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July 21, 2020
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.
Stephanie Smith, President
July 17, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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, email@example.com
July 10, 2020
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:
Vice President, Retail Stores and Warehouse Component (Component 5)
July 02, 2020
Since COVID-19 hit, healthcare workers like you have been under incredible pressure -- and you have likely been significantly impacted by feelings of stress and anxiety about the pandemic.
Sometimes it's hard to know where to turn, so we wanted to let you know about a new program called Care to Speak designed to support the mental well-being of healthcare workers impacted by the personal and professional demands of working on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Care to Speak offers free, confidential and non-judgemental support, through a telephone hotline or online chat. You'll be connected with a trained peer supporter who has worked in front line healthcare – someone who understands your challenges and stresses.
You can access support between 5pm and 9pm, Monday through Friday:- Telephone hotline: Call 1-866-802-7337 (PEER) - Online chat: Visit caretospeak.ca
Your union has played a key role in developing the Care to Speak program, and I sit on the advisory team to make sure the program provides the best possible support for BCGEU members. The program is a partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association, SafeCare BC, with support from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, and other unions and healthcare organizations.
For more information about the program, or to access support, please visit https://www.careforcaregivers.ca/caretospeak/
We're in this together,
BCGEU Vice President for Component 8 – Community Health Services
BCGEU Vice President for Component 4 – Health Services
PS – If you're interested in serving as a peer coach to support other healthcare workers, the Care to Speak program is accepting volunteers. No experience is required -- you'll receive all the training and support you need to get started. You can learn more and sign up to volunteer at https://www.careforcaregivers.ca/peer-support-service/.
If you let BCGEU know that you've signed up to volunteer, we may be able to provide you with additional support. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're planning to volunteer.
June 29, 2020
Did you miss the town hall with Minister Dix? You can listen here
On June 10, the BCGEU hosted a telephone town hall with Adrian Dix, B.C.'s Minister of Health. Throughout the town hall, Minister Dix fielded a variety of questions from Component 4 members as they spoke about their COVID-19-related experiences and voiced their concerns.
We would like to thank those of who attended and asked questions, as many key issues were covered. Both front line workers and those working behind the scenes in health care asked important questions about the effects that COVID-19 has had on our work and our employment. We were joined by BCGEU President Stephanie Smith and Executive Vice President Joanna Lord.
Do you have a COVID-related question that was not addressed in the town hall?
Email email@example.com – Responses are confidential. To help us answer your question quickly, please tell us your employer and city of work.
Thanks again to all health services members as you continue doing critical work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of British Columbians.
Mahen Ramdharry, VP, BCGEU Health Services
Cina Opel, 1st Vice Chairperson, BCGEU Health Services
June 26, 2020
Working in an intensely hot and humid summer can pose a risk of heat stress to workers, affecting their health and safety. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress, the compounding effect of humidity in the current pandemic environment, and to implement preventative measures.
What are the signs and symptoms of heat stress?
Working in high temperatures can be hazardous to your health. It can cause your core body temperature to rise above safe levels, making you susceptible to heat stress. When high heat and humidity combine with other factors such as exertion, excess clothing, dehydration, fatigue, consumption of alcohol and drugs, or poor health (obesity, advanced age, pre-existing medical conditions), it may lead to heat-related illness, disability, and even death. Workers should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress in themselves and fellow workers.
What role does humidity play in increasing the risk of heat stress?
The body attempts to maintain a constant core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius(1). As the ambient temperature increases excessively, your body is less effective at cooling itself. Excessive levels of humidity put the body at a risk of heat stress by impeding sweat evaporation from the skin. Sweat does not evaporate as readily due to the increase in moisture content in the air(2) .
The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc. developed a Humidex-based heat stress response plan, where the humidex is calculated based on temperature and relative humidity. This plan is a simplified way of protecting workers from heat stress. Other factors could affect your susceptibility to heat stress and appropriate adjustments may be necessary. Ultimately, never ignore individual signs and symptoms of heat stress, regardless of the humidex.
The current COVID-19 pandemic could also increase the risk of heat stress. Ill-fitting personal protective equipment such as masks, vests, and clothing could create a microclimate around the skin by holding excess heat, moisture, and inhibiting sweat evaporation. This in turn can cause the core temperature to rise, subjecting you to a risk of heat stress. It is important to note that sweating does not reduce the body's core temperature, but that the evaporation of sweat is key.
Who is responsible for preventing heat stress?
The Workers Compensation Act (WCA) Part 2, Division 4, Section 21 mandates that employers ensure the health and safety of all their workers and remedy any workplace conditions that are hazardous to the health and safety of their workers. This includes remedying the risk factors associated with heat stress. Furthermore, The WCA Part 2, Division 4, Section 22 and 23, stipulate that workers and supervisors also play a role in ensuring their own health and safety and the health and safety of workers under their supervision, respectively. Preventing heat stress should be a collaborative effort.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) Section 7.27 - 7.32 outlines Heat Exposure and the employer's requirements. The employer must have policies and written work procedures in place to address the risk of heat exposure. A heat stress assessment and exposure control plan can determine the potential for hazardous exposure of workers.
