For almost a year, our union has engaged with your employer about the health and safety of CVSE staff and monitored CVSE's progress towards meeting the terms of the WorkSafeBC compliance agreement. This bulletin contains important updates about progress and concerns with both the compliance agreement and the current JOHS committee structure. Read on for details, and please do the following:
- talk about your safety concerns with your supervisor, colleagues, OHS reps, and managers;
- report all instances of workplace violence;
- consider becoming a BCGEU OHS rep at your worksite.
Megan Scott, BCGEU OHS Officer
Rob Davis, BCGEU Component 20 Vice-President
Maria Middlemiss, BCGEU Component 12 Vice-President
WorkSafeBC Compliance Agreement
As you are aware, thanks to the perseverance and solidarity of BCGEU members at CVSE, WorkSafeBC conducted a series of inspections at various CVSE worksites and entered a "Compliance Agreement" with MOTI regarding CVSE in 2021. The agreement focuses on violence prevention and makes several requirements of the employer.
Updates since September 2021:
- In November 2021, the employer completed violence and working alone risk assessments and prevention plans and submitted to WorkSafeBC. WorkSafeBC is assessing whether the employer’s submissions meet the terms of the compliance agreement. WorkSafeBC also visited CVSE worksites and conducted meetings with BCGEU worker representatives.
- Originally, the compliance agreement was set to expire on December 14, 2021. However, the term of the agreement has now been extended twice – first to the end of February 2022, and most recently to April 30, 2022.
- WorkSafeBC has said they will likely provide additional direction to the employer. Therefore we anticipate that the employer will need to do more to meet the terms of the compliance agreement. BCGEU worker representatives will be meeting with the employer and WCB next week to get more information from the WorkSafeBC officer.
- In Fall 2021, BCGEU representatives Megan Scott (BCGEU OHS Officer) and Myke Labelle (CTEO, Victoria) participated in a working group to support the risk assessments and development of prevention plans. The working group provided feedback to the employer.
Your worker representatives repeatedly raised serious concerns about the adequacy of the risk assessments and the employer's response to them. In particular:
- The violence risk assessment did not reach any conclusion about the frequency or severity of violence faced by CVSE staff. We asked the employer to gather more information about incidents reported in the staff survey (including assaults and assaults involving weapons), but the employer declined.
- We questioned whether the new violence prevention plan and risk matrix provide clearer guidance and better support for officers dealing with violence at work. We argued that while these policy documents provide detail on reporting procedures, we are concerned the plan will not make measurable on-the-ground safety improvements for CVSE officers.
- Despite repeated requests, the working group was not provided any information about the employer's plans for additional or revised training for CVSE staff.
- We repeated your concerns about Aware 360 and urged the employer to take more concrete action to address the risks of working alone. Our suggestions included creating a central dispatch system, increasing staffing, and developing better emergency response plans.
- We urged the employer to meaningfully engage with JOHS committees throughout this process, and repeatedly reminded them about their obligation to consult with committees under OHS legislation. However, minimal outreach was made to existing committees. In our view, the employer's consultation with JOHS committees was not adequate or meaningful.
JOHS Committee Structure
We have heard from BCGEU members that the existing MOTI JOHS committee structure is not working effectively for CVSE staff. So, your BCGEU representatives have called for a provincial JOHS committee to be established for CVSE as soon as possible.
You will recall that Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) committees are made up of employer representatives and worker representatives that are appointed by the union. Under OHS legislation, JOHS committees are required to identify unsafe working conditions, discuss ways to eliminate or minimize risks to workers' safety, and make recommendations to the employer on how to improve workplace health and safety. Employers are also required to consult with JOHS committees about safety matters, including risk assessments, safety policies, and related training.
For almost two years, we have called for a provincial CVSE JOHS committee at your Article 29 committee and in other meetings with the employer. Most recently, in January 2022, we met with CVSE management and provided a concrete proposal for a new JOHS committee structure. Our draft proposal suggested establishing CVSE-specific JOHS committees in each region, as well as a provincial CVSE JOHS committee. The employer did not provide a clear response to our proposal. Instead, CVSE management said that, because of organizational changes, they will be unable to move ahead with any JOHS committee changes for at least six months.
The BCGEU has requested a follow up meeting with the employer, but no date has been set yet.
What is next?
Your BCGEU representatives are continuing to push to have your safety concerns heard and acted upon, and for real safety improvements to be made in CVSE. We are in regular contact with WorkSafeBC about the progress of the compliance agreement. We are considering ways to move ahead changes to CVSE's JOHS committee structure, including putting our own proposal forward to WorkSafeBC. We have discussed CVSE safety concerns with members of the Ministry's executive and the Minister.
We encourage you to join the effort by:
Talking to your colleagues, OHS reps, supervisors and managers about your safety concerns, and the changes you think will make your workplace safer. It is particularly important for staff to report ALL instances of workplace violence – from verbal abuse to threats to physical assaults. Documenting experiences of workplace violence is critical to support and justify additional prevention measures like more training, better communication systems, and increased staffing.
Becoming a BCGEU OHS representative at your worksite. Under your collective agreement, every worksite – no matter how small – should have a joint health and safety committee or a worker health and safety representative designated by the BCGEU (see Article 22.3). If you are interested in becoming a BCGEU OHS representative, read the job description and complete the form at https://ohs.bcgeu.ca/ohs_rep. With your help, we can build a strong network of workplace leaders dedicated to the health and safety of CVSE staff.
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