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Component 1 members update on the most current issues around COVID-19 - BCGEU

We continue to be very busy all around the province in Adult Custody, Youth Custody and Sheriff Services. As of today, there is still only one positive inmate case of COVID-19 and as you are aware this is at OCC. There have been many rumors going around so I hope this will help dispel some of them. 

Safety and risk assessments

We are communicating with ACD regularly to ensure measures continue to be taken to keep you safe at work, and your Union is participating in a number of COVID-19 risk assessments that relate to all your worksites. 

Component 1 is currently conducting three separate joint risk assessments for adult custody jails. Local 104 chair Brandon Cox, Local 105 chair Krissie Hayes and BCGEU OH&S staff representative Brian Campbell are working with the ACD on the following risk assessments:

  • Isolation living units for inmates who are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19: Done. Contact your Local Chair or OHS Committee member for more information.
  • Force Options Training for New Recruits (Component 1 Executive does not agree to sign off on this. See below.)
  • Officer Safety- Physical Distancing & Person Protective Equipment (PPE) The priority is making sure officers have access to masks and that plexiglass barriers are put in place on Officers desks and other areas around the jails.

The Provincial Risk Assessment that was conducted jointly on the Force Options Training was not able to be signed off by the union because unfortunately, for this particular provincial risk assessment the BCGEU does not agree that the mitigating steps recommended in the RA are in line with the Provincial Health Officer's (PHO) orders on physical distancing set forth to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As well, we have concerns that should someone be hurt during the training and require medical treatment; they will unnecessarily add pressure to an already strained health care system while the public health emergency continues.

For these reasons, we recommend the Force Options training be postponed until the PHO relaxes the orders on physical distancing.

The Officer Safety Joint Provincial Risk Assessment is ongoing this week. It is your Component Executive's opinion that officers should be allowed to wear masks while working on the front lines of all ten of our provincial jails. This is about protecting our officers but also the inmate population from getting infected and spreading the virus further. We say that the employer should provide masks, 3M 1/2 face respirators for all staff, as well as plexiglass barriers as required. Please see this article regarding the use of masks in federal prisons:

Priority Testing for Corrections

The Centre for Disease Control gave corrections the same designation as health care workers where we now get priority testing for COVID-19 and receive the results back within 24 to 48 hours.

Doctors Notes & STO2's

Currently no STO2 is required to begin a STIIP claim if for valid COVID-19 related reasons. However, the employer may ask for a doctor's certificate as you claim progresses. Further general information can be found at the BCGEU website page dedicated to COVID-19.

Danger Pay

Our union continues to push for danger pay for all Public Service essential service workers including First Responders Correctional Officers & Sheriffs who are going to work every day putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk working in very dangerous conditions inside our maximum and medium security correctional centres. We believe both Corrections & Sheriffs should receive fair compensation for danger pay because of the onerous conditions we have to work and having to respond to constant emergencies that puts us a constant risk to exposure. Please see the BCGEU's letter to the government in this regard:

Currently public service employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19, whether sick or otherwise required to self-isolate, are entitled to receive STIIP benefits of 75% pay. Our union is also advocating on your behalf to be able to receive full pay when told to self-isolate or when you become infected with COVID-19. Again, we believe both Corrections & Sheriffs should receive fair compensation for danger pay because of the onerous conditions we have to work and having to respond to constant emergencies that puts us a constant risk to exposure.

COVID-19 related absences and attendance records

ACD will not be considering COVID-19 related absences for the purposes of attendance management programs and EPDPs.

Sheriff redeployment opportunity
In an effort to boost its response to COVID-19, the on April 7, 2020 the Government announced an opportunity for Public Service workers to redeploy to YVR as Processing Officers and Supervisors, and as Quarantine Officers.

Childcare for essential workers

A reminder that the government has developed a 0-5-year-old child care program for essential workers. Please check the BC Government website for further information: Your union is currently waiting to hear what supports are available for school age children as that is also impacting our members. We will inform members as soon as we have an answer.