If hazardous exposure is identified, the employer must first look to eliminate the hazard. If the hazard cannot be eliminated, the employer must then mitigate the hazard using engineering, administrative, or personal protective equipment controls to reduce the exposure of workers.
Raise the issue of heat stress to your joint occupational health and safety committee (JOHSC). If you are a member of the JOHSC, add "heat exposure" to the agenda for your next committee meeting. In doing so, you and your employer have agreed upon steps the committee can take to conduct a heat stress assessment, an exposure control plan, and a plan to educate and train all workers about the hazards of excessive heat exposure.
 &  Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety. (2019, July 2). OSH Answers Fact Sheets . Retrieved from Humidex Rating and Work: OSH Answers Fact Sheets: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/humidex.html
June 25, 2020
Your union's position on changes at the Liquor Distribution Branch
I am writing today to clarify your union's position about recent announcements made by the B.C. government, and some potential changes, that affect the Liquor Distribution Branch.
On June 16, Attorney General David Eby announced a temporary wholesale pricing model that will allow liquor licensees to purchase beer, wine and spirits at reduced cost. The pricing change will be in effect from end of July 2020 to March 31, 2021.
Although this will result in a slight reduction in revenue for the LDB, your union supports this temporary measure because it puts that money into the hands of community businesses which supports the province's overall economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to changes to the temporary hospitality pricing model, the provincial government announced that work is underway on several other measures including the adoption of recommendations contained in the third-party assessment by Deloitte of the LDB's liquor distribution centre in Delta.
One change that the Deloitte report recommended, and which the LDB will begin work on after the temporary hospitality pricing model is operation, is the addition of an order management system that will provide wholesale customers with greater visibility into the status of orders and a transportation management system to optimize transportation efficiency.
In general, your union is in favour of improving customer service, including processes and efficiency in the distribution system, so long as it is not at the expense of BCGEU members. Therefore, your union will be monitoring the implementation of the order management system and transportation management system to ensure it adheres to, and does not comprise, your rights or livelihoods.
The Deloitte report also identified options to replace the current system for delivery of non-stock wholesale products (NSWP). These options have not yet been evaluated or determined to be implemented by the LDB. However, it is your union's assessment that Deloitte has recommended changes that will reduce lead time for NSWP while avoiding major changes to the current system. Your union is fully against any measure of privatization and believes Deloitte's recommendation is in line with our position.
We will continue to keep you updated on these changes and any others.
Kusam Doal, Component 5 Vice President
June 24, 2020
COVID-19 Safety Plans: What BCGEU members need to know
As you are aware, the B.C. government has announced timelines for services and businesses to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether your workplace is re-opening now, or has been open throughout the pandemic, your employer – like all employers in B.C. – is required to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan that meets government and WorkSafeBC requirements and to have the plan available upon inspection.
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;
- Ensure supervisors are trained;
- Ensure supervisors are monitoring the workplace to confirm policies and procedures are being followed.
If these things are not being done in your workplace, or you have concerns about how they're being done, you should:
- Immediately notify your supervisor and your health and safety representatives (either your union's OHS department or your local BCGEU area office). Doing so is both a right and a responsibility.
- Consider invoking your right to refuse unsafe work.
More about COVID-19 Safety Plans
By order of B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer, all employers must develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan. The purpose of the Safety Plan is to minimize the risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
WorkSafeBC has developed detailed guidance and templates to help employers assess the risk of exposure to the virus, and put in place effective measures to protect workers. These materials are also a good resource to understand the best practices you should be seeing implemented in your workplace.
At a minimum, COVID-19 Safety Plans should include the following:
- 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 door knobs
- Easy access to facilities and adequate time for workers to wash their hands frequently
- 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
June 24, 2020
Dear BCLDB members,
Thank you for your advocacy and response in pushing back at our employer's short-sighted mask policy.
Your union is happy to announce that – thanks to our collective strength and the language we've bargained into our collective agreement – we've gotten the BCLDB to back down and issue a clarification that the BCGEU-branded masks that you have all been supplied are allowed to be worn on the job.
Our right to wear union insignia at work is thanks to collective agreement language that BCGEU members have bargained throughout the years, specifically Article 2.8 - Union Insignia, which can be found in your BCGEU collective agreement.
We have all worked so diligently to protect each other and our customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm proud that through our action as a union we're able to move our employer to clarify their policy on union face masks.
As a fellow BCLDB employee, I also want to note that I share your frustration at our exclusion from the province's COVID-19 Temporary Pandemic Pay, and I want to assure you that your elected union leadership continues to enquire with government as to why we were excluded and urge them to do the right thing and respect our work that was deemed essential.
To achieve our goal of inclusion in this deserved pay, it's important that government knows that we're united. If you (or your family and friends) haven't already, please take action to:
- Sign our online petition – Give liquor distribution branch workers pandemic pay – http://action.bcgeu.ca
- Write to your MLA and MP – All frontline workers deserve premium pay – https://bcgeu.good.do/premium-pay/stand-up-for-workers/
BCGEU face masks are being mailed out as they are received by the union from the manufacturer, with the order expected to be complete within the next couple of weeks. If you don't receive yours by early-July, please contact your local chair.
BCGEU vice president for Component 5 – Retail Stores and Warehouse
Download PDF of notice here