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Pages tagged "covid-19"

COVID-19: BCGEU office closure details

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in January, your union has been closely monitoring the situation and acting decisively based on the best available science and expert recommendations to keep members and staff healthy, safe, and informed while maintaining core services and supports for our 80,000+ members across the province during this critical time.

Yesterday, I convened the first meeting of the BCGEU COVID Response Team-which is made up of me, Treasurer Paul Finch, our four Executive Vice Presidents, the BCGEU's three directors and our press secretary. The team will be meeting daily (by phone) throughout the pandemic to identify urgent issues for members and staff and streamline the resolution of those issues.

The first issue we tackled was the decision to close BCGEU offices to the public and require all non-essential BCGEU staff to work from home effective as soon as it is operationally possible. We expect all offices to be closed by the end of this week-hopefully many will be closed by Wednesday.

We took this decision to ensure our members have access to core services and supports of their union during the pandemic while also supporting the ability of our staff to practice social distancing. Allowing non-essential staff to work from home and restricting public access to BCGEU buildings we are making sure staff whose work requires them to be in an office to practice social distancing in their workplace. 

I want to make two things clear:

  • BCGEU buildings are safe-we implemented deep cleaning protocols in every facility last week. This decision to have non-essential staff work remotely is simply our commitment to the recommended practice of social distancing.
  • The office closure will not impact members' ability to access the core services and supports of their union. During this period of remote work, local chairs will continue to have direct access to staff representatives and members with questions or issues related to COVID-19 or regular labour relations can contact their steward or local chair as they usually would. In addition, members with questions or concerns specific to COVID-19 in their workplace can email those questions to health@bcgeu.ca 

Going forward your union will continue to protect the health, safety, and rights of our members and staff as well as all working people based on the best available science and expert advice and to keep our members and staff informed of our decisions and actions. I encourage all of you to follow the science, listen to the experts and take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Thank you for all that you do.

In solidarity,
Stephanie Smith

 



UWU/MoveUP


COVID-19 Precautions

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, we share a renewed sense of hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be behind us. Two vaccines are currently in use in Canada with another vaccine soon to be approved by Health Canada however, we are not out of the woods yet. With the number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 significantly higher than we saw in the spring of 2020, it is more critical than ever to commit to public health guidelines.

Since the pandemic began, our union has fought hard to ensure your employer follows the rules when it comes to reducing COVID-19 transmission at work. As such, your employer is required to post a COVID-19 Safety Plan that provides guidance for workers to mitigate their exposure to the virus including information on occupancy limits, physical distancing, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), health screening, and more. If your employer does not strictly enforce its COVID-19 Safety Plan as they are required to do by law, you have the right to individually or collectively refuse unsafe work.

Your employer is also mandated under the Worker's Compensation Act to provide workers with a safe workplace and to inform, train and monitor workers to ensure procedures are being followed correctly. Workers also have responsibilities under the Worker's Compensation Act including but not limited to:

  • Taking reasonable care to protect their own health and safety and of others;
  • To carry out their work with established safe work procedures; and
  • To use protective equipment as required.

With many months to go before we see any semblance of normal again, it is more important than ever to stay the course. We encourage you to work together with your co-workers by following the procedures your employer has put in place. As always, if you have an urgent issue related to COVID-19 or a workplace health and safety issue, please inform your supervisor first. If necessary, contact your Occupational Health and Safety Committee representative, steward or local chairperson. Questions? Email ohs@bcgeu.ca.

Remember, ensure you stay physically distanced, stay home if you are sick, and use that PPE properly. We can beat this virus if we all work together.

In solidarity,
Wendy Mah



UWU/MoveUP


COVID on the job: how to refuse unsafe work

The right to refuse unsafe work is a legislative right and responsibility of all workers in B.C., and that is no different during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you been assigned work that you feel is unsafe? According to law, the procedure to refuse unsafe work is as follows:

    1. Immediately report to your supervisor that you have stopped work and the reasons why you believe the job or task is unsafe. Do not leave the worksite.

      Your supervisor must investigate and decide that either "the work is unsafe, stop working" or "you are assigned alternate duties until hazards are eliminated or minimized" or "the work is deemed to be safe, please go back to work."If you are unsatisfied with your supervisor's decision, continue to step 2.

      Note: 
      If your employer asks another worker to do the work, your employer must inform them of the refusal and the reasons for the refusal.

    2. Request for an OHS Committee worker rep,union designate or your choice of co-worker to attend and assist with the investigation into unsafe work.

