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.
June 17, 2020
As you may be aware, the provincial government recently announced an extension to the Temporary Emergency Funding (TEF) that would require any surplus funds to go toward additional compensation for Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) in eligible programs. Read the news release here.
For the months of July and August, child care operators are required to use any surplus funds from the TEF for temporary wage top-ups and/or non-monetary compensation such as training toward ECE recertification.
This is a step in the right direction, but it is, quite simply, not enough. We will continue to advocate on your behalf to get the best possible compensation for you during the pandemic.
In the interim, we expect that employers will be assessing whether they have any surplus TEF monies and if they do, they should, as government has indicated, be asking ECEs for their input on how those funds should be spent. If you need support in providing this input, please contact your shop steward or, if not available, your area office, for support.
You continue to show great skill and dedication to the children and families for whom you provide care, learning, and support in this challenging time. The pandemic has underscored just how critical your work is, not only to the families and children you support, but to the entire BC economy.
We will continue to strongly advocate for pay that reflects your critical role in our communities.
Click on this link to show one of the compensation initiatives we have been supporting with our partners at the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC.
Vice-President, Component 3
June 17, 2020
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.
Component 3, Vice-President
June 17, 2020
On May 7, 2020 the federal government announced it was working with the provinces on a cost-shared, temporary "pandemic pay" program to top up the wages of select essential frontline workers. Through this program more than 250,000 frontline workers will receive a lump-sum payment of about $4 per hour for a 16-week period, starting on March 15, 2020 and ending July 5, 2020. To be eligible, employees must have worked straight-time hours anytime during the 16-week period starting March 15, 2020.
Eligible health care workplaces include:
- Long-term care and assisted-living facilities
- Provincial mental health facilities
- Provincially funded home and community care services
- Public health units
- Primary care clinics
- Diagnostic facilities
- Community clinics
- Diagnostic and treatment centres
Eligible workers will receive the payment directly through their employer and do not need to apply. For more information on temporary pandemic pay program, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/pandemicpay
Most members in Component 4 are eligible to receive pandemic pay however others are not so our work is not done. While our union continues to push for broader inclusion in the pandemic pay program, members can sign our petition calling on MPs and MLAs to acknowledge that all frontline workers deserve pandemic pay: https://bcgeu.good.do/premium-pay/stand-up-for-workers/.
Thank you for all you do and let's continue to support each other as we move through this together.
Vice President, Health Services Component
Download PDF of notice here
June 12, 2020
BCGEU and Sheriff Service have signed a provincial risk assessment and exposure control plan ("SSRA") designed to mitigate COVID-19 risks as you return to new normal work conditions at your worksites in the weeks and months ahead.
The SSRA is the product of a constructive joint effort. Many thanks to component 1 executive member at large (Sheriffs) Dave Iorizzo, local 104 member at large Rick Holzapfel, and BCGEU staff representative Brian Campbell, for their many hours of hard work on this project.
A Fluid Document – please read it
The SSRA was developed following guidance from a range of sources, including: the BC Centre for Disease Control, WorkSafeBC, Occupational Health Programs, Sheriff Service policies and other provincial risk assessments. The SSRA is a fluid document which will be continually reviewed and may be adjusted as updated information becomes available.
All members should receive a copy of the SSRA, and are strongly encouraged to read and become familiar with it.
- Standard precaution
Work from home options where possible;
Cough and sneeze etiquette; and,
Staying home when sick.
- Staff to establish appropriate PPE at the beginning of each shift
At the beginning of the work shift, staff should establish the appropriate level of PPE (non-medical mask versus surgical mask, gloves and eye protection) they may require for the duration of the work shift.
When determining the appropriate level of PPE for the shift, staff must take into consideration the total daily time they may have potential exposure. Potential daily exposure time is important as potential exposure of more than 15 minutes may require a different type of PPE.
All PPE will be provided by the Sheriff Service.
- Different kinds of masks
Under the SSRA, different masks are to be used in different situations. Members requiring surgical masks should ensure they are obtained from containers indicating they are certified as ASTM Level 1.
- Enhanced cleaning protocols
The SSRA prescribes significant enhanced cleaning protocols for courtrooms, prisoner transports and prisoner holding areas.
