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:
- Click here to read the letter to Fraser Health Authority President and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee
- Click here to read the letter to Vancouver Coastal Health Interim President and CEO Vivian Eliopoulos
- Click here to read the briefing note from the BCGEU OHS department
- Click here to read the Public Health Officer's restrictions announced on November 7
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
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.
- Tell your supervisor about your concerns. It is your right to raise health and safety concerns, and it is also your responsibility.
- Tell your worksite OHS representative. If you still need assistance, you can contact your local BCGEU area office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Consider invoking your right to refuse unsafe work.
Your union has confirmed updated information about the Temporary Pandemic Pay (TPP) program with your employer.
In a shift from what was originally announced, the TPP will now be applied to all overtime hours worked by eligible employees in addition to regular hours worked. Since this change to program parameters requires additional calculations, it is our understanding that your employer will be disbursing TPP stipends in two installments in order to avoid further delays to payment-the first installment will cover regular hours worked and the second installment will cover overtime hours.
Health Authority employees will receive TPP for regular hours worked on or about October 9, 2020. TPP for overtime hours will be paid at a later date that your employer has yet to confirm. We will continue to push your employers to confirm a date and will share that information when we have it.
Non-Health Authority organizations (including private employers) must submit a detailed invoice to the ministry outlining TPP-eligible hours by October 31, 2020. TPP payments will be processed once those invoices have been received. While the inclusion of OT hours will require additional administrative work for your employer before submitting invoices for processing, it is our understanding that the submission deadline for invoices-and, therefore, the timeline for payment-has not changed. We will continue working to confirm your employer's plans for payments and will share that information when we have it.
On May 7, 2020 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. Through this program more than 250,000 frontline workers will receive a lump-sum payment of about $4 per hour for a 16-week period, starting on March 15, 2020 and ending July 5, 2020. To be eligible, employees must have worked straight-time hours anytime during the 16-week period starting March 15, 2020.
Eligible health care workplaces include:
- Long-term care and assisted-living facilities
- Provincial mental health facilities
- Provincially funded home and community care services
- Public health units
- Primary care clinics
- Diagnostic facilities
- Community clinics
- Diagnostic and treatment centres
Eligible workers will receive the payment directly through their employer and do not need to apply. For more information on temporary pandemic pay program, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/pandemicpay
Component 8 administrative staff are eligible to receive pandemic pay however others in the union doing frontline work are not, so our work is not done. While our union continues to push for broader inclusion in the pandemic pay program, members can sign our petition calling on MPs and MLAs to acknowledge that all frontline workers deserve pandemic pay: https://bcgeu.good.do/premium-pay/stand-up-for-workers/
Thank you for all you do and let's continue to support each other as we move through this together.
Vice President, Component 8
Download PDF of notice here.
Temporary pandemic pay – COVID-19 update, May 26
Last week, the B.C. government announced the long-awaited details of the temporary "pandemic pay" program to top up the wages of select essential frontline workers. Below are some frequently asked questions as this relates to your eligibility.
Do I qualify for the new temporary pandemic pay?
All BCGEU members covered by the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) collective agreement are covered by this pandemic pay.
For more details visit the government's question and answer website here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/temporary-pandemic-pay
Does this premium pay arrangement replace the $5M fund negotiated by HSPBA?
Yes. The temporary pandemic pay represents approximately $40 million for HSPBA members. The BCGEU will continue to work with HSPBA to advocate to address ongoing shortages and recruitment and retention challenges in the health science professions.
Does this affect the working short premium under the Nurses Bargaining Association (NBA) agreement?
I’ve been on leave for all or part of the period between Mar 15, 2020 and July 5, 2020. Am I eligible for the premium pay?
No, not during the time you were on leave.
Where is the application form for the HSPBA Pandemic Response Fund?
There is no longer a need for the application form as the $5 million HSPBA Pandemic Response Fund was suspended while the provincial and federal governments negotiated the current temporary pandemic pay. There is no application process for the new temporary pandemic pay. Lump sum payments will be made by employers at the end of the 16-week period of eligibility (i.e. July 5, 2020).