      You, your supervisor and your selected rep must go through the investigation process again and decide that either "the work is safe, return to work" or "the work is unsafe, we'll make this safe before continuing work." If you are still not satisfied with this decision, continue to step 3.

    3. Your supervisor and you must notify WorkSafeBC.WorkSafeBC will assign an officer who must investigate without undue delay and issue their findings and any necessary orders.

      If WorkSafeBC deems the work to be safe, you must return to work. You can appeal WorkSafeBC's decision; however, you must comply with the investigation of the WorkSafeBC officer.

Please keep your union steward, local chair, staff rep and OHS Department informed throughout the process so they can assist you.

Who is my OHS rep? How do I get in touch with them?

Your worksite should have a joint Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) committee made up of workers and employer representatives who act as OHS member reps. Their names and contact details should be posted at your worksite and provided to you during your orientation to the workplace. 

You can also find the names and contact details of your OHS members reps once you're logged into the BCGEU Member Portal at https://my.bcgeu.ca/login

If you have any questions, contact the BCGEU OHS department at ohs@bcgeu.ca

I work in my client's home. Before COVID-19, my client's family members weren't around. But now they are at home while I'm working with the client, and some are not wearing masks. I feel unsafe. Is this a situation to refuse unsafe work?

If the presence of your client's family has not been approved in your worksite's risk assessment (care plan), and you have already explained that they must leave the room in order for you to do your work, and they have not followed your request, then yes, this sounds like a situation to refuse unsafe work. To do so, stop working, leave the building, call your supervisor and explain the situation – most importantly, say:

"I am not going to continue to work as it is unsafe for me to do so. I am refusing to work as it is currently unsafe for me to do so" to ensure you are clear why you are stopping work at this time.

Click here for more questions and answers about your right to refuse unsafe work and other occupational health and safety topics during COVID-19.



UWU/MoveUP


Temporary Pandemic Pay Update- CCSEA

As we stated in our November 30th bulletin to you, we are aware of the ongoing delay of the Provincial Government's Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) at certain Community Social Services (CSS) worksites around the province. The President and BCGEU representatives conferenced with various ministry officials several times over the last two weeks to get answers and a timeline for distribution of the TPP. 

On December 14th, in response to pressure from the BCGEU, Government acknowledged that this delay was unacceptable, apologized for the delay, and assured us that all TPP funds will be distributed to CSS employers. Their full response is captured at:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/temporary-pandemic-pay
 
We share your frustration in these unacceptable delays and we will continue to pressure Government to get the TPP to you as soon as possible.

Government is providing additional resources to ensure that TPP applications are processed as quickly as possible. We are encouraged that since our entreaties to Government, we have seen an increase in the distribution of TPP to many more CSS agencies. Once in your employer's hands, it is up to individual employers to distribute the TPP to you. We are further encouraged that many employers are also making the distribution a priority.
 
We will continue to monitor the distribution of the TPP to our members and to press Government to keep this as a priority.

Thank you again for the important work you do for our communities around British Columbia.

Andrea Duncan
Vice President, Component 3



UWU/MoveUP


N95 masks essential, BCGEU calls on government to take action

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in our province, our union has written to the B.C. Ministry of Health asking them to step up protections for members like you working on the front lines of the crisis. We have asked the ministry to take urgent action to direct employers to provide N95 masks and fit-tests for all workers in frontline care scenarios, including in the home support sector.

Read the letter here

In response to the virus' surge, public health officials at the provincial and regional levels are asking British Columbians to reduce their contacts and stay home to help break chains of transmission and bend our curve back down. BCGEU members in care roles can't do this – it's your job to be in close contact with colleagues, clients, and others as you continue your exemplary work to help our province through this crisis. For this work, care workers on the front lines deserve every protection possible and that's why we've called on government to act quickly to ensure this necessary protective equipment is provided by your employer.

An N95 mask provides a higher degree of protection than a standard medical mask because it can filter out both large and small particles when the user inhales. For members in home support, N95 masks are particularly important because you work outside the controlled environments of health care facilities in the community. Since masks are typically not worn inside the homes of clients – by the client themselves or those present in their household – and this leaves community health workers at unnecessary risk without N95 masks.

Statistics Canada survey on COVID-19
I also want to let you know about a short questionnaire on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on health care workers being conducted by Statistics Canada. (Click the following link to participate: https://www.statcan.gc.ca/COVID-questionnaire-IPC) The survey focuses on access to PPE and infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in the workplace. The information they collect will help to inform the delivery of health care services, and to better understand what health care workers need in terms of equipment, training and support. I encourage you to share your perspective before the deadline of December 13, 2020. More information on the survey can be found here.