SSRA review by local JOHS committees
The SSRA will be reviewed by all Local JOHS committees and implemented in a manner appropriate for the unique features of each worksite. Please contact your local JOSH committee or supervisor if you have any suggestions about the implementation of the SSRA in your workplace.
Right to refuse unsafe work
While the SSRA is comprehensive and intended to be a mitigate COVID-19 return to work safety hazards, all workers retain the right to refuse unsafe work.
BCGEU masks will be distributed to members in the weeks to come. These masks are intended for community use only, not for use in the workplace.
Component 1 Chair & BCGEU Vice President
June 05, 2020
OHS Tip: Joint Accident/Incident Investigations (JAIs)
Please print and post in your workplace for your fellow Component 5 members.
Your occupational health and safety (OHS) is your union’s priority – during a pandemic and always. This monthly OHS bulletin offers tips to help you prevent and treat injuries on the job. Our focus this month is Joint Accident/Incident Investigations (JAIs).
What is a Joint Accident/Incident Investigation?
Joint Accident/Incident Investigations (JAI) should be conducted when there is a serious injury, an injury requiring medical treatment, or where there is a minor or no injury but has the potential for causing serious injury.
In such an event, both worker representatives and employer representatives must conduct the investigation together (hence the word “joint”). The investigation is not “joint” when one rep conducts the investigation and asks the other rep to “sign off” on it.
What are the steps to conduct a JAI?
When conducting a JAI, follow the steps outlined in the “Problem Solving Cycle” and described below.
1. Is this an OHS issue? Occupational health and safety (OHS) issues are identified in several places: Workers Compensation Act, Occupational Health and Safety regulations, and/or your collective agreement language. If the issue you’ve been asked to investigate is identified in these places, proceed.
2. Identify and define the problem: Gather the facts and collect data. Develop the sequence of events. Interview the people involved. Interview any witnesses. Include relevant documents, if applicable. See “Worker Account/Description” and “Basic Timeline of Events” in the Preliminary JAI Form. If you need more room to document the problem, use another sheet of paper.
3. Determine the causes: Look for multiple causes and don’t forget to look for contributing factors. Consider a) tasks; b) environment; c) material/equipment; d) personnel, such as training, stress, fatigue, and experience; and e) management, such as proper supervision, regular inspections, and hazard correction.
4. Consider all solutions: Use the Hierarchy of Controls to consider all solutions to the problem. First, seek to eliminate. If elimination is not possible, look at engineering, substitution, administration, and/or PPE. Just as there is potential for multiple causes of the problem, there is potential for multiple solutions.
5. Send written recommendation to the employer: After sending your JAI report to the employer, ensure that management knows about the incident and all your corrective action(s) and, that your coworkers are informed of the incident (minus names of those involved) and the measures taken.
The OHS committee is required to follow up in a timely manner on the decisions of your recommendations. The employer needs to provide in writing their decisions, and the reasons for actioning or not actioning, the committee’s recommendations.
6. Employer implements solution(s): Assist management, if necessary, to implement measures to prevent similar incidents.
7. Evaluation and Follow-up: Ensure you follow up on, and review, all solutions. More than one evaluation and follow-up may need to be done.
Where can I find more information about JAIs?
Information about the “Problem Solving Cycle” can be found on page 19 of your OH&S Government Two Day Participant Kit, Session 7 as introduced during your two-day Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committee training.
Information regarding the "Hierarchy of Controls" can be found here.
You can also use this bulletin as a resource when conducting a JAI. For easy reference, print and tape it to the back of your clipboard of JAI forms and treat it like a checklist.
Contact your union’s Occupational Health and Safety team at [email protected]
Download the JAI poster for your workplace here
June 05, 2020
Hazard Alert: Hand sanitizer at worksites
You are receiving this hazard alert as an OHS representative of BCGEU members. Please inform your colleagues of the following information.
Due to supply issues, some manufacturers of hand sanitizer are substituting food-grade ethanol with technical-grade ethanol – which contains toxicological properties including carcinogenicity and should NOT be used on broken or damaged skin, while pregnant or breastfeeding, or inhaled in general.
We advise all OHS representatives and workers to:
- Be aware of this potential hazard (full details below).
- Check the information about the hand sanitizer product used in your workplace.
If your workplace is using hand sanitizer containing technical-grade ethanol, we advise JOHS committees or worker representatives to:
- Recommend that the employer substitute the hand sanitizer with a hand sanitizer that does not contain technical-grade ethanol.