If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to email@example.com. If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.
Scheduling per single site order – COVID-19 update, May 22
We are writing with important information about scheduling for employees affected by the Provincial Health Officer's Single Site Order.
If you are receiving this email, our records show you work at a worksite subject to the Single Site Order. The Single Site Order restricts workers like you to working at only one Assisted Living, Long Term Care or Provincial Mental Health Facility. If this is incorrect, please disregard this email.
Employers subject to the Single Site Order are required to follow certain steps when creating a schedule, as set out below. If your Employer is not following these steps, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Employees with regular status who worked at multiple sites before being limited to a single site under the Single Site Order, must be scheduled to work their total combined regular hours at the single site, up to a maximum of 1.3 FTE.
Once the Single Site Order is in place, the Employer at your single site is required to create an initial, emergency schedule, using your combined seniority from all of your previous unionized sites, and using the following steps:
a. In order to determine an initial, emergency schedule, the employer will:
i. Maintain the current schedule for all employees who remain at
the worksite and have scheduled hours;
ii. Identify all shift gaps in the current schedule by job classification;
iii. Offer identified shift gaps to employees as follows:
Round 1: by seniority, regular employees who previously worked at multiple
worksites and who are limited to working at a single worksite can select
from shift gaps up to their combined FTE at straight time;
Round 2: by seniority, other regular and casual employees can select any
remaining regular shifts at straight time.
b. Following completion of the emergency scheduling process, the Employer
will offer any unfilled shifts to employees in accordance with the collective
c. During the first 90 days, the employer will work with the union to develop
a more robust process to determine a new schedule for all regular employees for
the duration of the Single Site Order.
Many of you have been asking for applications for the Pandemic Relief Fund we announced last week.
We were working out the details and had hoped to have the applications out this week however last Friday, May 8, 2020 the HSA sent a notice to their members putting the PRF on hold pending the announcement by the Federal government regarding additional funding. It is problematic that, as the second largest union in the HSPBA, we were not consulted, nor informed about this announcement to HSA members.
We are working hard to provide fund details and application process within a week.
Staff Representative, Negotiations
Download PDF of notice here
COVID-19 pay allowance application and instructions
As noted in the bulletin on Monday (see bulletin here), there is a fund for Health Sciences Professionals (HSPs) to pay for a COVID-19 pay allowance equivalent to $4 per straight time hour worked to a maximum of $300 per pay period for frontline workers who are most directly impacted by COVID-19 due to their job.
The previous bulletin included a list of professions but it is important to note that list has no bearing on eligibility for the allowance and was communicated in the interest of transparency because it reflects the language of the agreement.
The eligibility criteria for the allowance are as follows:
A) HSPs who work in direct patient care and who are not able to social
distance (6 feet away) from patients for 100% of their time worked or;
B) HSPs who work with material or samples that may be infectious and
where exposure to novel coronavirus may occur (i.e. laboratories).
It is important to understand how that criteria applies to your job. For instance, HSPs who can socially distance at all times in all circumstances during their work would not be eligible under category A; however, HSPs who cannot socially distance 100% of the time-no matter how infrequent the exceptions-would be eligible. And category B is intended to cover HSPs who work with biomaterials, not just those who work with equipment.
The application will require you to submit pay stubs that cover the entirety of the eligibility period of April 1 to 30th inclusive. In other words, you will not be able to complete and submit an application until you have your pay stub for April 30th in hand. For most HSPs, this will be May 8th at the earliest.
The application form is being developed and, once finalized will be sent out to all BCGEU HSP members.
Any questions about eligibility or application can be directed to the COVID-19 hotline at email@example.com
HSPBA negotiates $5mn allowance fund for health science professionals
Health science professionals on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia will be paid a daily allowance on top of straight time earnings retroactive to April 1 under an agreement negotiated by the Health Sciences Professional Bargaining Association (HSPBA) with the Ministry of Health.
