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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 

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



September 18, 2020

Update: Temporary Pandemic Pay for Community Socials Services Workers - BCGEU

As you are aware, the provincial government introduced the COVID-19 Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) program in May 2020. The program provides a wage top up of $4 per hour to eligible community social services (CSS) workers for the period of March 15 to July 4, 2020.

The BCGEU lobbied aggressively for this program and other benefits including sick leave coverage, access to PPE and appropriate health and safety training and, while we were successful in securing the TPP for you, this benefit falls outside of your collective agreement and employers and provincial funders control the application, eligibility and disbursal processes.

The government has just recently reached out to employers with the application process. That means that much of the work remains to be done before the TPP is actually in the hands of workers. The provincial government website was updated recently to indicate that TPP payments to workers will likely occur in October. You can access the website here.

The Government website (updated to September 17) states that:

Eligible employees must have:

  • Worked straight-time hours at any point during the 16-week period starting on March 15, 2020 and ending July 4, 2020
  • Worked in an eligible sector, workplace and role that traditionally deliver in-person, front-line care in health, social services and corrections where social distancing was challenging, including those that may have had to transition from an on-site workplace to a remote format

According to the website, eligible roles in the CSS sector include:

  • Community support workers
  • Employment support workers
  • Residence workers
  • Adult/youth workers
  • Transition house workers
  • Stopping the violence counsellors
  • Victim service workers
  • Emergency shelter workers
  • Program coordinators
  • Counsellors
  • Occupational and physical therapists
  • Behavioural therapists
  • Family preservation workers
  • Domestic violence workers
  • Social workers
  • Child and youth mental health workers
  • Indigenous service workers
  • Administrative and client support roles
  • Essential operation support staff, including:

o Maintenance workers
o Housekeepers
o Janitors
o Food service workers
o Passenger vehicle drivers
o Other key roles.

We encourage workers and, in particular, stewards to confirm with their employers that all straight time hours worked for these eligible positions from March 15 through July 4 receive the TPP top up. If there is any indication that you will not receive the TPP, involve your steward and, if necessary, a steward may consult with a staff representative.

In solidarity,


Andrea Duncan
Component 3 Vice President

Download PDF of notice here


September 18, 2020

Covid – 19 cases in the Downtown Eastside - BCGEU

As you know, the number of cases of Covid-19 around the province has been consistently increasing in the last number of weeks and months. In recent weeks we have become aware of an increase in cases of Covid-19 circulating in the Downtown Eastside.

Your Union wants to ensure that you are taking all the necessary precautions to stay safe while doing the important front line work that you do.

The most current information available indicates that the COVID-19 virus is most commonly spread when in close contact with an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets;
  • close, prolonged personal contact; and
  • touching an infected area, then touching mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands.

Our advice to members continues to be 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 Employer should be providing you with the necessary PPE to complete your work safely. 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

If at any time you feel that the work you are performing is unsafe, you or any other member can exercise your right to refuse unsafe work using the following process:

Step 1: Inform your immediate supervisor or employer you are refusing unsafe work as per Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) regulation 3.12. The employer must investigate your concerns and make it safe for you. If the employer disagrees with your belief that the work is unsafe, go to step 2.

Step 2: The employer must include a union rep or OH&S rep to investigate your concerns. If no rep or OH&S person available, then the worker gets to choose another worker to assess the situation. If the worker still believes the work is unsafe, go to step 3.

Step 3: The worker and employer together call WCB to inform them of a refusal of unsafe work. WCB is expected to investigate without undue delay and assess and make their determination. In the meantime, the employer can assign you to a different task while the investigation in ongoing. Only when WCB says it is safe to resume the refused work should you carry out the work.

For updated information please refer to:

The officers and staff of the BCGEU are incredibly proud of the work you are doing to provide services to those who are the most vulnerable in our society.

In Solidarity,
Masoud Aminzavvar 
Local 803 Chairperson - Community Health Services (8)

Download PDF of notice here 


August 25, 2020

Pandemic pay delay - BCGEU

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March your union has been working hard to navigate the complex and ever-shifting landscape this crisis presents in order to protect members' livelihoods and help ensure your safety at work.

Pandemic pay has been a key focus of that work, and the BCGEU pushed hard to expand our province's pandemic pay program to cover the broadest possible range of essential workers. As a result, B.C.'s program is significantly more inclusive than those in other provinces. (See who is included in the pandemic pay program.) However, we are disappointed to learn that the delivery of this pay has again been delayed.

We know thousands of members are depending on receiving this pay and we are concerned about the negative effect another delay may have on members and their families who are counting on this money to pay the bills. We also know that pandemic pay is more than just money, it is recognition of the incredibly important and hard work you have done to help our province through this public health crisis. 

Although all unions in B.C. applied pressure related to the parameters of the program, it's important that members know that all decisions regarding pandemic pay and who receives the premium were made entirely by the provincial government. Pandemic pay was not negotiated as part of your collective agreement and there are no signed, bargained MOUs related to the program. As such, your union's role is to continue applying pressure to push government to fulfill their promise as fairly and quickly as possible. We will continue to do that and to push the provincial government to provide a definite date on which eligible workers will receive their pandemic pay. 

