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NEWS

April 23, 2020

JOHS committees must continue meeting during COVID-19 pandemic - BCGEU

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committees to meet and discuss COVID-19-related health and safety issues they are dealing with in their workplace.
Your union has heard that some employers are telling JOHS committees to cancel or suspend their meetings until further notice. This violates the requirements of the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) and is unacceptable. JOHS committee meetings must continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bulletin provides information about JOHS committee requirements in your workplace. If these requirements are not being followed at your workplace, please immediately notify your supervisor, your steward and your local OHS rep.

What are the requirements of a Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committee?

The Workers Compensation Act (WCA) requires employers to establish a joint health and safety (JOHS) committee in all workplaces with 20 or more employees. In smaller workplaces (9-19 employees), a single worker health and safety representative must be chosen that has essentially the same duties and functions as a joint committee. The Act also says that joint committees must meet at least once a month. Some BCGEU collective agreements include requirements for committees and representatives that go beyond the minimum requirements of the Act. 

Should JOHS committee meetings, or meetings with worker health and safety representatives, be cancelled or suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. JOHS committee meetings, or meetings with worker health and safety representatives, should not be cancelled or suspended. JOHS committees have a right to participate in the development of workplace prevention and response strategies dealing with the virus, and WorkSafeBC has confirmed that it expects JOHS committees to continue to meet in accordance with the requirements under the Act. 

If your JOHS committee meetings have been cancelled or suspended, tell your supervisor, your steward and your local OHS rep that the meetings should be restarted. If meetings remain suspended, report this to the WorkSafeBC Prevention Line at 1-888-621-7233 (1-888-621-SAFE), and email ohs@bcgeu.ca to let us know that you have called WorkSafeBC.

What should my JOHS committee or worker representative be doing in response to COVID-19? 
JOHS committees or worker health and safety representatives should be meeting regularly and working with their employer to identify and find solutions to workplace health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. At this time, meetings may need to be held remotely for some or all participants.

Here's a few concrete things that joint committees or worker health and safety representatives can be doing during this crisis:

  • Ask questions and raise concerns about exposure to the virus at work. For ideas, the Ontario's Workers' Health and Safety Centre has a useful COVID-19 checklist, and a list of questions for JOHS committees to ask is available from CUPE. 
     
  • Participate in a walk-through assessment of the workplace and/or work process(es) to identify potential areas of increased risk and priority action.
     
  • Participate in reviewing, updating and/or developing an exposure control plan (ECP) for your workplace in light of COVID-19. 
     
  •  Participate in any assessment or evaluation of personal protective equipment (PPE).
     
  • Review your workplace's policies and procedures to ensure they are updated with the latest information on COVID-19.
     
  • Make recommendations to your employer about how to keep workers safe from COVID-19. For guidance, WorkSafeBC offers both general and industry-specific information for employers to keep workers healthy and safe during this pandemic. Practical information for workplaces is also provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Government of Canada.
     
  • Remember to consider and make recommendations protecting workers' mental health. Resources on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic are available from the B.C. government, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the World Health Organization
     
  • Gather feedback from your coworkers about how prevention measures are working, and what their health and safety concerns are during the pandemic. 
     
  • Help to promote measures to prevent exposure to COVID-19 at your workplace.
     
  • Provide feedback on the effectiveness of control measures implemented in your workplace.
     
  • Participate in incident investigations related to COVID-19 exposure in your workplace. 

What rights do workers have to participate in their workplace's response to COVID-19?

Workers continue to have the right to participate in their workplace's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes participation of the joint health and safety committee, or the worker health and safety representative, in the development of the workplace's exposure control plan, in the investigation of symptoms related to occupational exposure, and in workplace evaluations for determining appropriate personal protective equipment.



UWU/MoveUP

April 17, 2020

BC union’s shareholder proposal questions Thomson Reuters on human rights rec...

Burnaby, Canada – The BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) – a major Canadian labour union with an innovative and aggressive capital stewardship strategy – has filed a shareholder proposal raising concerns about human rights impacts at the $8-billion software and media company Thomson Reuters (TSX/NYSE: TRI).

