Info on Covid-19, click for more information
B.C.'S UNION SINCE 1919

COVID-19 Information for Community Social Services members

COVID-19 News for Community Social Services Members

April 03, 2020

COMMUNITY SOCIAL SERVICES Communication on COVID-19 Health and Safety Obligat...

COMMUNITY SOCIAL SERVICES Communication on COVID-19 Health and Safety Obligations

We know our members have a lot of health and safety-related questions about what is happening in their workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we have put together responses to some common questions, that are specific to the work you do in this sector. 

If you have specific questions about COVID-19 and its impacts in your workplace that are not answered here, please direct your inquiries to your union representative (either your Joint Safety and Health Committee member or your steward).  If you cannot reach either of these union representatives, email ohs@bcgeu.ca.

It is important to emphasize that the information and recommendations about COVID 19 in BC are changing rapidly, and some information could become out-of-date quickly. Please keep this in mind and refer to official sources like the BC Centre for Disease Control ("BCCDC") for the most current advice.

Below are answers to the following questions: 

What should my employer be doing to protect my health and safety?
What if my supervisor or a co-worker is ill and still at work?
What if I am at work and my client appears to be sick?
What are my employer's obligations when there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the worksite?  
What should our Joint Safety and Health Committee be doing during this crisis?
Do I, as a worker, also have some health and safety obligations?
Do I need to wear a mask at work?
What if I have an underlying health condition that makes me more vulnerable to complications arising from exposure to COVID-19?
What if I feel the work I am expected to perform is unsafe?
Due to the nature of my work, I cannot maintain physical/social distancing and I haven't been issued PPE (personal protective equipment) like gloves, masks and gowns. What should I do?
What if I am concerned about my or other's mental health? 
 
What should my employer be doing to protect my health and safety?

During this pandemic, employers must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers - it is not "business as usual". Employers should be identifying and assessing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in your workplace and implementing preventive measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure.  

WorkSafeBC has developed some guidance for employers which is available here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/health-and-safety/what-employersshould-do.  

Key actions employers should take are to:  

  • Curtail non-essential work and have workers work remotely where possible.
  • Ensure workers do not come to work if:  
     o They have COVID‐19-like symptoms (sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing); these workers should be told to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms
    o They have travelled internationally (these workers must self-isolate for 14 days)
    o They share a residence with a person who has been exposed to COVID-19
  • Put physical/social distancing measures in place, including by:
    o Reconfiguring the workplace to maintain distance between workers (2 meters)
    o Limiting access to worksites
    o Limiting worker participation in in-person gatherings 
    o Limiting worker travel
  • Put physical/social distancing measures in place wherever possible when supporting clients  
  • Educate workers on health and safety measures to prevent transmission of infectious disease
  • Increase workplace cleaning, provide the necessary supplies and training, reinforce personal hygiene (washing hands, coughing/sneezing etiquette, etc.) to workers. 

Here is a helpful link that relates to child care educators and providers:"

Other sources of information:

What if my supervisor or a co-worker is ill and still at work?  
If you witness a co-worker or employer representative at work with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, you should report it to your supervisor or manager. Symptoms include sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing. A summary of symptoms is available from the BC Centre for Disease Control: https://bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/about-covid19/symptoms.

You have the right to be directed to work a safe distance apart from that individual. Workers always have the right to refuse unsafe work as per Section 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (see below), but the employer can assign you to other work that is safe as a response to a work refusal.  

Whether or not the illness has been confirmed as COVID-19, your union expects employers to ensure that workers who are ill do not come to work, and that clients that are ill remain home (if they are not in residential care of some kind). WorkSafeBC provides information directing employers to do this here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/what-employers-should-do  

What if I am at work and my client appears to be sick? 

Stop and tell your supervisor immediately if your client and/or other individuals in the home (this could be in a private residence, group home or long-term care facility) show symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing. 

If you are not clear about the safe procedure for caring for your client and/or you do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) you believe you need, stop and tell your supervisor immediately.  

The employer must assess if it is safe for you to enter the home or to continue providing care for your client. Has the employer provided you with training and safe work procedures to deal with a person with COVID-19? Has the employer provided you with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)? Have you received training on how to take your PPE on and off? Has the employer given you direction on how to dispose of contaminated materials? Your employer must answer these questions BEFORE you do the work.

What are my employer's obligations when there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the worksite?
 
Employers should be prepared to respond if someone at work becomes ill. Your union expects that employers will:  

Ensure the health and safety of workers providing care or services to people with COVID-19 (probable or confirmed). Some COMMUNITY SOCIAL SERVICES workers may be providing care or services to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Overall, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are properly informed, trained, equipped and supervised when working in settings where there is a risk of exposure to COVID-19. Your union 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 expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for workers and that they provide the training to use it. 

Otherwise ensure workers or clients (where possible) with confirmed COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, or others required to self-isolate are not allowed in the workplace. The current advice from public health authorities is that anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should self-isolate for 10 days.  If you client is in a group home or care facility, the employer must have protocols in place to ensure isolation of that person, in addition to protection for you. 