We know how hard you are working and the toll this is taking. The last few weeks have been particularly challenging as we battle the second wave of the pandemic. As you continue to help British Columbians through this crisis, your safety at work is our top priority and we will keep you informed of government's response to our union's letter.

In solidarity,

Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President



UWU/MoveUP


BCGEU pressures Finance Minister to disperse TPP

As you are aware, many members working in community social services have been patiently waiting for the distribution of the provincial government's COVID-19 Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP).

Your union understands that the continued delay of TPP funds is unacceptable and frustrating. That's why your union has sent a letter to the new Minister of Finance calling on the provincial government to immediately distribute these funds. Read the letter here.

Further delays are not acceptable. As BCGEU President Stephanie Smith states in the letter, "I'm sure you understand that the delay is not only frustrating for our members, but it significantly undermines our shared belief that your government values the contributions that working British Columbians have made throughout the pandemic."

Your union recognizes the incredible pressures you are faced with during these challenging, uncertain times, and we will continue pressing the government until the TPP funds are dispersed. Thank you for all you do.

Download Ltr to Minister Robinson here

UWU/MoveUP


COVID-19 Update - Protecting members at work - letters sent to Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health

With the dramatic increase of new COVID-19 cases that B.C. has seen over the last month – and the introduction of new regional restrictions to help stop the surge in the Fraser Health (FHA) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) regions – our union has urged the FHA and VCH to re-evaluate workplace safety protocols – at both directly health authority sites and those worksites with health authority contracts – to decrease the potential spread of the virus.

In a letter sent to the respective health authority CEOs, President Stephanie Smith requested specific policies requiring masks in all common areas and allowing work-from-home where operationally possible.

Included alongside the policy requests was a briefing note from the BCGEU Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department regarding how workplaces can adapt to the latest scientific findings on how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads. Details on our communication can be found here:

Given the spread of the virus in recent weeks, we expect changes to come, and we will continue to work alongside government and the health authorities to ensure that any changes protect workers and are in-line with the latest science.

As more information becomes available, we will continue to update you on the latest developments

COVID-19 and your workplace

If you have any concerns about how COVID-19 precautions are being handled at your workplace. Please consider the following to protect the health of yourself, your family, fellow workers and any clients:
  • Review in full your employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, especially the section about outbreak management.
  • Ensure your questions and concerns are answered by your employer to your satisfaction.
If not, then:



UWU/MoveUP


All Local Officers, Stewards, OHS Reps, Art 29 Members - Employer Mandated Return To Work

You are receiving this as a BCGEU local executive, steward, Article 29 Union/Management Committee member or Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) activist working in the B.C. Public Service.

 
Our union continues to monitor the process around your return to working in the office, as announced by your employer last week and outlined in the BC Public Service COVID-19 Response FAQs published here. As a member activist, your help is needed to monitor your employer's plan and support fellow members to ensure all relevant health and safety laws are followed and enforced. 


It is important that BCGEU members know the following:

  • The decision to return employees to worksites is at the sole discretion of the employer. Some media reports have incorrectly reported that the BCGEU "approved" this plan. This is not correct, and we have requested that the media correct this. The Head of the Public Service, Deputy Minister to the Premier Don Wright, briefed us on these plans. The BCGEU has no legal ability to stop these plans in our collective agreement. These are government decisions, and our role is to represent your interests through the framework of the collective agreement and relevant health and safety laws.
  • It is our union's understanding that government is planning a graduated return to the office.
  • Some members may have needs to be accommodated as the result of individual or family circumstances. These accommodation requests by members should go through you to your Ministry and the BCGEU. 
  • Existing evidence strongly suggests that masks are important and protect both the wearer and others. Members are encouraged to wear masks whenever possible. If you or fellow members have not received a BCGEU mask, please request one here.

