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General COVID-19 News

Below you can find general articles or bulletins that we have published regarding COVID-19.

For job-specific news, please choose a work sector here.

COVID-19: BCGEU office closure details - BCGEU

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in January, your union has been closely monitoring the situation and acting decisively based on the best available science and expert recommendations to keep members and staff healthy, safe, and informed while maintaining core services and supports for our 80,000+ members across the province during this critical time.

Yesterday, I convened the first meeting of the BCGEU COVID Response Team-which is made up of me, Treasurer Paul Finch, our four Executive Vice Presidents, the BCGEU's three directors and our press secretary. The team will be meeting daily (by phone) throughout the pandemic to identify urgent issues for members and staff and streamline the resolution of those issues.

The first issue we tackled was the decision to close BCGEU offices to the public and require all non-essential BCGEU staff to work from home effective as soon as it is operationally possible. We expect all offices to be closed by the end of this week-hopefully many will be closed by Wednesday.

We took this decision to ensure our members have access to core services and supports of their union during the pandemic while also supporting the ability of our staff to practice social distancing. Allowing non-essential staff to work from home and restricting public access to BCGEU buildings we are making sure staff whose work requires them to be in an office to practice social distancing in their workplace. 

I want to make two things clear:

  • BCGEU buildings are safe-we implemented deep cleaning protocols in every facility last week. This decision to have non-essential staff work remotely is simply our commitment to the recommended practice of social distancing.
  • The office closure will not impact members' ability to access the core services and supports of their union. During this period of remote work, local chairs will continue to have direct access to staff representatives and members with questions or issues related to COVID-19 or regular labour relations can contact their steward or local chair as they usually would. In addition, members with questions or concerns specific to COVID-19 in their workplace can email those questions to health@bcgeu.ca 

Going forward your union will continue to protect the health, safety, and rights of our members and staff as well as all working people based on the best available science and expert advice and to keep our members and staff informed of our decisions and actions. I encourage all of you to follow the science, listen to the experts and take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Thank you for all that you do.

In solidarity,
Stephanie Smith

 



UWU/MoveUP

November 08, 2020

COVID-19 Update - Protecting members at work - letters sent to Fraser Health ...

With the dramatic increase of new COVID-19 cases that B.C. has seen over the last month – and the introduction of new regional restrictions to help stop the surge in the Fraser Health (FHA) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) regions – our union has urged the FHA and VCH to re-evaluate workplace safety protocols – at both directly health authority sites and those worksites with health authority contracts – to decrease the potential spread of the virus.

In a letter sent to the respective health authority CEOs, President Stephanie Smith requested specific policies requiring masks in all common areas and allowing work-from-home where operationally possible.

Included alongside the policy requests was a briefing note from the BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department regarding how workplaces can adapt to the latest scientific findings on how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads. Details on our communication can be found here:

Given the spread of the virus in recent weeks, we expect changes to come, and we will continue to work alongside government and the health authorities to ensure that any changes protect workers and are in-line with the latest science.

As more information becomes available, we will continue to update you on the latest developments

COVID-19 and your workplace

If you have any concerns about how COVID-19 precautions are being handled at your workplace. Please consider the following to protect the health of yourself, your family, fellow workers and any clients:
  • Review in full your employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, especially the section about outbreak management.
  • Ensure your questions and concerns are answered by your employer to your satisfaction.
If not, then:



UWU/MoveUP

October 20, 2020

All Local Officers, Stewards, OHS Reps, Art 29 Members - Employer Mandated Re...

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

UWU/MoveUP

October 19, 2020

Concerns with employer-mandated return to office: BCGEU public service member...

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

 



UWU/MoveUP

October 15, 2020

Update: Pandemic pay amidst a provincial election - BCGEU

When the provincial government first declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) workers were deemed essential workers. But when the provincial government announced the Temporary Pandemic Pay program (TPP) in May, we were unfairly excluded from the vital support and recognition that the program was designed to offer. 

We came together like never before to push for change; launching a petition and a letter-writing campaign targeting MLAs. Of the 5,700 people who signed the petition, 40 percent are Component 5 members and 97 percent are active BCGEU members. And of the 2,100 letters sent to MLAs asking for pandemic pay for frontline workers (including BCLDB workers), 35 percent were from the public.

As we worked in solidarity, our union backed our efforts by writing a letter directly to B.C.'s Minister of Finance, making a call to the provincial government, and using the media (CBC, Vancouver Is Awesome, CKNW and CFAX) to pressure government to change their minds. 

We have been advocating for months for BCLDB workers to be included in the TPP, and we've done it smartly. Our efforts initially focused on the provincial government as sole decision-maker for the program. When the government declined to make the changes we were asking for but publicly encouraged "all businesses who've seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time," we assessed the BCLDB's higher-than-usual revenue during the pandemic and redirected pressure to our employer – with this letter.

Disappointingly, our employer also declined. And now we're in an election campaign, which means our government currently lacks the authority to make the changes we want.