We will also keep fighting to expand the program further to cover all essential front-line workers.

BCGEU members have been instrumental in continuing to deliver the essential services British Columbians count on and your union will continue fighting for the recognition and support you deserve.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU president

P.S. - Have you written to your MLA about including all essential front-line workers in the pandemic premium program? If not, click here to send them a message.


July 30, 2020


Our apologies to our members working at single site locations that are not publicly funded. In our bulletin last week about pandemic pay we had said that all workers would be receiving pandemic pay and that is sadly not the case. 

The BCGEU has been lobbying the government from the beginning to apply the pandemic pay to all workers who provide direct care and we have not yet achieved that outcome. 

Currently the pandemic pay is available only to those workers who provide publicly funded services. The best available information on this is from HEABC's recent bulletin on this topic quoted below: 

Q: Are employees whose role is funded in whole or in part by non-provincial government funding such as resident fees, charities, grants, foundations eligible? 

A: If the facility is a provincially-funded health or community social service facility, employees may be eligible. Pandemic Pay funding will be proportionate to the funding the employer receives from the provincial government. Co-payments made by residents of provincially funded beds will be considered provincial government funding for the purposes of calculating Pandemic Pay funding for the $4 per hour benefit. Unlicensed residence workers will qualify assuming they are in job types that match our criteria.

Q: Are workers in assisted living facilities eligible? 

A: If the facility is a provincially-funded health facility, they are eligible. Funding will be proportionate to the funding the employer receives from the provincial government. Eligible frontline workers in assisted living facilities will qualify (typical occupations are residence workers and community support workers).
The BCGEU continues to work to get the pandemic pay premium applied to all workers who provide direct care and will be working to ensure that the distribution to eligible workers happens according to the rules the government set.

The BCGEU continues to work to get the pandemic pay premium applied to all workers who provide direct care and will be working to ensure that the distribution to eligible workers happens according to the rules the government set.


July 22, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Vacation Principles and Community Social Services Employees ...

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the order of the Solicitor General under the Emergency Program Act deeming workers in the community social services sector to be essential, vacation requests in some workplaces may not have been granted since mid-March of this year. If this situation continues, vacation credits may accrue to unusually high levels and create significant challenges for approvals and accommodations of requests for the remainder of the year. Members may be prevented from taking sufficient vacation time to rest and rejuvenate from the challenging work that you perform.  

As the parties look ahead to managing vacations for the remainder of the calendar year and in light of the uncertainties around the unfolding of the pandemic, CSSBA and CSSEA agreed to certain principles that our members and employers can use to guide the vacation scheduling process in the event that the regular scheduling process under the Collective Agreement is not fully addressing these challenges.  

These guiding principles are in effect until December 31, 2020 and are intended to enable members and employers to reach agreement on how to utilize vacation credits for the remainder of this calendar year, while ensuring that employees receive their full entitlement of vacation. 

Article 18 – Annual Vacation applies unless the member(s) and the employer agree to vary those terms using the principles outlined in the agreement.

Members and employers are not obligated to depart from the full and usual application of Article 18. This is voluntary.  

As a starting point, employers should be making every effort possible to approve vacation requests using the provisions of Article 18 – Annual Vacation.  

If this is not possible as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, then our members or employers can initiate discussions using the agreed upon principles to resolve vacation scheduling issues in individual workplaces. 

Variations to Article 18 can be triggered by members or employers, but must be agreed upon by both.

If variations to Article 18 are necessary to facilitate scheduling of vacation entitlements, and members or employers want to vary those terms, they should do so as soon as possible. Once an agreement is reached, the employer is required to provide a copy of the agreement to your area office staff representative.  

If you do not agree with an employer proposal you must immediately advise your shop steward or, in the absence of a shop steward, contact your area office, so that they can assist in the negotiation of a fair resolution. 

Thank you again for the work you are doing to keep our most vulnerable members of society safe and supported.

To read the full agreement, click here, Vacation Letter of Understanding.

In solidarity,

Andrea Duncan,
Component 3, Vice-President


July 21, 2020

Proposed changes to Workers Compensation Act marks beginning of restored bala...

Proposed changes to Workers Compensation Act marks beginning of restored balance

After years of advocacy by workers and their unions – including your union's submission to the B.C. workers' compensation system review last year and the courageous testimonies at public hearings by dozens of current and former BCGEU members who had been injured on the job – the provincial government has begun to restore balance to BC's workers' compensation system.

On July 14, the B.C. government tabled Bill 23, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020. If passed, the bill will increase WorkSafeBC's powers and the amount of compensation workers can receive. These amendments prioritize the needs of injured workers and undo some of the damage done by the previous BC Liberal government in creating a compensation system that favoured employers and failed workers. 

I'm glad to see our government tabling legislation to repair some of the damage done since 2002. I believe the proposed changes will strike a better balance between the interests of workers and employers and will rebuild workers' confidence in the system.