"Like many unions, the BCGEU invests members' dues to grow our union," says Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU since 2014. "Unlike most unions, the BCGEU has a capital stewardship program in place that helps us leverage our power as an investor to demand action from companies on the issues that matter for our members, and all working people. Our proposal to Thomson Reuters raises one of those issues: human rights, including the rights of children."

Thomson Reuters currently holds US$60 million in contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under those contracts, Thomson Reuters' CLEAR® software provides the data that ICE uses in its Immigration Enforcement program to track, arrest, detain, and deport foreign nationals-including children-on a massive scale.

ICE uses CLEAR® to collate information from multiple databases, including utilities, live cell phone records, social media posts, DMV records, property, criminal/arrest and court records, business data, healthcare provider information, and license plate recognition, among others. One of the main benefits to ICE is that CLEAR® is not subject to the same legal restrictions on collection and retention of data as a government-run software would be.

"The point of our shareholder proposal is simple: we are asking Thomson Reuters to address the obvious human rights issues related to how their software is being used and to make sure the company is living up to its obligations as a participant in the United Nations Global Compact. The United Nations considers family separation and detention illegal under international law," said Smith. "We see this as an ethical issue as well as a risk to investors."

Concerns with these contracts, and ICE's Immigrant Enforcement program, are particularly timely in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. ICE continues to conduct immigration raids using Thomson Reuters' software despite shelter-in-place orders, and continues to detain subjects in facilities that present a substantial risk for transmission of the virus due to lack of access to sanitation, testing, and healthcare in addition to inability to practice physical distancing or other public health measures.

Human rights advocates, lawyers and detainees themselves are raising concerns that a massive outbreak inside these facilities is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen.

"While Thomson Reuters has built a brand as a trusted news source, few people realize that the news operation is largely financed by the company's role as a data broker for agencies like ICE," says Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign director at Mijentea digital and grassroots organizing hub for Latinx and Chicanx people. Mijente has been leading the challenge to hold companies who have contracts with ICE accountable. "There are enormous risks associated with doing business with ICE, and those risks are currently being ignored. Thomson Reuters needs to address the very serious human rights concerns with these contracts."

Thomson Reuters currently holds six distinct contracts with ICE worth nearly US$60 million. The contracts are held with two subsidiary companies, Thomson Reuters Special Services LLC and West Publishing Corporation. BCGEU expects strong support for this proposal given similarities to a TJX Companies proposal in 2019 that was supported by a significant 39 per cent of shareholders. 

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The Thomson Reuters annual general meeting will take place virtually on June 3, 2020 from Toronto.

Read the proposal and cover letter here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587136015/20200417_Thomson_Reuters_Shareholder_Proposal_and_cover_letter.pdf?1587136015

Read the excerpt from Thomson Reuters management circular here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/896/attachments/original/1587137216/TR_-_Proposal_and_Response_%282020%29.pdf?1587137216

 

About BCGEU:

The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in B.C. with 80,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. Learn more at www.bcgeu.ca

Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals to companies including Royal Bank of Canada, Brookfield Asset Management and Loblaw on topics like human rights, sexual misconduct, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on human rights due diligence, vertical pay analysis, food waste and climate disclosure.

 

 



UWU/MoveUP

April 16, 2020

Acknowledging the frontline workers of two health care crises

April 15, 2020 marks the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the overdose crisis as a public health emergency in British Columbia.

In a statement recognizing the date this week, Judy Darcy, B.C.’s first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said “In this unprecedented time of two public health emergencies, we must work together to both flatten the curve and stop overdose deaths. We cannot afford to stop caring about one health-care crisis as we stare down another.”

BCGEU represents hundreds of members working on the front lines of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but the overdose crisis. We would want to take this opportunity to recognize the incredible work of our members who are working around the clock under extraordinarily challenging and stressful circumstances: members at worksites such as RainCity Housing, Lookout Housing and Health Society, Victoria Cool Aid Society, Atira Women’s Resource Society, the mental health outreach workers working for the health authorities and so many more across B.C. Our members put themselves at risk to help keep communities safe from COVID-19 and to protect some of our province’s most vulnerable people from overdose, withdrawal or other harms. 

