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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 17, 2020

Component 5 members’ rights to sick pay & COVID-19 related absences - BCGEU

This bulletin is to remind Component 5 members of your rights to sick pay if you have a COVID-19 related absence. Please print and post in your workplace for your fellow Component 5 members.
The Public Service Agency has issued a FAQ document to direct all public service employers how to respond to sick or self-isolating employees during this pandemic. Please read the attached document here and note the following highlights:

  1. For all employees entering self-isolation following return from travel or who have been medically recommended to self-isolate for 14 days due to possible COVID-19 exposure: 
  • If the employer is satisfied that your work can be done effectively from home, they are to authorize you to work from home
  • If the employer is not satisfied that your work can be done effectively from home, they are to put you on STIIP (Short Term Illness and Injury Plan) for the duration of the self-isolation
  1. For auxiliary employees: You are eligible for weekly indemnity benefits up to a maximum of 15 weeks if you:
  • Are sick with a fever and respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, runny nose), have no travel history or history of exposure to someone who was ill and travelled, and are not able to work from home
  • Have been medically advised to stay home due to being sick with a communicable disease (COVID-19)
  • Have been given a medical recommendation to self-isolate for 14 days as a precautionary measure because of close contact to a person sick with COVID-19 (spouse or child)
  • Want to self-isolate due to an existing health condition, and has medical documentation

    This is the case for auxiliary employees during this pandemic even if they have not accumulated 400 hours of auxiliary seniority or have lost your auxiliary seniority. In addition, you will not have the one week waiting period. This means you are eligible for weekly indemnity benefits immediately and will receive the benefit as quickly as possible. 

In short, you will be paid (and do not require vacation leave) if you are sick or in self-isolation due to travel or exposure to COVID-19 and are unable to work effectively from home. It is very important at this time that employees who feel unwell stay home and discuss their situation with their supervisor to activate appropriate sick leave.
I encourage you to contact me with any concerns and to visit for updates.
In solidarity,
Kusam Doal
Vice President, Retail Stores and Warehouse Component (Component 5)

Download PDF of COVID-19 public service FAQS


March 16, 2020

BCGEU Guidance for Health Care Workers re: COVID related work attendance - BCGEU

BCGEU Guidance for Health Care Workers
Please take the time to read this guidance in its entirety as it contains vital information.
If your employer is not following the processes outlined below, please speak to your steward and file a grievance.

  1. Any worker symptomatic with any cold/ flu symptoms should be off on sick leave or medical EI without the need for medical documentation;
  2. Any worker who is:
  1. directed by a qualified medical practitioner to self-isolate, or
  2. waiting for medical direction or a COVID-19 test result should be on a paid general leave which exists in most collective agreements unless their employer has directed them to work from home in which case they are paid as usual. This follows the direction of HEABC to all their member employers.
    1. A paid general leave for casuals includes not only the shifts they were scheduled for but wage replacement for their average daily earnings for the most recent 3-month period of work availability;
  3. The PHO's current advice for health care workers returning from any international travel without symptoms is that all health care workers returning from international travel contact their employer to receive direction about returning to work. That guidance should be:
    1. Those returning from Hubei, Iran or Italy should self-isolate for 14 days from time of departure;
    2. Those returning from other than Hubei, Iran or Italy should return to work unless:
      1. They are directed by their employer to work from home; or
      2. They are determined by their employer to be non-essential for the provision of safe patient care; or
      3. The work environment, as determined by the employer, has specific considerations that necessitate an enhanced level of caution.
    3. Those essential to the delivery of patient care (employer's decision) may return to work but take additional precautions to reduce the risk to their patients, colleagues, and the public should they become symptomatic:
      1. Self-monitor for symptoms;
      2. Wear a surgical mask at all times and in all areas;
      3. Follow infection control guidelines including diligent hand washing and use of PPE when delivering patient care;
      4. Reduce close contact with other HCWs and avoid shared spaces;
      5. Avoid close contact with others travelling to and from work and between shifts;
      6. Self-isolate at home when not required at work;
      7. Additional precautions may vary by facility, health care setting or workplace based on the patient population being cared for and risk assessments made by regional or local public health officials, infection prevention and control experts – i.e. NOT the employer.
  1. If facility specific guidance is provided by the BC's PHO (e.g. special precautions for long term care facilities given the concentration of vulnerable persons) then that direction should be followed. If the collective agreement fails to provide a leave for such absence, the BCGEU says that the worker should receive a paid general leave and not be made to suffer financially for acting in the interest of the clients.
  1. The BCGEU will clarify what the travel restrictions announced today by the federal government will mean for health care workers and advise you as quickly as we know ourselves.


