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Community Health general COVID-19 update – April 7, 2020 - BCGEU


Component 8 - COVID-19 Update


This is an update for BCGEU members working in Community Health related to COVID-19. This is a difficult time for healthcare workers around the province and we wanted to take this opportunity to update members on what we have been doing on your behalf and clarify some common questions members have been raising.
 
BCGEU call for pandemic premium pay
We became aware last week that employees covered under the Nurses Bargaining Association (NBA) agreement were granted a blanket premium for all hours worked during the month of April. We acknowledge that the premium exists in their collective agreement for working in short staffing situations, however, the blanket approach leaves other frontline healthcare workers feeling undervalued.
 
The BCGEU, along with the other unions representing employees covered by the Community Bargaining Association (CBA) called on HEABC to consider premiums for the thousands of other front line healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and a meeting to discuss this important issue. You can see our letter to HEABC here. 
 
Non-clinical PPE
Although we have thousands of members that work in clinical environments with defined Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) guidelines, we have thousands that work in non-clinical environments such as shelters, SRO’s, addictions facilities, and on the streets of the community.
 
Our advice to members in those environments is that if you are unable to maintain two meters of physical distance with co-workers, clients, or members of the community while performing your duties you should be wearing a medical mask and eye protection. This includes when your duties may require you to directly administer medication such as Naloxone or provide first aid.

If you are required to directly administer medication or first aid to a person who has been diagnosed – or symptomatic – with COVID-19, PPE requirements should increase to a medical mask, eyewear, gloves, and gown.
 
Your union has been in regular contact with WorkSafeBC in relation to COVID-19 issues and your employer is still obligated to meet their core Workers Compensation Act and their Occupational Health & Safety responsibilities during this outbreak.

If proper PPE is not available, is being denied to you, or if you have specific questions about COVID-19, please direct your inquiries to your union representative (your Joint Health and Safety Committee member or a steward). If you cannot reach one of these union representatives, please email ohs@bcgeu.ca.

Single site
We anticipate an order from either the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) or individual health authorities via the Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO) restricting work to a single site. Our understanding is that this order will not apply to community health or your worksites. Instead it impacts only long-term care (LTC) facilities and assisted living (AL) facilities which are largely facilities for seniors.
 
This means that if a co-worker or employer in community health says that you are restricted to working at one community health worksite/program they are misinformed. The only impact on workers covered under the CBA is if they have other employment in any (union or otherwise) LTC or AL. However, you are still able to work in community health, just not more than one LTC or AL.
 
If the outbreak becomes worse it is possible for the PHO or the CHMO to make such an order but we do not anticipate that happening at this time.
 
Redeployment
There is a potential redeployment of workers, particularly Community Health Workers (CHWs) involved in home support, to other parts of the health authority to assist other health care workers curing the COVID-19 outbreak. At this time, it is unlikely employees from other bargaining units would be redeployed into community health.
 
Although we do not have details at this time, we will assert that any such transfer (outside of an order from the PHO or CHMO which we have no jurisdiction over) be consistent with the following principles:

  • The transfers are voluntary and by seniority.
     
  • Employees should be paid the rate of pay under the agreement of the facility/worksite they are performing duties at if it is higher than their current wage rate.
     
  • All hours worked and earned benefits should return with you so that no employee lose seniority, vacation, sick leave, pensionable earnings, etc.
     
  • Those that do redeploy are guaranteed regular hours equal to or in excess of their current position or some other confirmed amount of minimum hours.
     

These terms are subject to discussions between the CBA, HEABC and the other healthcare bargaining associations. We will update you when we have more certainty.
 
Timeline waiver
The CBA (including the BCGEU) has agreed to temporarily suspend timelines regarding grievances. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak there was general agreement that employers are currently unable to effectively meet timelines related to grievances and employees should not be adversely impacted by the crisis in terms of grievances and protecting/defending their agreement rights.
 
Therefore, the unions and employers agreed to temporarily (currently until April 30, 2020) suspend grievance and classification review timelines and all new grievances shall be filed directly at Step 2. Community Health Workers should still be submitting a filled out hours of investigation form with grievances filed directly at Step 2.
 
We are proud of you!
The officers and staff of the BCGEU are incredibly proud of the work you are doing in our communities during this pandemic. You continue to provide services to those most vulnerable in society and to the COVID-19 virus.
 
Know that we continue to work each day to represent you during this historic time and your efforts are inspiring!

In solidarity,
 
Scott De Long
BCGEU VP for Component 8 – Community Health Services