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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.

March 25, 2020

Components 6/12: MSDPR COVID update - BCGEU

Good afternoon everyone,

We have been monitoring the evolving COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation closely.

The role our ministry plays in supporting some of the most vulnerable people of British Columbia cannot be understated. It is our workforce that is critical to delivering essential services and ensuring that people who rely on us continue to receive the assistance they need.

The Union and the employer have been in constant communications during this evolving time, and it is recognized that this is a unique event that requires our cooperation and the collaboration of all of us.

The demands for services will continue to be high, and while we are eliminating as many non-essential tasks as possible, we will need a flexible response to keep up with intakes, phone calls and crisis requests. To meet these demands during this crisis, we will be reassigning some roles and individuals to critical duties as required. This could mean stream moves, or the reassignment of Adjudicators, Quality and Compliance Specialists and Community Integration Specialists.

Please note that any duties assigned to our included staff that go above their classification/pay grid will be compensated according to Article 27.4 - Substitution Pay. Any assignment of tasks in a lower pay grid will not result in any pay impacts and are not permanent.

Work is also underway to establish a roster of staff that will support our front-facing offices to stay open.

We are in unprecedented circumstances, and truly appreciate the flexibility and support our people continue to demonstrate in these challenging times.

Thank you,

Harbinder Gill
Article 29 BCGEU Co-Chair

Jonathan Dubé
Article 29 Employer Co-Chair

 



UWU/MoveUP

March 25, 2020

Component 7: Letter from Ministry of Education to support staff - BCGEU

Today the Ministry of Education sent the attached letter regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of in-school classes to school district support staff members. Your union encourages you to review this letter as it contains important information on how education partners can continue working together to support B.C. students and protect the health of all British Columbians.


The letter also outlines the ministry's plans to address what comes next at the conclusion of spring break, and what to expect in the weeks ahead. We advise you to follow the direction of your employer/school district and if you are asked to return to work following spring break, please do so. We expect your employer to enforce all social distancing protocols to ensure your safety at work.

Please also note that the right to refuse unsafe work is a legislative right that all workers have in the province of B.C. If you have any questions with regards to your health and safety rights, please contact your steward, your worksite's OHS rep or your nearest office.

If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to health@bcgeu.ca. If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.

In solidarity,
Cindy Battersby
Component 7 Vice-President

Letter to school district support staff members from the Ministry of Education (PDF)



UWU/MoveUP

March 25, 2020

Components 6/12 - BCGEU and MCFD - working together to ensure a safe workplac...

The Ministry of Children and Family Development and the BCGEU have had discussions regarding concerns expressed by our employees and members regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to continue to provide services to children, youth, families and support the social sector to do the same.

The safety of our employees and members is a priority. The employer and union discussed staff health and safety and reviewed current measures in place to protect employees and members and reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. Both parties agreed that basing workplace controls on the direction provided by the Provincial Health Officer and BC Center for Disease Control are crucial to the health and safety of our employees and members.

We are committed to continuing these joint discussions on a daily basis and working together to address emerging issues and ensure the safe delivery of the important work our employees and members accomplish. We all thank you for your continued commitment to the important work you do during this challenging time.

Employees with questions or concerns specific to COVID-19 in their workplace can either raise these through your supervisor/manager, review the resources on iconnect and the PSA site or BCGEU members can email questions to health@bcgeu.ca
 

Judy Fox-McGuire
BCGEU Vice-president for Component 6, Social, Information and Health
 
Maria Middlemiss
BCGEU Vice-president for Component 12, Administrative Services

Teresa Dobmeier, Assistant Deputy Minister
Service Delivery Division, MCFD
 
Rob Byers, Executive Financial Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister
Finance and Corporate Services, MCFD



UWU/MoveUP

March 25, 2020

Component 7 COVID-19 update to members working in post-secondary education - ...

Correction to 'March 23, 2020 Union News,' we apologize for any confusion.

Your union is working hard to support all of its members as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact workers and workplaces in every sector of our economy. To this end we have been working closely with the Post Secondary Employers' Association (PSEA) and coordinating with your employer.