As members prepare to return to your worksite, please advise them to consider the following to protect the health and safety of themselves, their family, fellow members and the public:


Review in full the employer's COVID-19 Safety Plan and any new protocols. At a minimum, COVID-19 Safety Plans should include the following to meet government and WorkSafeBC requirements:

  • Measures to allow workers to maintain a physical distance of least two metres between one another and between clients/customers
  • Policies to ensure that workers or clients (where possible) that are ill or required to self-isolate are not allowed in the workplace
  • Enhanced workplace cleaning, especially high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces like light switches and doorknobs
  • Easy access to facilities and adequate time for workers to wash their hands frequently
  • Allow reasonable time to follow new protocols
  • Consideration of allowing workers to work remotely where possible
  • "Engineering controls" – like plexi-glass barriers or other changes to the physical workspace to facilitate physical distancing, and to separate workers and/or clients where distancing is not possible
  • "Administrative controls" – like rotating or staggered schedules, restrictions on the number clients, or sharing documents electronically to facilitate physical distancing and reduce contact with potentially contaminated surfaces
  • Where physical distancing is not possible, provision for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, eye protection, gloves and/or gowns
  • Updated protocols for Occupational First Aid Attendants (OFAAs)
  • A training plan for all staff on the Safety Plan and the measures identified in the Safety Plan

Understand that, in addition to having a safety plan, your employer should:

  • Develop the safety plan in consultation with workers and your workplace's Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representatives;
  • Make the safety plan readily available to workers;
  • Ensure workers are trained and know how to keep themselves safe, including use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if required;
  • Ensure supervisors are trained;
  • Ensure supervisors are monitoring the workplace to confirm policies and procedures are being followed.

Ensure your questions and concerns are answered by your employer to your satisfaction. If they are not, or if the above things are not being done in your workplace:
Exercise your right and responsibility to immediately notify the following people:

  • your supervisor; and
  • your Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) representatives (either your local BCGEU area office, or our union's OHS department).

Consider invoking your right to refuse unsafe work.


In addition 
to health and safety issues, our joint labour management committees provide a useful forum to discuss ministry-specific plans. Your worksite's Article 29 committee representatives are available to raise your issues with your ministry's management representatives. We have a committee established in each ministry so please direct your issues and questions to your BCGEU committee reps.

We know these are difficult times for many BCGEU members. Please be assured that, as your bargaining committee, we are committed to representing your interests to get through this pandemic.

In solidarity, 


BCGEU Public Service Bargaining Committee
Stephanie Smith, President
Paul Finch, Treasurer
Kari Michaels, Executive Vice President
Dean Purdy, Component 1 Vice President
Kusam Doal, Component 5 Vice President
Judy Fox-McGuire, Component 6 Vice President
Cynthia Mepham-Egli, Component 6 Second Vice Chairperson
Maria Middlemiss, Component 12 Vice President
Matt Damario, Component 12 First Vice Chairperson
Robert Davis, Component 20 Vice President
Doug Dykens, Director - Field Services & Negotiations
Mike Eso, Secretary
Lisa Lane, Support Staff

UWU/MoveUP


Concerns with employer-mandated return to office: BCGEU public service members

You are receiving this as a BCGEU local executive, steward, Article 29 Union/Management Committee member or Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) activist working in the B.C. Public Service.

Our union continues to monitor the process around your return to working in the office, as announced by your employer last week and outlined in the BC Public Service COVID-19 Response FAQs published here. As a member activist, your help is needed to monitor your employer’s plan and support fellow members to ensure all relevant health and safety laws are followed and enforced.

It is important that BCGEU members know the following:

  • The decision to return employees to worksites is at the sole discretion of the employer. Some media reports have incorrectly reported that the BCGEU "approved" this plan. This is not correct, and we have requested that the media correct this. The Head of the Public Service, Deputy Minister to the Premier Don Wright, briefed us on these plans. The BCGEU has no legal ability to stop these plans in our collective agreement. These are government decisions, and our role is to represent your interests through the framework of the collective agreement and relevant health and safety laws.
  • It is our union’s understanding that government is planning a graduated return to the office.
  • Some members may have needs to be accommodated as the result of individual or family circumstances. These accommodation requests by members should go through you to your Ministry and the BCGEU.
  • Existing evidence strongly suggests that masks are important and protect both the wearer and others. Members are encouraged to wear masks whenever possible. If you or fellow members have not received a BCGEU mask, please request one here.

As members prepare to return to your worksite, please advise them to consider the following to protect the health and safety of themselves, their family, fellow members and the public:

Review in full the employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan and any new protocols. At a minimum, COVID-19 Safety Plans should include the following to meet government and WorkSafeBC requirements:

  • Measures to allow workers to maintain a physical distance of least two metres between one another and between clients/customers
  • Policies to ensure that workers or clients (where possible) that are ill or required to self-isolate are not allowed in the workplace
  • Enhanced workplace cleaning, especially high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces like light switches and doorknobs
  • Easy access to facilities and adequate time for workers to wash their hands frequently
  • Allow reasonable time to follow new protocols
  • Consideration of allowing workers to work remotely where possible
  • “Engineering controls” – like plexi-glass barriers or other changes to the physical workspace to facilitate physical distancing, and to separate workers and/or clients where distancing is not possible
  • “Administrative controls” – like rotating or staggered schedules, restrictions on the number clients, or sharing documents electronically to facilitate physical distancing and reduce contact with potentially contaminated surfaces
  • Where physical distancing is not possible, provision for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, eye protection, gloves and/or gowns
  • Updated protocols for Occupational First Aid Attendants (OFAAs)
  • A training plan for all staff on the Safety Plan and the measures identified in the Safety Plan