While we applaud the recent move our government has made on safe supply and efforts to support physical distancing and other public health measures among drug users, we urge more action to protect drug users, the homeless, and the workers who care for them like making sure the safe supply measure implemented for the duration of the pandemic become permanent, and ensuring access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers in mental health, homelessness and addiction services.

We echo Minister Darcy’s sentiments and appreciate her recognition of people working on the front lines of the overdose crisis: “Every single day, I am awed by the dedication, ingenuity and passion of the thousands of people on the front lines of the fentanyl-poisoning crisis in British Columbia,” says Darcy. Now, more than ever, we must recognize the hard work, sacrifices and inherent value of our members’ and how they continue to save lives each and every day through these unprecedented times. Their unwavering dedication and resilience inspire us.

April 03, 2020

It’s time to support essential workers – COVID-19 update - BCGEU

It's time to support essential workers – COVID-19 update

From the moment Coronavirus was declared a public health crisis several weeks ago through the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic last month, thousands of you have raised concerns to your Stewards, Local Chairs and Component VPs about how your work and your workplaces have been impacted. Your union has been working hard with your employers to address those concerns as quickly and effectively as possible in this time of extraordinary uncertainty and stress. 
 
As part of that work, today I sent this letter to Carole James, Finance Minister and head of the Public Service Agency and the Public Sector Employers' Council, demanding immediate support for essential workers in direct government and the broader public service for the duration of the Provincial State of Emergency. In the coming days we will be making similar demands of other employers.
 
Please read the attachment and please continue to raise your concerns. We are on an uncertain road right now but I truly believe we will get through this together-and your union will be fighting for you every step of the way. 
 
In solidarity,
 
Stephanie Smith
BCGEU President



UWU/MoveUP

April 01, 2020

Child care for essential service designated workers – COVID-19: All members -...

Province helps essential service workers find child care

In response to concerns expressed by the BCGEU since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased that the B.C. government has launched a process to provide child care to parents who are essential service workers. This process will match parents who are working on the front lines of B.C.'s COVID-19 response with child care in their communities for children up to five years old.

On the union's advice child care spaces will also be prioritized for children whose parents work in public health and health services, social services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response sectors. Additional spaces will then be given to families working in other crucial roles, defined as essential service workers.

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). See the list of COVID-19 essential services workers here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/essential-services-covid-19

I thank you for your ongoing efforts to help our province through this extraordinary time – it's because of you that we will get through this together.

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,

Stephanie Smith
President



UWU/MoveUP

March 31, 2020

Beware of fraudulent Emails related to Covid-19 - BCGEU

We are seeing a significant increase in the number of phishing and other fraudulent email scams being sent to BCGEU members, some trying to capitalize on people's fears related to COVID-19. Please review all incoming messages carefully, and if in any doubt about the authenticity of the message, do NOT click on any attachments or links contained within the message, delete the email.

The overwhelming amount of news coverage surrounding the novel coronavirus has created a new danger - phishing attacks looking to exploit public fears about the sometimes-deadly virus.

How does it work?

Like other types of phishing emails, the email messages claiming to be from legitimate organizations with information about the coronavirus usually try to lure you into clicking on a link or providing personal information that can be used to commit fraud or identity theft.

The email messages might ask you to open an attachment to see the latest statistics or provide personal information in order to download some important information. If you click on the attachment or embedded link, you're likely to download malicious software onto your device.

The malicious software - malware, for short - could allow cybercriminals to take control of your computer, log your keystrokes, or access your personal information and financial data, which could lead to identity theft.

Here are some tips to avoid getting tricked.