So it is time to once again redirect our efforts towards building internal capacity so that, as soon as the next provincial government is sworn in, we are energized, focused and ready to renew our push for the government and our employer to properly recognize BCLDB workers.

Let's talk and build a new plan. What do YOU think we can accomplish together? What ideas do you have to solve our collective challenges? Fellow members of our union component will be reaching out to you in the next few weeks to discuss how you're feeling about pandemic pay, the election, and any other issues challenging you, and what each of us can do about them. Please use this form to update your contact information so we can reach out.

I'd also like to invite you to a Candidates' Forum that the BCGEU is holding this Friday, October 16. I will be asking the BC NDP, BC Liberal and BC Green candidates about their support for pandemic pay directly. Join the event here at 5:00 pm: https://www.facebook.com/events/342589333631879

In solidarity,

Kusam Doal, Vice President of Component 5 (Retail Stores and Warehouses)



UWU/MoveUP

October 08, 2020

All BCGEU public service members Re: Return to in-office work - BCGEU

This morning, your employer announced their intention to move towards having all employees who have been working remotely during the pandemic to return to working in the office on at least a part-time basis. You can view the plan, as per the latest BC Public Service COVID-19 Response FAQs, here.

I want you to know that our union is aware of the plan, that we are communicating with your employer and that your safety is our top priority.

What we know right now is that the plan to return to in-office work will happen on a ministry-by-ministry basis – there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Further, your employer plans to operate with reduced in-office capacity and modified duties for the next six to 18 months. 

I have asked each ministry's Article 29 committee to monitor the implementation of the plan, address issues as they arise, and report any concerns to me. If you have concerns about how the plan is being implemented in your worksite and your manager can't resolve your concern, please contact your steward or your OHS representative.

We will continue to keep you updated on this issue as the situation unfolds.

In solidarity, 

Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President and Chair of the Public Service Bargaining Committee



UWU/MoveUP

October 07, 2020

BCGEU members covered by PSA agreements - Payment of Temporary Pandemic Pay ...

Your union has confirmed updated information about the Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) program with your employer.
 
In a shift from what was originally announced, the TPP will now be applied to all overtime hours worked by eligible employees in addition to regular hours worked. Since this change to program parameters requires additional calculations your employer will be disbursing TPP stipends in two installments in order to avoid further delays to payment. The first installment, due in October, will cover regular hours worked and the second installment will cover overtime hours.
 
It is our understanding from your employer that eligible employees who worked only regular hours will receive their entire payment by the end of October 2020. Employees who worked overtime hours will receive the TPP for regular hours by the end of October and will receive the TPP for overtime hours at a later date. Your employer has not yet set a date for the payment of TPP on OT hours. We will continue to push your employer for confirmation of that date and will be in contact with you as soon as we have updated information.
 
Attached to this bulletin for your information is a letter to your union from Don Wright, Head of the Public Service. Mr. Wright's letter acknowledges the BCGEU's work to push for resolution of the delay in processing the TPP. Mr. Wright also acknowledges that his team "should have done better" and apologizes for the impact the delay has had on BCGEU members. While this letter does not make up for the delay, we felt it was important that you see your employer's words for yourself.



UWU/MoveUP

October 07, 2020

Atira- Payment of Temporary Pandemic Pay - BCGEU

Your union has confirmed updated information about the Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) program with your employer.
 
In a shift from what was originally announced, the TPP will now be applied to all overtime hours worked by eligible employees in addition to regular hours worked.
 
Your employer had an October 31st deadline to submit a detailed invoice to the ministry outlining TPP-eligible hours. We have confirmed with your employer that the invoice has been submitted and they are hoping to receive the funds by the end of October 2020. 
 
We will continue working with your employer to confirm timelines for payment and will share that information when we have it.



UWU/MoveUP

October 07, 2020

BCGEU members covered by HEABC agreements- Payment of Temporary Pandemic Pay ...

Your union has confirmed updated information about the Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) program with your employer.
 
In a shift from what was originally announced, the TPP will now be applied to all overtime hours worked by eligible employees in addition to regular hours worked. Since this change to program parameters requires additional calculations, it is our understanding that your employer will be disbursing TPP stipends in two installments in order to avoid further delays to payment-the first installment will cover regular hours worked and the second installment will cover overtime hours.
 
Health Authority employees will receive TPP for regular hours worked on or about October 9, 2020. TPP for overtime hours will be paid at a later date that your employer has yet to confirm. We will continue to push your employers to confirm a date and will share that information when we have it.
 
Non-Health Authority organizations (including private employers) must submit a detailed invoice to the ministry outlining TPP-eligible hours by October 31, 2020. TPP payments will be processed once those invoices have been received. While the inclusion of OT hours will require additional administrative work for your employer before submitting invoices for processing, it is our understanding that the submission deadline for invoices-and, therefore, the timeline for payment-has not changed. We will continue working to confirm your employer's plans for payments and will share that information when we have it.



UWU/MoveUP