While post-secondary institutions have not been ordered closed by the provincial government, all members who are able to work remotely have been asked by their employer to work from home. Some members will continue to work at their worksites, however all employers are enforcing social distancing protocols to ensure your safety at work. Correction: Members whose roles cannot be performed on campus or remotely will continue to be paid until the end of April at which time the situation will be re-assessed. For auxiliary or contract employees we are reaching out to your employers to get more clarity on what this means for you, and will update you when we have this information.

The right to refuse unsafe work is a legislative right that all workers have in the province of B.C. If you have any questions with regards to your health and safety rights, please contact your steward, your worksite's OHS rep or your nearest office.

Your union will continue to closely monitor the situation and will act decisively based on the best available science and expert recommendations to keep members and staff healthy, safe, and informed. We will also update you on an ongoing basis as the federal and provincial governments respond and adapt and as issues arise for our members.

If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to health@bcgeu.ca. If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.

In solidarity,
Cindy Battersby
Component 7 Vice-President



UWU/MoveUP

March 19, 2020

Component 5 & COVID-19: Recycling suspended at BC Liquor Stores

Component 5 and COVID-19: Recycling suspended at BC Liquor Stores
 
You voiced your concerns, your union raised them loud and clear, and now your employer has listened – effective immediately, the returning of empty containers at BC Liquor Stores has been suspended.
 
Although government and health authorities currently state that the risk of handling empty containers continues to be low during the COVID-19 pandemic, the comfort of our members remains the priority of your union and your employer. This is a big win!
 
While this new restriction is in place, please encourage customers to explore alternative recycling methods or to wait until this restriction is lifted. The employer should have emailed you a notice to print and post for customers.
 
And please continue to follow the guidance of government and health authorities, including consistent hand-washing and social distancing. Should you need any support implementing these measures with customers, please contact your supervisor, steward or area office.
 
Your union continues to hear your concerns and advocate for their response as the COVID-19 situation evolves. Please email health@bcgeu.ca to ensure it is treated appropriately.
 
In solidarity,
Kusam Doal, Vice President, Component 5



UWU/MoveUP

March 19, 2020

Component 4: COVID-19 update for LifeLabs members - BCGEU

This week, LifeLabs has moved to provide PSC and mobile services to patients who screen positive for COVID-19. This includes patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 and screen positive as per the LifeLabs screening process.
 
We have heard from many members that are concerned about this change, and are worried about their health and safety when serving patients that have screened positive, so we have been in close communication with your employer to discuss this change.
 
We emphasized that it is critical for employees to receive adequate instruction and training when new procedures are introduced. In particular, this includes new cleaning/ housekeeping practices. We asked the employer how lineups and waiting areas will be managed in order to maintain social distancing. In addition, we made it clear that as some LifeLabs locations are closing or reducing hours, workers moving to new worksites must receive a full safety orientation at their new worksite before beginning work. The employer has committed to providing additional information, and we are awaiting their response. The employer has also committed to providing adequate time for workers to familiarize themselves, practice and ask questions about the new procedures.
 
It is important to note that the new procedures implemented by the employer involve contact and droplet precautions for interactions with patients. This includes separation and decontamination procedures for patients that screen positive. In addition, aerosol producing tests are not to be completed for patients that screen positive. The procedures implemented by the employer, including PPE requirements, align with infection control guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). As per the guidelines from these agencies, N95 masks are not required in this context.  
 
We will continue to communicate with the employer about protecting the health and safety of our members at LifeLabs. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are properly informed, trained, equipped and supervised when working in settings where there’s risk of exposure to COVID-19. The BCGEU expects that the employer will provide timely, specific and clear direction to workers on the infection control protocols they will follow to avoid exposure to the virus. We also expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for workers, and provide the training to use it.
 
Workers should always apply a precautionary approach to their work, and consult a supervisor with any questions about protocols or the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). You have the right to express any health and safety concern to your employer, and to expect a response without undue delay.
 