  • Be vigilant. Never send personal and/or financial information by e-mail.
  • Beware of online requests for personal information. A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your Social Insurance number or login information is a phishing scam. Legitimate government agencies won't ask for that information. Never respond to the email with your personal data.
  • Check the "from" address. Hover your curser over the "from" name, you will see the actual electronic email address. Some phishing attempts use a sender email address that looks legitimate but isn't – in Microsoft Outlook a red flag is displayed when email domain doesn't match the organization that the sender says they are from. Be careful! Phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. If you receive an email where the "from" name doesn't match the actual electronic email address delete the email.
  • Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, it is likely a sign you've received a phishing email - delete it.
  • Never click on suspicious links. Phishing emails often include embedded links that look valid, but if you hover over them, you can usually see the real hyperlink. If the hyperlinked address isn't the same as what appears in the email, it's probably a phishing attempt - delete it.
  • Never click or open unexpected attachments. Does the email include an attachment that you weren't expecting? Never open suspicious attachments.
  • Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like "Dear sir or madam" signal an email is not legitimate.
  • Avoid emails that insist you act now. Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. The goal is to get you to click on a link and provide personal information - right now. Instead - delete the email.

The Government of Canada's Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has compiled a list of reported scams exploiting COVID-19 available at the following URL: https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm

As a reminder, the BCGEU will not ever request a member to send cash or gift cards to another member in an "emergency". All such requests should be immediately deleted.

An example of a COVID-19 scam request looks like this:

A recent example of a fraudulent email in which a claim that the recipient has been exposed to COVID-19 at a BCGEU event and is asked to open/print an attachment and proceed to an emergency clinic:

 

Another example of a SCAM email:

These messages are often sent to local or component executive members, and look like they have been sent by another local or component executive member. However, these are phishing emails and should be deleted.

If you receive any such emails, do NOT click on any attachments or links and delete it from your computer immediately (from both your Inbox and your Trash folder).

To the best of our knowledge, the BCGEU has not held any event where someone with a confirmed or presumption case of COVID-19 has attended. As you all know, the BCGEU started cancelling events involving more than 10 people as of March 12. We also closed all of our offices to the public as of March 18. These steps were taken to reduce the exposure of our members and our staff to this pandemic.

If you had been exposed to a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID, either at the BCGEU or at any other event, a health officer from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) would be in touch with you, most likely by phone. Regardless of the form of contact, such contact would advise you of where and when you were exposed and would provide you with information about what steps you need to take.

 

IT Services Department

B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union



UWU/MoveUP

March 17, 2020

2020 BCGEU scholarships

The 2020 BCGEU scholarship deadline has passed and we are no longer accepting applications. We have received over 400 applications – thank you for all your hard work!

If you have submitted an application, we will be announcing the successful applicants once our Education and Scholarship committee has met and considered all of the applications. We expect to be able to advise applicants by the end of June 2020. Please be patient while we read you essays!

Our annual scholarship programme of $60,000 offers awards of $2,000 for full-time students and $1,000 for part-time students. Scholarships are funded by the dues of our 80,000 members.

Download the poster here

Eligibility

  • A BCGEU member in good standing, or related to a current, retired or deceased BCGEU member or staff; and
  • A student or prospective post-secondary or higher learning student enrolled, registered or planning to attend an eligible educational institution in 2020.

Eligible relatives include spouses, parents, and children or grandchildren (including foster, adopted and stepchildren and grandchildren).

Eligible educational institutions must be designated by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Find a list of eligible institutions here.

Previous BCGEU scholarship recipients are not eligible to apply.

Essay

In addition to providing personal information, applicants must submit a short essay of 450 - 500 words in response to one of the following topics for their essay:

  1. One job should be enough! How does precarious work impact workers and why is decent work so important?
  2. What are the impacts of work on the mental health of workers and what can employers and unions do to support workers' mental health?
  3. What does Reconciliation between Indigenous and settler peoples mean to you?

We encourage applicants to interview a BCGEU member, or to use personal experience or original research for this essay.

The deadline for applications is Sunday, May 3 at midnight.

Additional opportunities

You may also be eligible for one of these five scholar- ships worth $1,500 awarded by our national union, NUPGE:

  • Brian Fudge Memorial Scholarship
  • Scholarship for Indigenous Students
  • Scholarship for Students of Colour Terry Fox Memorial
  • Scholarship Tommy Douglas Scholarship

For information on these scholarships, including eligibility criteria and the deadline for submissions, visit www.nupge.ca.