Understand that, in addition to having a safety plan, your employer should:

  • Develop the safety plan in consultation with workers and your workplace’s Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) committee or worker representatives;
  • Make the safety plan readily available to workers;
  • Ensure workers are trained and know how to keep themselves safe, including use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if required;
  • Ensure supervisors are trained;
  • Ensure supervisors are monitoring the workplace to confirm policies and procedures are being followed.

Ensure your questions and concerns are answered by your employer to your satisfaction. If they are not, or if the above things are not being done in your workplace:

Exercise your right and responsibility to immediately notify the following people:

  • your supervisor; and
  • your Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) representatives (either your local BCGEU area office, or our union’s OHS department).

Consider invoking your right to refuse unsafe work.

In addition to health and safety issues, our joint labour management committees provide a useful forum to discuss ministry-specific plans. Your worksite’s Article 29 committee representatives are available to raise your issues with your ministry’s management representatives. We have a committee established in each ministry so please direct your issues and questions to your BCGEU committee reps.

We know these are difficult times for many BCGEU members. Please be assured that, as your bargaining committee, we are committed to representing your interests to get through this pandemic.

In solidarity,
 
BCGEU Public Service Bargaining Committee
Stephanie Smith, President
Paul Finch, Treasurer
Kari Michaels, Executive Vice President
Dean Purdy, Component 1 Vice President
Kusam Doal, Component 5 Vice President
Judy Fox-McGuire, Component 6 Vice President
Cynthia Mepham-Egli, Component 6 Second Vice Chairperson
Maria Middlemiss, Component 12 Vice President
Matt Damario, Component 12 First Vice Chairperson
Robert Davis, Component 20 Vice President
Doug Dykens, Director - Field Services & Negotiations
Mike Eso, Secretary
Lisa Lane, Support Staff

 



UWU/MoveUP


Update: Pandemic pay amidst a provincial election

When the provincial government first declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) workers were deemed essential workers. But when the provincial government announced the Temporary Pandemic Pay program (TPP) in May, we were unfairly excluded from the vital support and recognition that the program was designed to offer. 

We came together like never before to push for change; launching a petition and a letter-writing campaign targeting MLAs. Of the 5,700 people who signed the petition, 40 percent are Component 5 members and 97 percent are active BCGEU members. And of the 2,100 letters sent to MLAs asking for pandemic pay for frontline workers (including BCLDB workers), 35 percent were from the public.

As we worked in solidarity, our union backed our efforts by writing a letter directly to B.C.'s Minister of Finance, making a call to the provincial government, and using the media (CBC, Vancouver Is Awesome, CKNW and CFAX) to pressure government to change their minds. 

We have been advocating for months for BCLDB workers to be included in the TPP, and we've done it smartly. Our efforts initially focused on the provincial government as sole decision-maker for the program. When the government declined to make the changes we were asking for but publicly encouraged "all businesses who've seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time," we assessed the BCLDB's higher-than-usual revenue during the pandemic and redirected pressure to our employer – with this letter.

Disappointingly, our employer also declined. And now we're in an election campaign, which means our government currently lacks the authority to make the changes we want.

So it is time to once again redirect our efforts towards building internal capacity so that, as soon as the next provincial government is sworn in, we are energized, focused and ready to renew our push for the government and our employer to properly recognize BCLDB workers.

Let's talk and build a new plan. What do YOU think we can accomplish together? What ideas do you have to solve our collective challenges? Fellow members of our union component will be reaching out to you in the next few weeks to discuss how you're feeling about pandemic pay, the election, and any other issues challenging you, and what each of us can do about them. Please use this form to update your contact information so we can reach out.

I'd also like to invite you to a Candidates' Forum that the BCGEU is holding this Friday, October 16. I will be asking the BC NDP, BC Liberal and BC Green candidates about their support for pandemic pay directly. Join the event here at 5:00 pm: https://www.facebook.com/events/342589333631879

In solidarity,

Kusam Doal, Vice President of Component 5 (Retail Stores and Warehouses)



UWU/MoveUP