You can reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:

  • Follow your work site unit or employer infection control policies. If you are unsure about what’s needed, talk to your supervisor, before doing the task you are assigned.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wear the required PPE for “droplet and contact precautions” before interacting with a confirmed or suspected patient.
  • When interacting with a confirmed or suspected patient, ensure you’re wearing PPE including gloves, long-sleeved gown, a mask, and eye or face protection (safety glasses are not adequate).
  • Ask for training or a refresher on how to don, doff and dispose of PPE correctly.
  • If you do not have the PPE you need, stop and speak with your supervisor before proceeding.
  • If your concerns are not resolved, talk to you EHS representative, your shop steward and your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee representative (where applicable) about next steps.
  • If you think you’ve been exposed, report to your employer immediately, following your incident report process.
  • Stay home if you are experiencing the flu and common cold. This includes symptoms such as a cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

 
You are on the frontlines of this crisis, and we recognize and appreciate the tremendously important work you are doing. We will continue to do our part in supporting you during this unprecedented time. 



UWU/MoveUP

March 19, 2020

Component 3: COVID-19 update for members in child care programs - BCGEU

 

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 health@bcgeu.ca If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.
 
In solidarity,
 
Andrea Duncan, Comp. 3 Vice-President



Download PDF of notice here

UWU/MoveUP

March 19, 2020

COVID Update: C17 Casino Workers - Advocating for you during this crisis - BCGEU

From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak through the declaration of COVID-19 pandemic your union has been working to protect your health, your safety and your rights while also following the science to stop the spread of the virus.

We support the Provincial Health Officer's decision to close the province's casinos as a necessary measure to protect your physical health and stop the spread of COVID-19 but we understand that move raises concerns about your financial health in this difficult time.

We are encouraged by the federal government's financial aid package, which includes significant changes to expand the scope and availability of Employment Insurance benefits as well as a range of options for debt relief for students, homeowners and others who will struggle to make ends meet as the virus impacts our economy.

Right now we recommend that you should be applying for Employment Insurance (EI) as soon as you can.

On the application under Reason choose Other, and write "Forced Government Closure" on your application.

We expect more COVID response programs and initiatives to be announced by federal, provincial and municipal governments in the coming days and weeks and we will continue to work with our partners in the labour movement to advocate for additional measures to protect the financial health of working people such as a freeze on evictions and rent payments.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis across the world and the situation is changing by the hour. Your union has set up a general information website at www.bcgeu.ca/covid - it is being updated regularly with information from your union as well as from employers across BC so check it regularly. We have also set up a dedicated email inbox to address members' questions about the crisis: health@bcgeu.ca.

We will update you as we get more information from your employer throughout the pandemic. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow the recommendations of the Provincial Health Officer, trust the science and listen to expert advice on how to keep yourself, your family and your community safe and healthy. We will get through this together.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President



UWU/MoveUP

March 19, 2020

Component 3 COVID-19 Update: Implications in the Workplace - BCGEU

COVID-19 Update
The BCGEU is working with employer, union and government counterparts to respond and plan around the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on our workplaces and workers in this unprecedented time.  We are working with all stakeholders to try to ensure that all of our members have clear, updated information to ensure their health and safety in their workplace and community and to also ensure the continued provision of quality care and services to your clients in British Columbia.
 
General Health and Safety
As a starting point, our expectation is that employers must remain focused on the health and safety of both workers and the clients they support.  That means that employers must comply with occupational health and safety legislation to prevent the risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

Employers should be supplying the appropriate protective and preventative equipment (masks where necessary, gloves, appropriate strength – minimum 60% alcohol -- hand sanitizer, etc.), as well as cleaning supplies to ensure that worksites minimize transmission of the virus.  The federal government announced this morning that they would be providing additional funding to assist shelters who support people experiencing homelessness for the purchase of protective equipment and additional accommodations. 

You must also do your part and follow the recommendations of the BC Public Health Officer (PHO) by washing your hands regularly, following proper coughing/sneezing protocols and using social distancing where possible.

Working from Home
Where feasible, employers may request that you work from home to limit the potential for spread of COVID-19.  It is the employer's responsibility to ensure compliance with all occupational health and safety legislation, privacy obligations, and risk assessments for this purpose. For members who can work from home, they should receive their usual rate of pay.  For most of you, however, working from home will not be a possibility.

Sick Leave
In the event that you are ill for any reason, you should stay home and use your sick leave bank or short term disability plan under the terms of your Collective Agreement.  It is vitally important at this time that workers not come into work when they are unwell.  