March 13, 2020

BCGEU calls for suspension of rent and mortgage payments for sick/self-isolat...

Burnaby, B.C. – In response to the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a "pandemic" and public health experts recommending social distancing including self-isolation for exposed or symptomatic people, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on federal and provincial governments to immediately suspend all mortgage and rent payments until the pandemic is over.

"The BCGEU has said from the beginning of this outbreak that protection of workers must be a central plank of government response-that's why we called for an end to doctors' notes as well as paid sick leave and a host of other worker-focused measures," said Stephanie Smith. "The BCGEU is urging our members and all working people to trust the science and follow public health recommendations. The federal and provincial governments could support our message by suspending mortgage and rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure working people can afford to do the right thing."

Recent research from the 2019 annual BDO Affordability Index shows that more than half of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. The public health measures already announced-such as cancellation of large gatherings, travel advisories, and social distancing measures-mean some British Columbians are working less or not at all. As the pandemic evolves those impacts are expected to get worse, and more working people will be unable to make mortgage and rent payments.

"We all have a part to play in flattening the curve-workers, employers, and governments," said Smith. "Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic."

Two days after announcing the $1-billion fund to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he empathized with Canadians' worries and assured that the federal government would assist financially but has yet to suggest what that assistance will look like. More details are expected after the First Ministers' Meeting with the Prime Minister later today.

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.



March 11, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic Response - BCGEU

Today, the WHO declared that COVID-19 has escalated from public health crisis to pandemic. In plain language this means the public health priority has shifted from preventing the spread of the virus to slowing it down so that our healthcare system doesn't get overwhelmed by too many infections happening concurrently. In light of this, the Provincial Executive of the BCGEU unanimously passed the following motion:

The Provincial Executive approves that, effective immediately and until at least May 2nd:

  • All non-essential BCGEU gatherings over 10 people will be postponed;
  • Where possible, essential gatherings will be conducted remotely; and,
  • The Executive Committee will monitor the situation and reassess as new information on the pandemic becomes available.

Our union's senior leadership has been monitoring the emergence and evolution of COVID-19 from regional outbreak to general public health crisis to global pandemic and has been taking appropriate action at every stage to protect the physical and financial health of our staff and members while minimizing disruption to core union business.

This was not an easy decision, but it is absolutely the right decision for our union. Pandemic response is a collective responsibility and we all have a part to play in "flattening the curve". Though I understand this decision will inconvenience some members your provincial executive is unanimous that cancelling non-essential gatherings is the best course of action.

Immediate impacts include postponement of:

  • Local Chairs' Assembly scheduled to begin Friday, March 13th at the Metrotown Hilton.
  • Women's Health and Safety Course scheduled for Thursday, March 12th at Fraser Valley Area Office.
  • Area 10 (Fort St. John) and Area 02 (Nanaimo) steward appreciation events scheduled for April 18th and May 2nd respectively.

Every effort will be made to find alternate ways of "meeting"-for example, conference calls, video conferencing, and telephone town halls-to support core union business and to maintain solidarity between and among members.

Members with questions about whether an upcoming meeting not listed above is essential or non-essential should contact their Component VP or their Area Office. Members with questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact any aspect of their workplace should contact their Area Office. I will update you as the situation evolves.

In the meantime, here are two things can you do:

  • Do your part to "flatten the curve". Even if you are in a low-risk group, I urge you to take precautions not just to avoid getting infected with or spreading COVID-19, but also to avoid burdening our healthcare system during the pandemic.
  • Listen to experts. The rumours about COVID-19-from transmission to prevention to treatment-are spreading faster than the virus itself. I urge you to rely on the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) for reliable and up-to-date COVID-19 information as it affects British Columbians:

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith


March 11, 2020

BCGEU calls on all employers to drop doctor’s note requirement amid COVID-19 ...

The B.C. Government Employees' Union (BCGEU) is encouraging employers to waive the requirement for employees to produce a sick note to access sick leave.

The B.C. government announced last week employees no longer have to produce a sick note amidst concerns over the coronavirus.

