These past few days have been challenging for us all. We have heard from many of you as this situation has rapidly evolved. We have heard concerns about health and safety for the centres that are open, fear of the potential financial impacts on your families and future job security in the event of closures, and the need to provide critical child care for essential service workers (health care, emergency services, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.). All of these are valid concerns and in the absence of an order from government, we were faced with an impossible situation.
Yesterday at the Public Health Officer's daily announcement and subsequent statement by Minister of State for Child Care, Katrina Chen, we finally got some direction. We thank you for your patience as we worked hard to get some clarity on what COVID-19 means for Child Care. Although we still have so many unanswered questions and will continue to push for those answers, we have the start of a path forward in this constantly changing situation.
Yesterday Dr. Bonnie Henry advised parents who can, to care for their children at home. This is a welcoming announcement that we were all waiting for. It was made clear that child care is an essential service for essential service workers. This does not mean that Child Care is essential for all. We heard that Child Care can operate if it is done safely. Some are closing because safe care can't be provided. Your health and safety is the most important thing and we will continue to work hard to make sure that happens.
You have a right to safe work and can exercise that right. You have the right to refuse unsafe work. For further guidance, see the attached link to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/law-policy/occupational-health-safety/searchable-ohs-regulation/ohs-guidelines/guidelines-part-03#SectionNumber:G3.12
Child Care centres that remain open should have smaller groups in appropriate spaces to encourage social distancing. Arrival and pick up times should be staggered to prevent clusters of people and to maintain social distancing. Extra cleaning on a rigorous schedule should be occurring and you should be provided with the necessary preventative equipment (sanitizing wipes or solutions, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content, gloves, etc.). Your employer must ensure strict enforcement of sick policies and that there is space to isolate a child if they become ill in your care. This may mean additional staff so that care can be provided in the safest manner possible. We recognize that this may not be possible and we will work with you to address safety issues with your employer. Each program's needs and capacity will be different and it is critical that we address this at local level. Get in touch with your shop steward who can work with your union to address issues.
In the event of closures, we will work with your employer and stakeholders to ensure you have a job to come back to. We heard yesterday that financial support is coming to those who choose to remain open and those who choose to close so that they can re-open when we get through this. We also heard that the Government is looking at changes to the federal Employment Insurance Act that will allow families to care for their children at home. We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.
If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.
Andrea Duncan, Comp. 3 Vice-President
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