The PHO has directed that employers should not require medical notes for the purpose of accessing members' sick leave banks as a result of COVID-19 or if directed to self-isolate by the Public Health Authority or your physician (see below re self-isolation).

In the event that your sick leave bank is depleted, you are eligible to apply for Employment Insurance benefits.  The federal government has recently waived the one week waiting period to facilitate quick access to benefits for those who need them and this morning they extended additional program supports to assist families. Though the details of these programs are yet to be finalized, see the following link for further information https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html 

It is possible that an employer may require a medical clearance prior to your return to work. If that occurs, please contact the union for assistance.

Self-Isolation or Quarantine
If you have returned to Canada from any international destination, you must self-isolate for 14 days, even if you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19, pursuant to the recommendations of the PHO.  In any other circumstance where a member believes that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms of the disease, or have concerns about their own or a household member's vulnerability to COVID-19, you need to contact the Public Health Authority at 811 or your physician and follow their advice with respect to self-isolation.

The provincial government is presently adding to the capacity for 811 calls and to virtually attend for medical assessments. The directive that a member receives from the Public Health Authority or their physician should be noted and conveyed to their employer. Employees who are directed to self-isolate should be permitted to access their vacation, overtime, and, possibly, their sick leave banks. Employment Insurance is also available for this circumstance. There is an online tool for determining whether you need a COVID test or assessment at https://covid19.thrive.health/

We discourage members from international travel in accordance with the recommendation of the PHO on March 13, 2020.  The border with the US will be shortly closed to non-essential travel.

It is important that you advise your employer(s) if you are self-isolating.  The PHO is tracking all cases to continue to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19.

Refusal to Work/WorkSafeBC
If you have no symptoms of COVID-19 and you have not been directed to self-isolate by a qualified medical practitioner, you should attend work, while exercising the enhanced precautions recommended by the PHO.  If you believe that your worksite is unsafe or that you may be exposed to COVID-19 at work you have the right to refuse unsafe work.  If you contract COVID-19 at work, it may be a WorkSafe claim and may necessitate completion of the necessary forms for that purpose.

Worksite or Program Reduction in Service or Closure
If an employer is indicating that they may reduce or close a program, members should notify their steward and union staff representative immediately.  The expectation is that employers will consult with the union before steps are taken to reduce or close programs and that employees may be deployed to other programs where they have the training required and health and safety is not compromised, work remotely, deliver services in alternate ways, or they could, if they so choose, utilize overtime banks, vacation, etc. before accessing Employment Insurance benefits. These issues should be resolved locally by the employer and union representatives.

Additionally, employers have and may continue to suggest that they will reduce programs to "essential services".  This is not a situation where job action is occurring, this is a pandemic.  BCCDC has produced guidance on what constitutes essential services at http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Professionals-Site/Documents/COVID-19-Essential-service-workers-travel-determination.pdf Reduction or cessation of services is a matter that must involve the local union representative to ensure that, wherever possible and appropriate, delivery of services is continued.

Child Care Programs
For those of you in Child Care programs around the province, in the absence of an order from government that your worksites must close, individual agencies may make closure decisions independently.  We understand the precarious nature of your work in this crisis and of your concerns around the safety and well-being of both yourselves and the children you care for.  We will continue to provide site by site support to you as matters unfold.  We will continue to monitor the provincial government's directives on child care programming and the federal government's initiatives on economic relief for individuals, families and businesses.

Vacations
Your employer may decide that they will not book any further vacation at this time in order to ensure an adequate number of employees is available to meet the anticipated need to provide service to clients.  If you have vacation already booked, you should consult with your employer to determine if this is still feasible and, as long as there is sufficient staffing, booked vacation should not be denied.  If this is a problem speak to your steward or your staff representative.

Going Forward
The BCGEU will continue to work with stakeholders and individual employers to ensure that your interests are protected.  We will update you on an ongoing basis as the federal and provincial governments respond and adapt and as issues arise for our members in the workplace.  We will continue to press both levels of government to consider additional supportive measures on your behalf. Please watch for updates and bulletins in your emails, on your bulletin boards, and on the BCGEU website.

If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to health@bcgeu.ca If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.

In solidarity,

Andrea Duncan, Component 3 Vice-President


Download PDF of notice here


UWU/MoveUP