Inform workers and/or clients who may have been exposed as soon as possible. In so doing, employers should take reasonable measures, to the extent possible, to protect the identity of any employee that is ill or has contracted COVID-19.  

Public health authorities currently recommend that anyone who has provided care or had close contact with a person with COVID-19 (probable or confirmed) while they were ill or had symptoms (cough, fever, sneezing, sore throat, or difficulty breathing) should self-isolate for 14 days. Close contact is defined as living in the same household, having sexual contact, and/or providing care without appropriate PPE.  

Advise workers on what to do next. Employers should advise workers who have been exposed to anyone confirmed to have COVID-19, or to anyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19, to call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for an assessment and to determine any necessary next steps. Workers can also use the selfassessment tool to quickly assess whether they will be required to self-isolate. (https://bc.thrive.health/

Contact public health authorities for advice and assistance. Although employers are not obligated to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 to federal or provincial health authorities (this is the responsibility of medical professionals), if an employee in the workplace is diagnosed, employers should contact public health authorities to receive advice and assistance in identifying contacts that the infected employee had in the workplace. 

Take steps to prevent additional exposure. Employers should ensure prompt and corrective action is taken to eliminate or mitigate conditions or activities that could result in ongoing workplace exposure to the virus. Incident investigations should be conducted as needed in order to identify ways to prevent exposure(s) from occurring again in the future. This requires the involvement of Joint Safety and Health Committee members or worker representatives. Strategies may include conducting additional cleaning, readjusting activities in the workplace to ensure physical/social distancing is maintained, and/or implementing other safe work procedures to better protect workers.  
 
Ask workers limited questions about their health. Your employer may ask you limited questions about your health in the context of this pandemic.  This would include questions such as whether you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to individuals with those symptoms. 

Notify WorkSafeBC if the infection occurred at the workplace. If a worker becomes ill and the infection occurred at the workplace or in the course of employment, WorkSafeBC must be notified. Employers should submit claims online or by submitting a Form 7 (Employer's Report of Injury or Occupational Disease). Directions for employers are available here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/claims/reportworkplace-injury-illness/how-employers-report-workplace-injury-illness.  

Workers that believe they were infected at work should make a claim by phoning 1-888-WORKERS (1-888967-5377), or by submitting a Form 6 (Application for Compensation and Report of Injury or Occupational Disease). Instructions for workers are found here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/claims/reportworkplace-injury-illness/how-workers-report-workplace-injury-illness

Keep a record of employees that have been exposed at work. Employers are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (section 6.34(h)) to keep a record of employees that have been exposed to a hazardous biological agent at work, which would include exposure to COVID-19.  

**Note that these expectations are supported by requirements under OHS legislation and regulations. The Workers' Compensation Act and OHS Regulation can be accessed and searched here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/law-policy/occupational-health-safety/searchable-ohs-regulation.  

What should our Joint Safety and Health Committee be doing during this crisis? 

In accordance with the Workers' Compensation Act, all BCGEU collective agreements require the establishment of joint occupational health and safety committees. These committees are required to meet at least monthly or, to deal with urgent situations, at the call of either party. Those meetings should continue to occur on this basis and where matters cannot be resolved at the committee level, union appointees should contact their union representatives for support at ohs@bcgeu.ca.  If your employer is agreeable, more frequent meetings could be held to discuss the many issues that are arising in your workplaces as a result of COVID-19.

Do I, as a worker, also have some health and safety obligations? 

Section 116 of the Workers' Compensation Act (General Duties of Workers) requires workers to follow safe work procedures, and to take reasonable care to protect their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others. Workers are also required to report any hazards to their supervisor. In the context of this pandemic, this means that:  

  • Workers need to inform their employer if they are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19;
  • Workers need to comply with workplace policies and procedures;
  • Workers should comply with directions from public health officials;  
  • Workers should tell their supervisor if they are aware of others in the workplace exhibiting symptoms; and  
  • Worker should tell their supervisor if they have been exposed to a communicable disease (COVID-19) outside of the workplace.

Do I need to wear a mask at work?  
In general, masks are not required to be worn where COVID-19 is not suspected or confirmed. Most of our community social services workers will not generally require a mask at work, but there are exceptions. The BC Centre for Disease Control provides advice about wearing masks here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/common-questions.  

Masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person's droplets in. We recognize that many of the clients you serve cannot or will not wear a mask because of underlying mental or physical challenges. You employer must assess the risk these clients may pose to workers, and provide you with appropriate safe work procedures and PPE.   