UWU/MoveUP

March 13, 2020

BCGEU calls for suspension of rent and mortgage payments for sick/self-isolat...

Burnaby, B.C. – In response to the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a "pandemic" and public health experts recommending social distancing including self-isolation for exposed or symptomatic people, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on federal and provincial governments to immediately suspend all mortgage and rent payments until the pandemic is over.

"The BCGEU has said from the beginning of this outbreak that protection of workers must be a central plank of government response-that's why we called for an end to doctors' notes as well as paid sick leave and a host of other worker-focused measures," said Stephanie Smith. "The BCGEU is urging our members and all working people to trust the science and follow public health recommendations. The federal and provincial governments could support our message by suspending mortgage and rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure working people can afford to do the right thing."

Recent research from the 2019 annual BDO Affordability Index shows that more than half of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. The public health measures already announced-such as cancellation of large gatherings, travel advisories, and social distancing measures-mean some British Columbians are working less or not at all. As the pandemic evolves those impacts are expected to get worse, and more working people will be unable to make mortgage and rent payments.

"We all have a part to play in flattening the curve-workers, employers, and governments," said Smith. "Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic."

Two days after announcing the $1-billion fund to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he empathized with Canadians' worries and assured that the federal government would assist financially but has yet to suggest what that assistance will look like. More details are expected after the First Ministers' Meeting with the Prime Minister later today.

The BCGEU is one of the largest, most diverse and fastest growing unions in B.C. with more than 80,000 members working in almost every community and economic sector in the province.

 



UWU/MoveUP

March 11, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic Response - BCGEU

Today, the WHO declared that COVID-19 has escalated from public health crisis to pandemic. In plain language this means the public health priority has shifted from preventing the spread of the virus to slowing it down so that our healthcare system doesn't get overwhelmed by too many infections happening concurrently. In light of this, the Provincial Executive of the BCGEU unanimously passed the following motion:

The Provincial Executive approves that, effective immediately and until at least May 2nd:

  • All non-essential BCGEU gatherings over 10 people will be postponed;
  • Where possible, essential gatherings will be conducted remotely; and,
  • The Executive Committee will monitor the situation and reassess as new information on the pandemic becomes available.

Our union's senior leadership has been monitoring the emergence and evolution of COVID-19 from regional outbreak to general public health crisis to global pandemic and has been taking appropriate action at every stage to protect the physical and financial health of our staff and members while minimizing disruption to core union business.

This was not an easy decision, but it is absolutely the right decision for our union. Pandemic response is a collective responsibility and we all have a part to play in "flattening the curve". Though I understand this decision will inconvenience some members your provincial executive is unanimous that cancelling non-essential gatherings is the best course of action.

Immediate impacts include postponement of:

  • Local Chairs' Assembly scheduled to begin Friday, March 13th at the Metrotown Hilton.
  • Women's Health and Safety Course scheduled for Thursday, March 12th at Fraser Valley Area Office.
  • Area 10 (Fort St. John) and Area 02 (Nanaimo) steward appreciation events scheduled for April 18th and May 2nd respectively.

Every effort will be made to find alternate ways of "meeting"-for example, conference calls, video conferencing, and telephone town halls-to support core union business and to maintain solidarity between and among members.

Members with questions about whether an upcoming meeting not listed above is essential or non-essential should contact their Component VP or their Area Office. Members with questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact any aspect of their workplace should contact their Area Office. I will update you as the situation evolves.

In the meantime, here are two things can you do:

  • Do your part to "flatten the curve". Even if you are in a low-risk group, I urge you to take precautions not just to avoid getting infected with or spreading COVID-19, but also to avoid burdening our healthcare system during the pandemic.
  • Listen to experts. The rumours about COVID-19-from transmission to prevention to treatment-are spreading faster than the virus itself. I urge you to rely on the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) for reliable and up-to-date COVID-19 information as it affects British Columbians:

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith
President



UWU/MoveUP