In mid-April the federal government announced it was working with the provinces on a cost-shared, temporary "pandemic pay" program to top up the wages of select essential frontline workers-under the cost-share, the federal government is responsible for 75 per cent of the funding and the provincial governments are responsible for the remaining 25 per cent.
Ever since the initial announcement, your union has worked with our provincial government to ensure that B.C.'s program would cover the broadest possible group of BCGEU members working on the frontlines during COVID-19.
Today, the B.C. government announced the long-awaited details of the program. This program will impact different members differently and we are working with your component leadership to develop targeted bulletins. However, we wanted to ensure that all members got general information as quickly as possible. Here is what we know about the program based on today's announcement:
- The program will provide a lump-sum payment calculated at $4 per straight-time hour covering a 16-week period retroactive to March 15, 2020.
- Eligible workers must have worked straight-time hours during the 16-week period covered by the program.
- There is no minimum threshold on hours, so casual and on-call hours are eligible.
- Eligible workers will receive the payment directly from their employer and do not need to apply.
- Government will be working with your employer on details of the disbursement, which are still being worked out.
Our union worked hard to make sure the government took a broad approach to this program and, overall, we are happy with the outcome especially compared to other provinces. As a result of that approach, tens of thousands of BCGEU members will be covered including those providing care to our province's most vulnerable citizens in direct government, health services, and social services positions. Please read the full list here.
We applaud the objective of the pandemic pay program, we appreciate the efforts of our provincial government to consult with stakeholders-including our union-as they developed the program, and we are extremely pleased that the broad scope includes some of our lowest wage members doing some of the highest risk work. At the same time, we are disappointed that the government chose to exclude thousands more BCGEU members doing essential work.
Our feedback to government during the consultation was that the program should be extended to all frontline essential workers and that recognizing some groups of workers while leaving others out would create unnecessary divisions at a moment when unity and solidarity among workers is more important than ever. To be clear, our stance has not 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 higher risks to mental and physical health they are facing right now.
In the coming days we will be reaching out to the provincial government to vigorously restate our position, seek clarification on their choices, and continue to fight for more BCGEU members to be covered by the program.
BCGEU Executive Committee
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