Healthcare workers, including some of our community social services paraprofessionals, individuals working in long-term care and assisted living facilities, those providing direct care to clients (dressing, feeding, toileting, bathing, administering medication)and some others will be required to wear a mask when they are providing direct care to patients, clients or residents. The current direction from provincial health authorities regarding PPE for their staff is:

  • All health care workers and staff who have direct contact with patients in acute care, critical care, long-term care, and community care must wear a surgical / procedural mask, eye protection and gloves for all patient interactions.
  •  This requires extending the use of mask and eye protection:
     o One mask per shift, changing the mask if it is too damp, soiled, or damaged for safe use, and / or changing the mask if the health care worker’s shift includes a meal break;
    o Eye protection (i.e., eye goggles or face shield) to be used throughout the shift with appropriate cleaning protocols at shift end. When goggles and face shields are depleted, safety glasses can be used with the same cleaning protocols in place;
    o Gloves must be changed between patients.
  •  All health care workers and staff who have direct contact with patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 must engage in routine droplet and contact precautions, which includes a gown.   

During health-care procedures where aerosols may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), healthcare workers should observe airborne, droplet and contact precautions, which includes wearing specialized masks (N95 or similar). 

It is important to note that the use of PPE (gloves, gowns, eye protection/face shields, masks, etc.) must be in the context of an overall exposure control plan prepared by your employer that includes other measures (screening, social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, enhanced cleaning, etc.) to eliminate or mitigate exposure to the coronavirus.  

What if I have an underlying health condition that makes me more vulnerable to complications arising from exposure to COVID-19?  

The BCCDC and the Ministry of Health provide information about COVID-19 for people with chronic health conditions here: http://www.bccdc.ca/resourcegallery/Documents/Guidelines%20and%20Forms/Guidelines%20and%20Manuals/Epid/CD%20Manual/C hapter%201%20-%20CDC/COVID-19-Handout-chronic-disease.pdf

Current information suggests that older people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease are at higher risk of developing more severe illness or complications from COVID19. Although most people with COVID-19 recover, people with chronic diseases are also at higher risk of death if they become ill. Some of the clients you support have these conditions and are thus more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. 

BCCDC says people that are at higher risk should follow general preventative strategies against infection, and should they become ill, they should seek medical help early. For these individuals, the best way to currently protect themselves from COVID-19 is:

  •  Protective self-isolation and maintaining social distance
  •  Taking additional precautionary measures, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding touching their face  
  • Stay away from other people who are ill, and if they are sick themselves, to stay away from others 

According to the BCCDC (http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/vulnerablepopulations/children-with-immuno-suppression), protective self-isolation means staying separate from other people as much as possible.This includes:

  • Avoid people who have a cough, cold or flu symptoms
  • Avoid people who have been in contact with someone who may have had COVID-19 in the last 14 days  
  • Avoid people who have traveled outside the country in the last 14 days
  • Avoid crowds and places that many people pass through
  • Avoid groups of children or people
  • When indoors, and in closed spaces, stay at least 2 metres from other people 

It is important for all community social services workers to know that if their employer is not ensuring workers with health conditions are able to follow this advice, they have the right to refuse unsafe work. Refusing unsafe work is a step-by-step process outlined below. Workers may also request a medical accommodation or a COVID-19 related leave without pay under newly enacted legislation.  

Medical Accommodation 
This option is only available to members with an ongoing medical condition that meets with the definition of physical disability pursuant to the Human Rights Code of BC. Where an employee advises the employer that they have a physical disability that makes them vulnerable to complications if they contract the virus, (particularly where social distancing is not fully implemented and/or particularly if someone present at the worksite is advised by the Medical Health Officer to self-isolate for 14 days and have decided not to), the Employer's duty to accommodate is initiated. That means that the employer is expected to take steps to the point of undue hardship to attempt to accommodate your disability.  This may mean restrictions or limitations on the work you presently do or some other form of work.
 
The medical accommodation process is formalized by a written request for medical accommodation pursuant to the Human Rights Code. An email is acceptable for this purpose. Our members need to make sure they include what accommodation they are requesting and what is the nature of their medical condition. Members may provide this information to Occupational Health or their Human Resources department if they are concerned about medical privacy. The second document required in a formal medical accommodation is a medical letter from your doctor confirming your medical condition and advising of the restrictions or limitations required to your work to accommodate your medical condition and how long the accommodation is required. Since it is not recommended to go to your doctor unless absolutely necessary right now, members are encouraged to try an informal approach first.  Ask your steward to assist you or seek guidance from your union representative. 

Leave of Absence under the Employment Standards Act 

Last week the provincial government made changes to the Employment Standards Act that specifically address issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  An employee can take unpaid, job-protected leave related to COVID-19 if they're unable to work for any of the listed reasons.  You can access those reasons here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standardsadvice/employment-standards/time-off/leaves-of-absence#covid19. This leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia.  

What if I feel the work I am expected to perform is unsafe? 

If you feel that your health and safety is at risk, you have the right to refuse unsafe work and expect the employer to respond as per the process laid out in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. The procedure for refusing unsafe work is outlined below in simplified terms. More detailed information about the work refusal process is available here: https://www.bcgeu.ca/your_right_to_refuse_unsafe_work 

Step 1: Inform your immediate supervisor or employer that you are refusing unsafe work under Occupational Health and Safety Regulation section 3.12. The employer must then investigate your concerns and make the work safe for you. If the employer does not agree with your belief that the work is unsafe, go to step 2. 
 