- Recommend measures and procedures that reinforce handwashing with soap and water as the best hand-hygiene practice and use of hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available.
If you have questions about this advice, or the following information, contact [email protected].
About technical-grade ethanol and Health Canada manufacturing requirements:
Hand sanitizer that contains technical-grade ethanol has a stronger or different smell than sanitizer with food-grade ethanol. The ingredient of concern is acetaldehyde with a content of 800-1000 ppm. (Normal content of acetaldehyde in hand sanitizer is 10 ppm.) The following is an example of a label you should expect to see on hand sanitizer containing technical-grade ethanol:
On April 15, 2020, Health Canada issued a time-limited approval for manufacturers of hand sanitizer to use technical-grade ethanol while higher-grade ethanol was in short supply. Health Canada required these manufacturers to notify its customers that their product contained technical-grade ethanol and to label their product containers with the following warnings: "Do not use on broken or damaged skin. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not inhale."
At the end of May, some lots of Microsan Optidose hand sanitizer with technical-grade ethanol were recalled by B.C. health authorities, and by now should have been identified and removed from health authority worksites. However, other non-health authority BCGEU workplaces may be using hand sanitizer with technical-grade ethanol.
Key concerns about using this product:
- Information about this change in manufacturing, and the potential harm associated with the new product, may not make it to workers.
- Handwashing with soap and water is always the best method for hand hygiene and should be encouraged no matter what type of hand sanitizer is available, but especially because of this issue.
British Columbia's Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires employers to eliminate or minimize exposure to chemicals that are potentially harmful to workers' health (Section 5.2 (b)), and ensure that that labels, Safety Data Sheets and other information are readily available and clearly communicated to the worker (Section 5.2 (a), (c)).
The Joint Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representative has the power to identify hazards and make recommendations to the Employer to improve the health and safety of workers (Workers' Compensation Act Section 37), and to request information from the employer about hazards in the workplace (Workers' Compensation Act Section 42(2)(a)).
April 15th Health Canada notice to industry: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/legislation-guidelines/covid19-technical-grade-ethanol-hand-sanitizer.html
List of Health Canada-approved hand sanitizers: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/disinfectants/covid-19/hand-sanitizer.html
Information on how Health Canada assesses the use of technical use ethanol: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/legislation-guidelines/covid19-technical-grade-ethanol-hand-sanitizer/risk-assessment-summary-report.html
Contact [email protected].
June 03, 2020
As you are aware, the federal and provincial governments have worked together to provide front line workers with access to COVID-19 Temporary Pandemic Pay. For further information on this temporary program, go here. There is ongoing uncertainty about how the provincial government intends to apply this pay across all of the workers in the community social services (CSS) sector.
At present, we understand that it is government's position that to be eligible for pandemic pay, a worker must:
- Have been working straight-time hours at any point during the 16-week period starting on March 15, 2020, at the height of the province's response to the pandemic; casual, on-call, and part-time workers who have worked straight-time hours during this period are also eligible
- Work in an eligible sector, workplace and role delivering in-person, front line care
- Provide additional support and relief to front line workers by working in ways that directly serve vulnerable populations.
Most employees in the CSS sector are eligible for pandemic pay provided that they:
- are covered by one of the three CSS sectoral collective agreements (Community Living, General Services, or Indigenous Services)
- work in bargaining unit equivalent (BUE)
- worked straight-time hours at any point during the 16-week period starting March 15th; workers on leaves of absences, whether paid or unpaid, are not eligible for pandemic pay during the period of leave; for workers who work primarily remotely, it is unclear as to eligibility and employers are advised to check with their funder(s)
Government has indicated that the following workers are not eligible for pandemic pay:
- excluded management staff or fee for service providers
- employees working in a child care program
- employees working in a Non-Provincially Funded (NPF) program
- employees receiving equivalent compensation as part of BC Housing's Safe Staffing Strategy
Please see our prior advocacy for pandemic pay for all workers in this sector (see previous bulletins here):
Fair pay and safe working conditions – COVID-19 update, Component 3
- BCGEU calls for expansion of B.C.'s pandemic pay program for essential workers
In addition, your bargaining association, led by the BCGEU, wrote to B.C. Finance Minister Carole James on May 27 to request a broader application of pandemic pay to ensure all workers in the community social services sector are eligible. You can see that letter here.