If passed by the legislature, Bill 23 will allow WorkSafeBC to:

  • Return to the dual system of assessing pension entitlement. This is a major improvement because it essentially restores what the BC Liberals took away in 2002 and more fairly reflects the loss experienced by BCGEU members injured on the job.
  • Wait until an injured worker turns 63, when the effects of their injury are more established, to assess their retirement date. This change negates the present policy where the Board assumes the worker's retirement date at the time of injury. This change is fairer to the injured worker, especially young workers who may not yet know their retirement date.
  • Authorize preventive medical treatments before a claim is accepted. This is most significant for psychological injuries for which timely intervention could mean quicker recovery and for which the cost of treatment is often not covered by our province's health care system. Furthermore, the injured worker would not be required to reimburse the Board for pre-paid treatment should their claim be denied.
  • Increase the maximum insurable earnings from $87,000 to $100,000. This is a significant, welcome and long overdue change and will help protect the full annual earnings of many members. 
  • Correct obvious errors after 75 days, rather than within 75 days. This is a new power and gives more flexibility, will reduce demand on the appeal system and benefit workers who would otherwise have to appeal.
  • Implement a regulation related to an occupational disease that is an infection caused by a communicable viral pathogen (such as COVID-19) in less than 90 days. This change in timeline will allow the Board to more rapidly respond to and effectively deal with prevention and compensation issues like pandemics. In the potential case of a second wave of COVID-19, this change will be critical to ensuring workers who contract the virus can access benefits faster.
  • Collect unpaid premiums and other monies owing the Board, including holding directors personally liable if their company fails to pay. This new power will ensure owners cannot hide behind their corporation status to avoid paying premiums or fines.
  • Ensure the court considers victim impact statements when considering a penalty or punishment. This is an important change for members as it will enable them to have their experience influence the degree to which an employer is reprimanded.

Of course, there is more that we want to achieve in our workers' compensation system, and we will continue to push for those changes. In the meantime, your union is encouraging the government to pass Bill 23 as soon as possible, and ensure the Board regularly reviews and updates these policies and powers to maintain balance between the needs of workers and employers. 

We will keep you informed of any further progress on these changes.

In solidarity,
Stephanie Smith, President


July 17, 2020

BCGEU calls on government to protect renters by extending eviction ban

July 17, 2020 

BCGEU calls on government to protect renters by extending eviction ban
Burnaby, B.C. – The BCGEU is calling on the provincial government to extend the ban on evictions for non-payment of rent—today the government announced that ban will be lifted on September 1st.
“This decision is utterly baffling to me,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “COVID-19 has caused a public health crisis and an economic crisis and we are nowhere near the end of either. Renters are facing the same uncertain future they were when the ban was put in place—this is not the time for government to be leaving renters vulnerable to eviction.”

The union has been a leading voice in the fight for secure, affordable, accessible housing in British Columbia—from the ongoing Affordable BC campaign for the implementation of Land Value Capture Tax, to more focused efforts to outlaw demovictions, reduce the annual rent increases allowable under the Residential Tenancy Act, and support affordable housing project proposals in communities across the province. In March, the BCGEU expanded its housing advocacy to call for a freeze on rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the pandemic. 

“We knew the eviction ban was not a good solution because, while renters who couldn’t pay couldn’t be evicted, they would still be on the hook for the money someday,” said Smith. “And now—with the economy in the extremely early stages of recovery, and no treatments or vaccines on the horizon—the government has decided “someday” is September 1st.”  

Policy analysis and public opinion research overwhelmingly shows that British Columbians want the government to protect renters from incurring additional debt due to this crisis. And, with public health officials warning that a second wave of COVID-19 could be coming in the fall, renters will become vulnerable to evictions potentially at a high point of the pandemic, creating an increased risk of homelessness as well as an unnecessary additional risk to public health.

“I am the first to say that BC has done some great work on pandemic response and our government has made the difference in our province’s success so far,” said Smith. “But the eviction ban should be extended, not lifted—renters deserve better than this.”

The BCGEU is one of the largest, most diverse and fastest growing unions in B.C. with more than 80,000 members working in almost every community and economic sector in the province.

For more information please contact, 


July 10, 2020

Update: BCGEU requests pandemic pay for LDB workers - BCGEU

I'm writing to update you on our response to the B.C. government's exclusion of workers at the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) from the temporary pandemic pay program, the 16-week federal-provincial cost-share program to provide top-up pay for essential workers which ends next week.

On July 9, myself and your union's president, Stephanie Smith, sent a letter to Minister of Finance Carole James asking for an answer to the question:Will LDB workers be included in the pandemic pay program?
It was important to send this letter to ensure the government received our message that, because LDB workers were deemed essential by government and have continuously worked on the frontlines throughout the pandemic, incurring increased risk, cost and inconvenience to serve our communities, they deserve to be recognized and fiscally compensated through the temporary pandemic pay program.

In our letter, we also noted that, despite Minister James' encouragement for profitable retail businesses to provide an equivalent temporary wage top-up for their essential workers, the LDB has not done so.

You can read the letter in full here.

We will notify you of any response we receive, and are planning further action, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I encourage you to sign the BCGEU's petitions reiterating our letter's ask: to include LDB workers and all other essential workers in the pandemic pay program:

In solidarity, 

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