Step 2: The employer must include a union representative or Joint Safety and Health Committee ("JSHC") representative to investigate your concerns. If no union representative or JSHC representative is available, then the worker gets to choose another worker to assess the situation. If the worker still believes the work is unsafe, go to step 3. 

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

The Employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against you for asserting that work is unsafe.  

There are "no discrimination" provisions in the Workers' Compensation Act (sections 150-153) to protect workers from any adverse treatment due to a work refusal. Article 22.4 of your collective agreement includes these same protections against reprisals for refusing unsafe work. In addition, a worker cannot lose pay while asserting their rights under the refusal of unsafe work provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation

IMPORTANT: If you are exercising this right in your workplace, please keep your JSHC members, steward and your union representative informed or contact ohs@bcgeu.ca. These resources and staff can assist you with your concerns and support you through this process.

Due to the nature of my work, I cannot maintain physical/social distancing and I haven't been issued PPE (personal protective equipment) like gloves, masks and gowns. What should I do?  

Overall, 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. Your union 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 expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for the workers that need it and that the employer provides appropriate training in its use. 
According to infection control guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada (outlined by the BCCDC here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/covid-19-care/infectioncontrol/personal-protective-equipment), contact and droplet precautions are required when providing care for confirmed COVID-19 patients, or for clients under investigation for COVID-19. These precautions involve workers wearing gloves, a surgical mask, face shield and a long-sleeved gown. Aerosol producing medical procedures require additional PPE, including an N95 or similar mask.  
 
If you do not have the PPE you need for an assigned task, stop and speak with your supervisor. Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work as per Section 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation as described above. 

What if I am concerned about my or other's mental health? 

This is a very stressful time for many people and their friends, family and coworkers.  If you or the people you care about need support, please go to the Ministry of Health website for some useful guidance and resources: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-healthsubstance-use/managing-covid-stress 

For current information on COVID-19 for Community Social Services members, visit https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid_19_information_for_community_social_services_members and for general information from the BCGEU on COVID-19, please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid. If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to health@bcgeu.ca.
 

 
 

April 02, 2020

Health and safety obligations – COVID-19 update, Component 3 - BCGEU

COMMUNITY SOCIAL SERVICES Bargaining Association Joint Communication on COVID-19 Health and Safety Obligations 

The Community Social Services Bargaining Association represents workers in BC under the Community Living, Indigenous Services, and General Services sectoral collective agreements. Our caring professionals provide vital services to women fleeing violence, adults and children with developmental disabilities, child care, the homeless, as well as providing supports to youth and families. We support the most vulnerable citizens of British Columbia.  We know our members have a lot of health and safety-related questions about what is happening in their workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we have put together responses to some common questions.  

It is important to emphasize that the information and recommendations about COVID-19 in BC are changing rapidly, and some information could become outof-date quickly. Please keep this in mind and refer to official sources like the BC Centre for Disease Control ("BCCDC") for the most current advice.
 
Below are answers to the following questions: 

What should my employer be doing to protect my health and safety?
What if my supervisor or a co-worker is ill and still at work?
What if I am at work and my client appears to be sick?
What are my employer's obligations when there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the worksite?  
What should our Joint Safety and Health Committee be doing during this crisis?
Do I, as a worker, also have some health and safety obligations?
Do I need to wear a mask at work?
What if I have an underlying health condition that makes me more vulnerable to complications arising from exposure to COVID-19?
What if I feel the work I am expected to perform is unsafe?
Due to the nature of my work, I cannot maintain physical/social distancing and I haven't been issued PPE (personal protective equipment) like gloves, masks and gowns. What should I do?
What if I am concerned about my or other's mental health? 
 
What should my employer be doing to protect my health and safety?

During this pandemic, employers must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers - it is not "business as usual". Employers should be identifying and assessing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in your workplace and implementing preventive measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure.  

WorkSafeBC has developed some guidance for employers which is available here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/health-and-safety/what-employersshould-do.  

Key actions employers should take are to:  

  • Curtail non-essential work and have workers work remotely where possible.
  • Ensure workers do not come to work if:  
     o They have COVID‐19-like symptoms (sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing); these workers should be told to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms
    o They have travelled internationally (these workers must self-isolate for 14 days)
    o They share a residence with a person who has been exposed to COVID-19
  • Put physical/social distancing measures in place, including by:
    o Reconfiguring the workplace to maintain distance between workers (2 meters)
    o Limiting access to worksites
    o Limiting worker participation in in-person gatherings 
    o Limiting worker travel
  • Put physical/social distancing measures in place wherever possible when supporting clients  
  • Educate workers on health and safety measures to prevent transmission of infectious disease
  • Increase workplace cleaning, provide the necessary supplies and training, reinforce personal hygiene (washing hands, coughing/sneezing etiquette, etc.) to workers. 
Here is a helpful link that relates to child care educators and providers:

Other sources of information:

 

What if my supervisor or a co-worker is ill and still at work?  
If you witness a co-worker or employer representative at work with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, you should report it to your supervisor or manager. Symptoms include sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing. A summary of symptoms is available from the BC Centre for Disease Control: https://bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/about-covid19/symptoms.  

