise the employer of vaccination status.
November 22 marks the deadline for employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to their employer. Over the past week there were several developments related to the vaccine mandate that we wanted to highlight.
Return to Office
November 22 is also the date the employer set to implement telework agreements approved under their flexible work policy. However, late Friday of last week, in a message from the head of the public service, this date has been delayed due to the current state of emergency.
This message said in part: "…the BC Public Service will delay the implementation of telework agreements scheduled for this coming Monday. Employees who are able to work from home can continue to do so on a full-time basis where operationally feasible…"
The BCGEU has been advocating for a delay in the return to office date, so while we were pleased to see this announcement, we are continuing to advocate for an extension beyond December 1st.
Of note, the employer says that more than 40 per cent of employees now have approved telework agreements in place.
Public Service Act regulation introduced
Also, late last Friday, the following regulation made under the Public Service Act was released effective November 1.
The regulation requires COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment and specifies that an employee terminated under their vaccination policy will deemed to have been dismissed for cause.
Under the Public Service Act, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations respecting government personnel management, including regulations respecting the following, which are relevant here:
(b)recruitment, selection and appointment of staff including standards and procedures respecting advertising vacancies and who may apply for those vacancies;
(d)health and safety of employees;
(e)terms and conditions of employment;
(h)all matters respecting discipline, suspension and dismissal of employees;
(2)Regulations under subsection (1)
(b)may be made retroactive to a date not earlier than the date this section comes into force, and if made retroactive are deemed to have come into force on that date.
Regulation strengthens employer policy
The introduction of this regulation, strengthen the employer's ability to both require vaccination of employees and suspend or dismiss employees not vaccinated.
Our union supports the right of all workers to safe and healthy workplaces.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BCGEU has pushed for best practice health and safety measures for communities and workplaces including mandatory masks, physical distancing, remote work arrangements, paid sick leave and vaccines for all who are able.
In light of the new Public Service Act regulation, we recommend even more strongly that all those members who are able get vaccinated for COVID-19 if they wish to continue their employment with the public service.
We anticipate that those employees who are not vaccinated or accommodated will be placed on leave without pay this week.
Employers’ Duty to Accommodate during COVID-19
The employer has legal requirements to consider accommodation requests from employees who are not vaccinated. Before any individual accommodation process begins, employers must create COVID-19 safety plans to reduce the risk of transmission. If an individual member has circumstances that the safety plan does not properly address, then the accommodation process can begin.
For detailed guidance, the BCGEU has created the following document to assist members and stewards in making accommodation requests.
Grievance procedure available
For those members who wish to dispute the vaccination requirement or accommodation denial, the grievance process in Article 10 of the Public Service Main Agreement is available. A shop steward can assist with the filing of such grievances.
As with all grievances, the BCGEU has a legal requirement to represent members who file a grievance. In considering any such grievances, the union is required to review of the relevant facts, case law, and the collective agreement to determine if there is a reasonable chance that the grievance will succeed at arbitration.
Health and safety at the worksite
Your employer is responsible to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for you. Your employer should be following the direction of public health officials as well as guidance from WorkSafeBC. To assist members, the following resources have been prepared by the BCGEU OHS Department.
Preparations underway for bargaining the 19th Main Public Service agreement.
Your Public Service Bargaining Committee (PSBC) has been hard at work developing our package of proposals to take to the bargaining table in January to begin the process of negotiating a new collective agreement. Your committee appreciates the time and effort members have put into passing resolutions at local meetings, responding to bargaining questionnaires and our recent poll. These will serve to guide the committee as we develop our package.
Thank you for your continued support in what has been a very difficult time. We will continue to update your as events unfold.
Your BCGEU Public Service Bargaining Committee
Stephanie Smith, President
Paul Finch, Treasurer
Judy Phipps, Executive Vice President
Dean Purdy, Vice President - Component 1
Kusam Doal, Vice President - Component 5
Judy Fox-McGuire, Vice President - Component 6
Cynthia Mepham-Egli, Component 6 Second Vice-Chairperson
Maria Middlemiss, Vice President - Component 12
Matt Damario, Component 12 First Vice-Chairperson
Robert Davis, Vice President - Component 20
Doug Dykens, Director - Field Services & Negotiations
Mike Eso, Secretary
Lisa Lane, Support Staff
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