Our union just launched a campaign today encouraging members to send an email to their MLA and MP telling them that all frontline workers deserve pandemic pay. Check out the campaign here.
We will continue to advocate on behalf of all workers in the community social services sector to obtain equal application of pandemic pay to all workers providing or supporting the provision of these vital services to vulnerable children and adults in British Columbia.
Andrea Duncan, Component 3 Vice-President
June 03, 2020
Return-to-workplace update: BC NDP Constituency Offices
Get answers to all your return-to-workplace questions on Tuesday, June 9th, 11:00 am via a Zoom townhall. Details below.
As you are aware, the B.C. government has recently announced timelines for services and businesses to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are required to involve worker representatives to develop plans that meet government and WorkSafeBC requirements, and have these plans available upon inspection.
Your union is in regular communication with your employer as these plans are being made and implemented. Your health and safety and collective agreement rights are our top priority, and we continue to advocate for you as operations evolve.
This bulletin provides the latest details of your employer's plans to return to the workplace. If you have any concerns, please immediately contact your union steward (see contact list below), reach out to your local executive, or email [email protected].
What we know of your employer's plans:
- Each NDP constituency office determines its own return-to-workplace plan and is to consult workers as they develop their own plan.
What we've identified in the plan to be addressed:
- Office cleaning: Your return-to-workplace plan should include information about cleaning, including who is responsible and timelines. Article 18.4 of your Collective Agreement states that "Employees shall not be required to provide office cleaning."
What we recommend you do:
- Work with your employer to assist with the creation of the return-to-workplace plans.
- If you return to work and protocols are not being followed, or you feel unsafe, follow the proper process to exercise your legislative responsibility and right to refuse unsafe work. Review the three-step process to refuse unsafe work.
- If you are unsure whether work is unsafe, or how to refuse properly, contact a steward (see contact list below) or an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Committee member.
- If you are not able to return to the workplace full-time, you may request an accommodation from your employer on family status or health reasons. Contact a steward if you have questions (see contact list below).
Who to contact for help or more information:
- To answer your questions and concerns about returning to the workplace, your union will be hosting a Zoom townhall on Tuesday, June 9, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. You can access the townhall at that time here. (We'll send full details to access the townhall on the day before.)
- To have your questions and concerns addressed during the townhall, please email [email protected] by Thursday, June 4, end of day.
- Or, to discuss your situation directly, contact your stewards:
Stewards for NDP Constituency Assistants
This is what we know right now. We are committed to open and timely communication with you, so we will keep you informed as we learn more.
Finally, for information about other issues impacted by the pandemic, visit bcgeu.ca/covid or email [email protected].
Cindy Battersby, Component 7 Vice President
May 29, 2020
Joint Occupational Health & Safety Working Group
Component 1 Executive Member at Large (Sheriffs) Dave Iorizzo, Local 104 Member at Large Rick Holzapfel, and BCGEU Staff Representative Brian Campbell are meeting weekly with the Employer as part of a Joint Occupational Health & Safety Working Group.
Provincial Sheriff Risk Assessment
Dave Iorizzo, Rick Holzapfel and Brian Campbell have also worked many hours on a joint Provincial Sheriff Risk Assessment (PSRA). The PSRA is almost complete, with only the issue of appropriate masks for the workplace remaining to be resolved. It is hoped that the PSRA will be completed by next week. We will keep you updated.
Local Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committees
Despite workplace closures throughout the Province, local JOHS Committees should still be meeting. This is important for local JOHS committees in advance of the planned reopening of courthouses. Courthouse reopening dates have not yet been set, but local JOHS committees will have a role to play in that process when it does occur. The BCGEU will provide further information in that regard as it becomes available.
COVID-19 Related Safety Concerns
If you have any COVID-19 related workplace safety concerns, contact your supervisor, a local JOHS committee member, or the BCGEU at [email protected] .
Many members have been asking when they will be receiving their pandemic pay. The Government has not set one date for payment, which has been left to individual employers. If you have questions about pandemic pay, please ask your employer or check out the BCGEU's and Government links below.
Provincial government announces details of pandemic pay program for essential workers
Pandemic pay supports front-line health, social workers
B.C. COVID-19 Temporary Pandemic Pay
Component 1 Chair & BCGEU Vice President