You have the right to be directed to work a safe distance apart from that individual. Workers always have the right to refuse unsafe work as per Section 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (see below), but the employer can assign you to other work that is safe as a response to a work refusal.  

Whether or not the illness has been confirmed as COVID-19, your union expects employers to ensure that workers who are ill do not come to work, and that clients that are ill remain home (if they are not in residential care of some kind). WorkSafeBC provides information directing employers to do this here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/what-employers-should-do  

What if I am at work and my client appears to be sick? 

Stop and tell your supervisor immediately if your client and/or other individuals in the home (this could be in a private residence, group home or long-term care facility) show symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing. 

If you are not clear about the safe procedure for caring for your client and/or you do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) you believe you need, stop and tell your supervisor immediately.  

The employer must assess if it is safe for you to enter the home or to continue providing care for your client. Has the employer provided you with training and safe work procedures to deal with a person with COVID-19? Has the employer provided you with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)? Have you received training on how to take your PPE on and off? Has the employer given you direction on how to dispose of contaminated materials? Your employer must answer these questions BEFORE you do the work.

What are my employer's obligations when there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the worksite?
 
Employers should be prepared to respond if someone at work becomes ill. Your union expects that employers will:  

Ensure the health and safety of workers providing care or services to people with COVID-19 (probable or confirmed). Some COMMUNITY SOCIAL SERVICES workers may be providing care or services to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Overall, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are properly informed, trained, equipped and supervised when working in settings where there is a risk of exposure to COVID-19. Your union 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 expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for workers and that they provide the training to use it. 

Otherwise ensure workers or clients (where possible) with confirmed COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, or others required to self-isolate are not allowed in the workplace. The current advice from public health authorities is that anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should self-isolate for 10 days.  If you client is in a group home or care facility, the employer must have protocols in place to ensure isolation of that person, in addition to protection for you. 

Inform workers and/or clients who may have been exposed as soon as possible. In so doing, employers should take reasonable measures, to the extent possible, to protect the identity of any employee that is ill or has contracted COVID-19.  

Public health authorities currently recommend that anyone who has provided care or had close contact with a person with COVID-19 (probable or confirmed) while they were ill or had symptoms (cough, fever, sneezing, sore throat, or difficulty breathing) should self-isolate for 14 days. Close contact is defined as living in the same household, having sexual contact, and/or providing care without appropriate PPE.  

Advise workers on what to do next. Employers should advise workers who have been exposed to anyone confirmed to have COVID-19, or to anyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19, to call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for an assessment and to determine any necessary next steps. Workers can also use the selfassessment tool to quickly assess whether they will be required to self-isolate. (https://bc.thrive.health/

Contact public health authorities for advice and assistance. Although employers are not obligated to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 to federal or provincial health authorities (this is the responsibility of medical professionals), if an employee in the workplace is diagnosed, employers should contact public health authorities to receive advice and assistance in identifying contacts that the infected employee had in the workplace. 

Take steps to prevent additional exposure. Employers should ensure prompt and corrective action is taken to eliminate or mitigate conditions or activities that could result in ongoing workplace exposure to the virus. Incident investigations should be conducted as needed in order to identify ways to prevent exposure(s) from occurring again in the future. This requires the involvement of Joint Safety and Health Committee members or worker representatives. Strategies may include conducting additional cleaning, readjusting activities in the workplace to ensure physical/social distancing is maintained, and/or implementing other safe work procedures to better protect workers.  
 
Ask workers limited questions about their health. Your employer may ask you limited questions about your health in the context of this pandemic.  This would include questions such as whether you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to individuals with those symptoms. 

Notify WorkSafeBC if the infection occurred at the workplace. If a worker becomes ill and the infection occurred at the workplace or in the course of employment, WorkSafeBC must be notified. Employers should submit claims online or by submitting a Form 7 (Employer's Report of Injury or Occupational Disease). Directions for employers are available here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/claims/reportworkplace-injury-illness/how-employers-report-workplace-injury-illness.  

Workers that believe they were infected at work should make a claim by phoning 1-888-WORKERS (1-888967-5377), or by submitting a Form 6 (Application for Compensation and Report of Injury or Occupational Disease). Instructions for workers are found here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/claims/reportworkplace-injury-illness/how-workers-report-workplace-injury-illness

Keep a record of employees that have been exposed at work. Employers are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (section 6.34(h)) to keep a record of employees that have been exposed to a hazardous biological agent at work, which would include exposure to COVID-19.  

**Note that these expectations are supported by requirements under OHS legislation and regulations. The Workers' Compensation Act and OHS Regulation can be accessed and searched here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/law-policy/occupational-health-safety/searchable-ohs-regulation.  

What should our Joint Safety and Health Committee be doing during this crisis? 

