COVID-19 resources & information for Public Service Members
Last week, your union sent out a bulletin (read it here) about discussions that we’ve held with the Public Service Agency (PSA) about how COVID-19 will be handled at work. As a result of our ongoing discussions with the PSA, they have issued updated versions of the two documents we shared last week:
COVID-19 News for Public Service Members
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
May 29, 2020
On May 19th, the B.C. government released details of a federal-provincial cost-shared pandemic pay program to temporarily top up wages of some essential workers but left out BC Liquor Store, BC Cannabis Store, and Distribution Centre workers who have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic.
Essential workers like you, who have faced increased risk, cost and inconvenience to serve your community throughout the pandemic deserve to be recognized. It is time LDB workers were paid for the critical jobs that they do.
Although the announcement has come and gone, the fight is not over, please sign the petition calling on the B.C. government to expand the temporary pandemic pay program to include LDB workers.
Sign the petition and share widely: https://action.bcgeu.ca
May 27, 2020
Eligibility for premium pay for BCGEU members in the B.C. public service
We have received messages from our membership asking why they were excluded from the premium pay offering. We are also disappointed more sectors were not included and rest assured, we're continuing to speak to the government about expanding it.
We are not able to answer some of the questions we've received because we don't have answers - we did not negotiate this premium.
However, we've discussed our concerns with the public service agency, and they're encouraging employees do the following:
- For employee questions about eligibility, please contact your employer directly.
- For technical program questions from employers and service providers, email your questions to the PSEC Secretariat PSEC@gov.bc.ca
Your union also asks that you copy your email to email@example.com to help us keep track of issues.
Your union is also working on ways that you, your co-workers and the rest of your BCGEU family can make sure government hears your voice on the pandemic pay program. Stay tuned for more on this.
More information from the government can be found at:
May 27, 2020
Pandemic pay eligibility for BCGEU members at MCFD
Since the B.C. government's announcement last week, your union has received many questions from administrative support workers in MCFD about their eligibility. While we had hoped the ministry would provide clarification, we haven't seen anything yet.
However, following discussions with the employer, we can now confirm all administrative employees in MCFD's Service Delivery Division will receive the premium.
This is an unusual circumstance. The BCGEU was consulted about the premium, but this didn't amount to negotiations. Our feedback to government during the consultation was this - the program should be extended to all frontline essential workers and that recognizing some groups of workers while excluding others would create unnecessary divisions.
Our stance hasn't changed. We still believe B.C.'s pandemic pay program should cover all frontline essential workers in recognition of the extraordinary stress, additional costs, and the higher risks to mental and physical health they're presently facing.
Questions about eligibility for this premium should be directed to your ministry, where the decision was made.
We wanted to ensure administrative staff in this particular division know that they will receive the premium.
Maria Middlemiss, BCGEU VP administrative services
May 19, 2020
Component 1 Update: Pandemic Pay for Corrections & Sheriffs
The B.C. Government today announced a lump-sum pandemic payment for essential frontline workers, including those in Adult Corrections, Youth Corrections and Sheriffs. The payment is calculated at $4 per straight-time hour covering a 16-week period retroactive to March 15, 2020. Eligible workers will receive the payment directly through their employer and do not need to apply.
This announcement is welcome news for all Component 1 members eligible to receive the pandemic pay, and comes at the end of many weeks of advocacy by the BCGEU and your Component 1 Executive. It is well deserved recognition for all the selfless and essential work you do on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further information on pandemic pay can be found at the 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
May 15, 2020
Component 1 Update: May 15, 2020
Corrections' New Normal
The government introduced BC's Restart Plan last week but we can expect the safeguards to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 that have been put in place in B.C.'s corrections centres to remain for the foreseeable future. We may see an effort by the employer to expand visits and programs, but your union will ensure that any movement in that direction will proceed safely.
Sheriff Risk Assessment
In contrast to the forecast for corrections, dramatic changes in the worksite will be happening for sheriffs as the courthouses reopen. To ensure that happens safely your union began working with the employer on a risk assessment this week. The assessment will cover workplace changes for sheriffs in the weeks and months to come. Local 104 member at large Rick Holzapfel, l;ocal 103 member at large and component 1 executive (sheriffs) member Dave Iorizzo will be representing your union in the risk assessment. Local 104 chair Brandon Cox and BCGEU staff representative Brian Campbell will also be available as resources. Dave Iorizzo will oversee this provincially and will report to me directly.
Force Options Training – Exposure Control Plan
Last week Force Options Training (FOT) was completed at OCC as a pilot project under an Exposure Control Plan (ECP), which was largely based on a provincial risk assessment developed through the hard work of local 104 chair Brandon Cox, local 105 chair Krissie Hayes, and BCGEU staff representative Brian Campbell. local 107 chair Scott Cudney attended the training at OCC on behalf of component 1. The ECP was adjusted by the employer following the pilot project at OCC. FOT started on Wednesday at SPSC and FRCC. Local 104 chair Brandon Cox and Local 104 JOHS co-chair Kyle McLellan are participating in observer and consultative roles on behalf of the BCGEU.
