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Return-To-Workplace Guidance: BC NDP Constituency Offices - BCGEU

Return-to-workplace guidance: BC NDP Constituency Offices 
This bulletin is a follow-up to the Zoom town hall hosted on June 9, 2020 for all NDP constituency assistants.
Thank you for attending our Zoom town hall last Tuesday. Below are Frequently Asked Questions that we addressed, as well as slides and highlights of the COVID-19 Safety Plans presentation that was made regarding what you need to know when preparing to return to your workplace.
If you have further questions about your return-to-workplace process or plans, please contact either your steward (listed in this bulletin), your OHS rep, your local executive, your local BCGEU area office, or the BCGEU OHS Department.

What to know about COVID-19 workplace safety plans

  • Your employer should be assessing the risks related to COVID-19 in your workplace and implementing measures to eliminate or minimize workers' potential exposure to the virus.
  • You have a right to know about hazards at your work and participate in the occupational health and safety efforts at your workplace, including being involved in and/or consulted about COVID-19 risk assessments and planning for return to work.
  • The Public Service Agency has prepared some helpful resources for re-opening in the context of COVID-19. 
  • Remember, if you believe your workplace is unsafe, you always have the right to refuse unsafe work. You can find more information about the steps to refusing unsafe work here.
  • For full details, review the "COVID-19 Safety Plans" presentation slides from the town hall. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When will the offices reopen? 

A: The Employer advises that they are not in a rush for the offices to reopen but that these can be conversations with the MLA and the CA. At the Labour management meeting, the Employer advised that they encourage the completion of the plan on the WorkSafeBC website.

Q: What about in offices that are shared or shared buildings (multi-tenant)?

A: The Employer encourages that there can be discussions with the landlord and that if there are concerns about the HVAC system or the air quality in the buildings. The Employer will also follow the Provincial Health guidelines as well as the office of the legislative assembly. 

Q: Will there be a central review of the COVID safety plans?

A: The Employer will collect the plans from the individual offices and if needed help with any issues. However, the central employer acknowledges that they do not know all the sites as well as the MLA and CAs do.

Q: How will the Employer communicate changes moving forward? For example, if there is a second wave?

A: The Employer wants to ensure that everyone is safe and that is the priority. The Employer will follow the lead of the Provincial Health Officer and the legislative assembly. They will ensure that there is on-going communication.

Q: The COVID-19 virus means we will need thorough cleaning done regularly, but the collective agreement does not require us to clean for ourselves. How will this best be navigated by each office?

A: The Employer is encouraging you to discuss additional cleaning requirements with your MLAs, and/or landlords if you're in a shared space. The Employer has allocated additional money to constituency offices to use for additional cleaning throughout the day. You may wish to review the Ministry of Health's guidance on cleaning public spaces.

In addition to increased frequency of cleaning, the following ideas were shared by members about how their constituency offices are continuing to serve and adhere to public health recommendations:

  • Restricting visitors entering the space.
  • Have a designated area to drop-off and leave documents.
  • Schedule work so one person is in the office at one time.
  • Wipe down high-touch surface areas with a disinfectant cloth when leaving the office.
  • Split washroom use.
  • Schedule appointments with visitors in the final hour of the day, then leave immediately after and schedule cleaning for the evening or early morning.
  • Schedule work so surfaces are untouched for 72 hours (the understood lifespan of COVID). For example, work Monday through Thursday and do not re-enter the office Friday through Sunday.
  • Restrict visitors to certain areas of the office (only the front, only the back, etc.)
  • Place hand sanitizer by all visitor doors.
  • Clean more frequently the designated visitor areas.
  • Install plexiglass in areas where you will meet with visitors.
  • Avoid using shared spaces (kitchens, board rooms) or reserve for specific purposes.
  • Stagger work schedules to minimize number of workers in the space at one time.

Q: Given that some MLAs may be on board with the protocols, and some may not be, will union staff reps be proactively approaching all MLAs with these safety suggestions?
A: Yes.
Having a return-to-work and COVID-19 safety plan is a requirement (an order from the Public Health Officer) for all workplaces in B.C. As a worker you have the right to create the plan, see it, and ensure it's being implemented. The plan needs to essentially be: identify the risk, measure the risk, mitigate the risk. If the plan doesn't look like this, or is not being implemented, you have the right to get in touch with your steward, local executive and union OHS staff rep. We will collectively ensure employers are following the rules.
If you have further questions about your return-to-workplace process or plans, please contact either your steward (listed in this bulletin), your OHS rep, your local executive, your local BCGEU area office, or the BCGEU OHS Department.
In solidarity,
Cindy Battersby, Component 7 Vice President