Article 22.3 of your Collective Agreement sets out the structure and purpose of your Joint Safety and Health Committee.  It (and related legislation) requires that the Committee meet at least monthly or, to deal with urgent situations, at the call of either party.  Those meetings should continue to occur on this basis and where matters cannot be resolved at the Committee level, union appointees should contact their union representatives for support.  If your employer is agreeable, more frequent meetings could be held to discuss the many issues that are arising in your workplaces as a result of COVID-19. 

Do I, as a worker, also have some health and safety obligations? 

Section 116 of the Workers' Compensation Act (General Duties of Workers) requires workers to follow safe work procedures, and to take reasonable care to protect their own health and safety, and the health and safety of others. Workers are also required to report any hazards to their supervisor. In the context of this pandemic, this means that:  

  • Workers need to inform their employer if they are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19;
  • Workers need to comply with workplace policies and procedures;
  • Workers should comply with directions from public health officials;  
  • Workers should tell their supervisor if they are aware of others in the workplace exhibiting symptoms; and  
  • Worker should tell their supervisor if they have been exposed to a communicable disease (COVID-19) outside of the workplace.

Do I need to wear a mask at work?  
In general, masks are not required to be worn where COVID-19 is not suspected or confirmed. Most of our community social services workers will not generally require a mask at work, but there are exceptions. The BC Centre for Disease Control provides advice about wearing masks here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/common-questions.  

Masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person's droplets in. We recognize that many of the clients you serve cannot or will not wear a mask because of underlying mental or physical challenges. You employer must assess the risk these clients may pose to workers, and provide you with appropriate safe work procedures and PPE.   

Healthcare workers, including some of our community social services paraprofessionals, individuals working in long-term care and assisted living facilities, those providing direct care to clients (dressing, feeding, toileting, bathing, administering medication)and some others will be required to wear a mask when they are providing direct care to patients, clients or residents. The current direction from provincial health authorities regarding PPE for their staff is:

  • All health care workers and staff who have direct contact with patients in acute care, critical care, long-term care, and community care must wear a surgical / procedural mask, eye protection and gloves for all patient interactions.
  •  This requires extending the use of mask and eye protection:
     o One mask per shift, changing the mask if it is too damp, soiled, or damaged for safe use, and / or changing the mask if the health care worker’s shift includes a meal break;
    o Eye protection (i.e., eye goggles or face shield) to be used throughout the shift with appropriate cleaning protocols at shift end. When goggles and face shields are depleted, safety glasses can be used with the same cleaning protocols in place;
    o Gloves must be changed between patients.
  •  All health care workers and staff who have direct contact with patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 must engage in routine droplet and contact precautions, which includes a gown.   

During health-care procedures where aerosols may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), healthcare workers should observe airborne, droplet and contact precautions, which includes wearing specialized masks (N95 or similar). 

It is important to note that the use of PPE (gloves, gowns, eye protection/face shields, masks, etc.) must be in the context of an overall exposure control plan prepared by your employer that includes other measures (screening, social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, enhanced cleaning, etc.) to eliminate or mitigate exposure to the coronavirus.  

What if I have an underlying health condition that makes me more vulnerable to complications arising from exposure to COVID-19?  

The BCCDC and the Ministry of Health provide information about COVID-19 for people with chronic health conditions here: http://www.bccdc.ca/resourcegallery/Documents/Guidelines%20and%20Forms/Guidelines%20and%20Manuals/Epid/CD%20Manual/C hapter%201%20-%20CDC/COVID-19-Handout-chronic-disease.pdf

Current information suggests that older people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease are at higher risk of developing more severe illness or complications from COVID19. Although most people with COVID-19 recover, people with chronic diseases are also at higher risk of death if they become ill. Some of the clients you support have these conditions and are thus more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. 

BCCDC says people that are at higher risk should follow general preventative strategies against infection, and should they become ill, they should seek medical help early. For these individuals, the best way to currently protect themselves from COVID-19 is:

  •  Protective self-isolation and maintaining social distance
  •  Taking additional precautionary measures, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding touching their face  
  • Stay away from other people who are ill, and if they are sick themselves, to stay away from others 

According to the BCCDC (http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/vulnerablepopulations/children-with-immuno-suppression), protective self-isolation means staying separate from other people as much as possible.This includes:

  • Avoid people who have a cough, cold or flu symptoms
  • Avoid people who have been in contact with someone who may have had COVID-19 in the last 14 days  
  • Avoid people who have traveled outside the country in the last 14 days
  • Avoid crowds and places that many people pass through
  • Avoid groups of children or people
  • When indoors, and in closed spaces, stay at least 2 metres from other people 

It is important for all community social services workers to know that if their employer is not ensuring workers with health conditions are able to follow this advice, they have the right to refuse unsafe work. Refusing unsafe work is a step-by-step process outlined below. Workers may also request a medical accommodation or a COVID-19 related leave without pay under newly enacted legislation.  