FOT will begin at VIRCC and KRCC the week of May 25, 2020. I will attend these sessions on behalf of the union along with Local 105 chair Krissie Hayes. We will keep you updated as we receive notice of FOT for the remainder of the jails.
Pandemic Pay Premium
The BCGEU is continuing to push for a pandemic pay premium for all essential workers in B.C. President Stephanie Smith has spoken directly with government officials, including Finance Minister Carole James about this pressing issue. Thus far we have received no further information from government, but are hoping for an announcement soon. This is a critical issue for the BCGEU and we will continue to pursue it.
Correctional officers and sheriffs are recognized as first responders in B.C. and work in the same dangerous and close environments as frontline healthcare workers. And, for the same reasons some healthcare workers are receiving additional pay for their selfless efforts on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, so too should correctional officers and sheriffs. The BCGEU will continue to fight for this recognition.
Victoria Day Long Weekend
Thank you to all component 1 members who work hard each day to ensure the safety of all British Columbians! I know you put your safety at risk every day preventing and responding to emergencies of all types. Hopefully all of you have an opportunity to enjoy some part of the Victoria Day long weekend – at a safe social distance of course - and hopefully we get some sunshine.
Component 1 Chair & BCGEU Vice-President
May 08, 2020
Component 1 Update: May 8, 2020
Provincial Officer Safety (COVID-19) Risk Assessment
We are pleased that the Adult Custody Division (ACD) has adopted most of the recommendations in the Provincial Officer Safety (COVID-19) Risk Assessment (completed by local 104 chair Brandon Cox, local 105 chair Krissie Hayes and BCGEU staff representative Brian Campbell). However, the ACD has failed to implement some key recommendations: including the installation of plexiglas barriers at officer workstations, and limiting the number of inmates officers have to travel with in elevators. These are key concerns for us and we have begun addressing them with WorkSafeBC. Barring a resolution at that level, we will be pursuing these issues with the Minister directly.
Provincial SO Force Options Training Risk Assessment – Exposure Control Plan
Despite the fact that we did not agree with terms of the Provincial Force Options Training Risk Assessment, the ACD implemented its own Exposure Control Plan for security officer training at Okanagan Correctional Centre this week. We have maintained some oversight over that training, but feel that a number of items need to be added to the ACD's Exposure Control Plan, including:
- Whenever possible, force options training should occur outdoors.
- ERT members, not recruits, should play the roles of inmates or second staff.
- The same training partners should work together for the duration of the training day.
- Union safety representatives appointed by local chairs should have a consultative role in training.
The BCGEU is continuing its fight for a pandemic premium for all essential frontline workers in recognition of their selfless efforts during these difficult times. So far we have not succeeded in this fight, but we will continue to pursue it at all levels, until you receive the fair compensation to which you are entitled.
As first responders, corrections officers and sheriffs work in the same kind of close and dangerous environments as healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, for the same reasons that frontline healthcare workers such as nurses are receiving a premium for their brave response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so too should corrections officers and sheriffs be fairly compensated for their unwavering willingness to go into work each day and expose themselves, and their families, to the same dangers. Corrections officers and sheriffs are both entitled to receive a pandemic response premium, and the BCGEU will continue to fight for this principle.
The BCGEU recommends that members file WorkSafeBC claims if they believe they were exposed to COVID-19 at work, are awaiting COVID-19 test results, or were infected with COVID-19 at work. Please be aware WorkSafeBC holds incoming COVID-19 claims for 14 days, or until a worker becomes ill, before adjudicating them.
The BCGEU has ordered cloth masks for Component 1 members. We understand your concerns and we stand in solidarity. The masks will be sent to the jails and court houses for distribution.
Fraser Regional Correctional Center members
Dean Purdy's Message to Members
Please click here to see Dean's message to members
Component 1 Chair & BCGEU Vice President
May 05, 2020
New Voluntary Process - COVID Screening for Symptomatic Employees
If you call in with COVID-19 symptoms or report them when you arrive at work, the Employer will offer you an opportunity to participate in a new COVID-19 screening process developed by the Government's Occupational Health and Rehabilitation group. Please note, this process is voluntary. If you choose not to participate you will be directed to 811 for testing and advice.
April 24, 2020
We continue to receive information that public areas of some essential service workplaces still lack proper protection for workers.
BCGEU members have reported concerns about possible exposure to COVID-19 in front offices and lobbies. If this is the case in your workplace, please report it to MCFD at this email address: SHRMCFD@gov.bc.ca. This is the centralized email address the ministry has developed to allow employees to forward whatever health and safety concerns they may have for management's consideration.
Where there are concerns about public areas, the most important thing you can do right now is report this directly to the employer using the email address above. We also want to be aware of these issues, however, so please copy us on your message using the address: Health@bcgeu.ca.
Your union continues to work directly with the ministry on COVID matters as they develop.
Maria Middlemiss, BCGEU VP component 12
Judy Fox-McGuire, BCGEU VP component 6