Read full article here


March 10, 2020

B.C. employers must drop doctor’s note requirements to limit COVID-19 spread,...

B.C. employers must drop doctor's note requirements to limit COVID-19 spread, says BCGEU
Burnaby, B.C.- 
In light of the ongoing concern regarding the COVID-19 virus, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union is calling on all B.C. employers to waive the requirement for employees to provide a note from a doctor to access their sick leave.
"We all must take appropriate steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, and B.C. workers need to do so without barriers or additional risk of infecting others," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "Our provincial government has made the responsible decision to waive their employees' need for doctor's notes for COVID-19-related illness, and our union urges all employers in B.C. follow suit."
"We all have a part to play in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and the message from public health experts is clear-one critically important thing we all need to do is stay home if we feel sick," said Smith. "Right now many employers require workers to produce a doctor's note to access their sick leave, which creates a needless administrative hurdle for workers, an additional strain on our health care system, and an increased risk of spreading the infection."
On Friday, the B.C. government notified public service employees they will not need a doctor's note to begin receiving sick pay for COVID-19 related absences.
"Our provincial government's response to COVID-19 has been exceptional," said Smith. "They have shown tremendous leadership by waiving the need for doctor's notes for their employees and our union is calling on all employers in B.C. follow suit. It's a seemingly small decision that would have an enormous impact as we navigate this public health crisis."
The BCGEU joins the broader labour movement in concern for the financial impacts that prolonged illness and quarantine periods will have on working families in our communities - particularly those with precarious employment. The union joins the BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress in their calls for enhanced sick leave protections and the elimination of the one-week Employment Insurance waiting period respectively. It is essential that all levels of government take swift, decisive and coordinated action to ensure that workers are not forced to risk exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 for fear of losing their paycheque or their job.
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 contact BCGEU communications at 604-291-9611 or [email protected]


February 26, 2020

Coronavirus information for BCGEU members - BCGEU

As you are all likely aware, a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is causing respiratory infections mostly in Hubei Province, China. As of today there is one confirmed case of the virus in B.C.; however, according to the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer, the risk to British Columbians is considered extremely low. 

I want you to know that your union has been closely monitoring this situation since news of the virus first started breaking and we are in direct contact with health authorities as they work to ensure the health and safety of working people and their families across B.C. and coordinate containment and prevention plans.

Our OH&S department gathered the following information for BCGEU members. 

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Some transmit easily from person to person while others do not have that ability. China is conducting further investigations to better understand where the disease came from, how it is transmitted and the severity of illness it causes in humans.

Who is at risk of occupational exposure?

The risk of infection is greatest for persons living with or caring for an individual with the coronavirus. This includes health care aides, dietary workers, housekeepers, activity workers and other heath care workers treating patients with the virus or responding to medical emergencies involving persons infected with the virus.

In fact, any worker in direct contact with the public is at risk, including our members working as corrections officers and even clerical positions. Anyone who comes in close proximity with a possibly infected individual could be at risk for contracting the coronavirus.

What can members do?
Although the risk to British Columbians is considered low, BCGEU is following procedures of the health authorities and the BC Centre for Disease Control and encourages members to take preventative measures to help control possible spread of the virus and protect themselves and others.

The World Health Organization's standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include: regular hand washing, covering your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing, avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. 
B.C.'s Ministry of Health recommends that anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their primary-care provider, local public health office or call 811.
BCGEU recommends our members do the following:


  1. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if a risk of exposure to 2019-nCoV has been identified for you. You have the right to protect yourself, to ask for adequate PPE from your employer, and to ensure you are fit tested. 

  2. Review and comply with your workplace exposure control plan, policies and procedures. Find out what role you have in these plans and participate in any training and education that your workplace offers.

  3. Know what "leave" policies your workplace has in place for sick leave or to care for your family. Knowing your options in advance will help you make arrangements as needed. If you're uncertain about your leave entitlements, contact your shop steward.

  4. Stay home if you have the flu – or if you think you have the flu.

  5. Contact your BCGEU Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee Representative or site steward if you are concerned about the level of training or preparedness of your worksite.


You may wish to visit the following useful resources for more information about coronavirus:

BC Centre for Disease Control
B.C.'s Ministry of Health 
Public Health Agency of Canada
World Health Organization

We will update you on this issue as relevant information becomes available.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith, President