Medical Accommodation 
This option is only available to members with an ongoing medical condition that meets with the definition of physical disability pursuant to the Human Rights Code of BC. Where an employee advises the employer that they have a physical disability that makes them vulnerable to complications if they contract the virus, (particularly where social distancing is not fully implemented and/or particularly if someone present at the worksite is advised by the Medical Health Officer to self-isolate for 14 days and have decided not to), the Employer's duty to accommodate is initiated. That means that the employer is expected to take steps to the point of undue hardship to attempt to accommodate your disability.  This may mean restrictions or limitations on the work you presently do or some other form of work.
 
The medical accommodation process is formalized by a written request for medical accommodation pursuant to the Human Rights Code. An email is acceptable for this purpose. Our members need to make sure they include what accommodation they are requesting and what is the nature of their medical condition. Members may provide this information to Occupational Health or their Human Resources department if they are concerned about medical privacy. The second document required in a formal medical accommodation is a medical letter from your doctor confirming your medical condition and advising of the restrictions or limitations required to your work to accommodate your medical condition and how long the accommodation is required. Since it is not recommended to go to your doctor unless absolutely necessary right now, members are encouraged to try an informal approach first.  Ask your steward to assist you or seek guidance from your union representative. 

Leave of Absence under the Employment Standards Act 

Last week the provincial government made changes to the Employment Standards Act that specifically address issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.  An employee can take unpaid, job-protected leave related to COVID-19 if they're unable to work for any of the listed reasons.  You can access those reasons here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standardsadvice/employment-standards/time-off/leaves-of-absence#covid19. This leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia.  

What if I feel the work I am expected to perform is unsafe? 

If you feel that your health and safety is at risk, you have the right to refuse unsafe work and expect the employer to respond as per the process laid out in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. The procedure for refusing unsafe work is outlined below in simplified terms. More detailed information about the work refusal process is available here: https://www.bcgeu.ca/your_right_to_refuse_unsafe_work 

Step 1: Inform your immediate supervisor or employer that you are refusing unsafe work under Occupational Health and Safety Regulation section 3.12. The employer must then investigate your concerns and make the work safe for you. If the employer does not agree with your belief that the work is unsafe, go to step 2. 
 
Step 2: The employer must include a union representative or Joint Safety and Health Committee ("JSHC") representative to investigate your concerns. If no union representative or JSHC representative is available, then the worker gets to choose another worker to assess the situation. If the worker still believes the work is unsafe, go to step 3. 

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

The Employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against you for asserting that work is unsafe.  

There are "no discrimination" provisions in the Workers' Compensation Act (sections 150-153) to protect workers from any adverse treatment due to a work refusal. Article 22.4 of your collective agreement includes these same protections against reprisals for refusing unsafe work. In addition, a worker cannot lose pay while asserting their rights under the refusal of unsafe work provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation

IMPORTANT: If you are exercising this right in your workplace, please keep your JSHC members, steward and your union representative informed.  These resources and staff can assist you with your concerns and support you through this process. 

Due to the nature of my work, I cannot maintain physical/social distancing and I haven't been issued PPE (personal protective equipment) like gloves, masks and gowns. What should I do?  

Overall, 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. Your union 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 expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for the workers that need it and that the employer provides appropriate training in its use. 
According to infection control guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada (outlined by the BCCDC here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/covid-19-care/infectioncontrol/personal-protective-equipment), contact and droplet precautions are required when providing care for confirmed COVID-19 patients, or for clients under investigation for COVID-19. These precautions involve workers wearing gloves, a surgical mask, face shield and a long-sleeved gown. Aerosol producing medical procedures require additional PPE, including an N95 or similar mask.  
 
If you do not have the PPE you need for an assigned task, stop and speak with your supervisor. Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work as per Section 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation as described above. 

What if I am concerned about my or other's mental health? 

This is a very stressful time for many people and their friends, family and coworkers.  If you or the people you care about need support, please go to the Ministry of Health website for some useful guidance and resources: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-healthsubstance-use/managing-covid-stress 

If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please direct your inquiries to your union representative (your Joint Health and Safety Committee member or a steward). If you cannot reach one of these union representatives, please email ohs@bcgeu.ca

For current information on COVID-19 for Community Social Services members, visit https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid_19_information_for_community_social_services_members and for general information from the BCGEU on COVID-19, please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid. If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to health@bcgeu.ca
 
In solidarity 
 
Andrea Davis,  
Spokesperson, CSSBA 

Download PDF of notice here 



UWU/MoveUP

March 31, 2020

CSS essential services application for child care - BCGEU

As all workers in the community social services sector have been deemed "essential service" workers under the provisions of the Emergency Program Act, you are eligible to apply for child care to assist you in attending at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting today, essential workers can fill out a new "parent" form to identify their need for urgent child care. Forms can be accessed by calling 1 888 338-6622 and selecting Option 4, or online: www.gov.bc.ca/essential-service-child-care

Please see the information bulletin here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020CFD0017-000599 for detailed information (Chinese, French and Punjabi translations are available) from the B.C. government about care options for children of essential service workers like you.

For current information on COVID-19 for Community Social Services members, visit https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid_19_information_for_community_social_services_members and for general information from the BCGEU on COVID-19, please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid. If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to health@bcgeu.ca.



UWU/MoveUP

March 27, 2020

COVID-19 update: Essential services order/multiple worksites – Mar 27 - BCGEU

On March 26, 2020 the BC Government used their extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act, to issue ministerial orders to ensure a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic across all levels of government. These orders have direct implications for workers in the Community Social Services Sector.
 
1. All Community Social Service Workers are Essential Service Workers under the Emergency Program Act

We have always known that the critical services and supports you provide to our most vulnerable members of British Columbia are "essential", and, of course under the Government's orders you have now been legally defined as essential to the functioning of our society in this pandemic.

The Government press release stated the following:

Essential services are those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning. They are the services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives.

Developed by Emergency Management BC in consultation with other government ministries and the provincial health officer (PHO), this definition is intended to clarify what qualifies as an essential service in the context of the Province's response to COVID-19. In consultation with the PHO, these services should and are encouraged to remain open. They must, however, follow the orders and guidance provided by the PHO to ensure safe operations and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

The PHO has ordered some types of businesses to close. Any business or service that has not been ordered to close, and is also not identified on the essential service list, may stay open if it can adapt its services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the PHO.

Child care providers and schools providing care and/or in-class instruction for children are to prioritize placements for those children whose parents are employed as front-line workers in direct to public health and health services, social services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response.

Specifically, essential services under the Emergency Program Act include all of the workers providing the services you provide in community social services. See here for the link to the full list of workers that the government has defined as essential to the maintenance of our Province.

What does it mean to be declared an essential service worker?

The work you do has been determined to be critical to the functioning of the Province and the Government has ordered that the agencies that deliver these services and support must remain open, wherever possible. Employers must still comply with all orders of the PHO and with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. 

2. Community Social Service Workers Can Work at Multiple CSS Worksites and for Multiple Employers

We know that the PHO, some Health Authorities and Community Care licensing have provided conflicting information to employers in the community social services sector. Now we have clear direction.

If you work at a long-term care facility anywhere in BC, you cannot work at another long-term care facility anywhere else. These are facilities that provide care to the elderly and are, typically, funded by the Ministry of Health. This order was made by the PHO to avoid the transmission of COVID-19 to vulnerable seniors in long-term care. There are very few of these long-term care facilities in the community social services sector.

However, if you work at a long-term care facility, you are permitted to work at any other worksite in the community social services sector or elsewhere. Other than the limitation on workers working at more than one long-term care facility, workers in the community social services sector are free to work for multiple employers and to work at multiple sites. 

We know that some employers have been asking you for information about other employers that you work for or have been trying to compel you to select one employer. They cannot do this and they must cease and desist in trying to limit your employment in any way, other than mentioned above. If an employer persists in asking you for this type of information, please contact your steward or union representative for assistance immediately.

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.



UWU/MoveUP

March 25, 2020

COVID-19 FAQ - BCGEU

March 20, 2020

EI Factsheet

Revision date: March 20th, 2020

 

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

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

March 18, 2020

Component 3 COVID-19 Update: CSS Sectoral Agreement Members- Implications in ...

COVID-19 Update

The BCGEU is the lead union in the Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) and met today with the Community Social Services Employers' Association (CSSEA) to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on our workplaces and workers in this unprecedented time. We are working with CSSEA 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 CSS clients in British Columbia.

General Health and Safety

CSSEA has indicated their commitment to ensure that their member employers are 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. 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 our members, 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 under the terms of the Collective Agreement. It is vitally important at this time that workers not come into work when they are unwell. The mandatory CSS Early Intervention Program will still apply and members will be contacted after 5 days of absence in order to provide support for their return to work.

The PHO discourages employers from seeking medical notes for the purpose of accessing members' sick leave banks and we expect employers to follow this direction, unless there are extenuating circumstances. 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. It is possible that an employer may require a medical clearance prior to your return to work.

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 will be placed on a paid leave of absence (not sick leave) for the duration of the isolation period. There is an online tool for determining whether you need a COVID test or assessment at https://covid19.thrive.health/

If a member elected or elects to travel after March 13, 2020, contrary to the recommendations of the PHO, unless there are substantiated extenuating circumstances, they will not be entitled to a paid leave of absence.

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/Worksafe BC

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 should contact your steward, occupational health and safety representative, or union representative to see if it is appropriate to refuse to attend at work and possibly involve Worksafe BC. If a 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

CSSEA has stated that they are committed to keeping all CSS staff employed through this crisis and their bigger concern is that the workforce will be depleted due to employees becoming unwell.

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 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.

Vacations

CSSEA takes the position 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 and the other unions that comprise CSSBA will be meeting remotely each Tuesday at 11:00 am and then with CSSEA on Wednesdays at 11:00 am to discuss pressing issues and the ever-changing landscape. 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 CSSEA and 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.

In solidarity,

Andrea Duncan, Comp. 3 Vice-President
Andrea L. Davis, CSSBA Spokesperson, BCGEU Negotiations


Download PDF of notice here

UWU/MoveUP

CS