"Our members on the frontlines of patient care are crucial to B.C.'s fight against COVID-19 and they are bearing an enormous burden of stress, uncertainty and risk in their work right now that is affecting every aspect of their lives outside of work. I am so glad we were able to negotiate this allowance to give them some well-deserved support and acknowledgement as they lead us through this unprecedented time," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU.
Health science professionals on the health care team eligible to apply for the allowance include but are not limited to:
- respiratory therapists making sure patients have all the interventions and supports they need to survive a serious respiratory illness
- laboratory technologists and medical imaging technologists performing diagnostic tests
- dietitians, speech language pathologists, and physiotherapists critical to recovery
- biomedical engineering technologist who are critical to the maintenance of life sustaining medical equipment
- social workers supporting patients and their families
- licensing and public health inspectors
The fund was created to supplement straight time earnings by $4 an hour for the month of April. It applies to health science professionals who work in direct patient care and who are not able to be physically distanced from patients at work, or who work with material or samples that may be infectious. The $5mn fund will be administered by the affected unions.
Details on how HSPBA members apply to the fund will be announced shortly.
Recognition for community health workers – COVID-19 update
BCGEU members working in Community Health (CBA - Component 8) heard that the Nurses Bargaining Association had successfully negotiated a 'blanket premium' based on current language in their collective agreement with HEABC. The Community Bargaining Association (CBA), in which the BCGEU is the lead union, immediately reached out to HEABC and asked for similar consideration for community health workers. (Read the letter here.)
At this time the CBA has had no response from HEABC despite repeated attempts to follow up on our initial request. However, we have since learned that healthcare workers in the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) are also receiving additional monies.
Upon learning of these additional monies, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith reached out directly to The Honorable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, to express her concern that this approach to doling out additional monies leaves out and devalues thousands of frontline healthcare workers and creates divisions in a sector that is on the frontline of our province's pandemic response. (Read the letter here.)
"From the beginning of the Coronavirus public health crisis through the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond healthcare workers have been on the frontlines of this unprecedented crisis and their work has been essential to our province's success to date in flattening the curve," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. "The HEABC's patchwork approach to additional funding is disrespectful, divisive, and totally unacceptable."
Your union shares your frustrations you may have that this recognition has not been extended to you and your coworkers. That frustration was clearly expressed to the Minister.
"Solidarity is fundamental to the BCGEU and teamwork is fundamental to the healthcare system that thousands of our members work in," said Smith. "To single out some workers for recognition while ignoring those who work alongside them and experience the same risks and stresses is inexcusable."
Your union understands the extraordinary pressures you are facing and the Herculean efforts you make every day to slow the spread of COVID-19 amongst an incredibly vulnerable population. We believe you deserve equal recognition – and we will make sure the Minister hears that message.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE WHO WORK FOR LIFELABS
We are writing as a follow up to our April 15th bulletin and to announce an opportunity for you to bring your voice to our strategies to address the issues workers at Lifelabs are experiencing.
We have heard from those that work at Lifelabs about a variety of issues, including: the availability and use of effective PPE, making the work safe during this pandemic, the temporary closures of PSCs and the reduction in work for the MLS, and the call for some sort of incentive or danger pay during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We have put out bulletins on the use of PPE and how to address unsafe work practices. Those bulletins can be found on our Covid-19 micro site at: https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid
Some of our pertinent bulletins on this include:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for BCGEU members: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bcgeu/pages/11629/attachments/original/1587481138/Personal_Protective_Equipment_%28PPE%29__Guidance_for_BCGEU_members_interacting_with_the_public_during_COVID-19.pdf?1587481138
Your right to refuse unsafe work: https://www.bcgeu.ca/your_right_to_refuse_unsafe_work
Covid-19 update for Lifelabs members: https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid-19_update_for_lifelabs_members
We are committed to providing you with the most up to date information, working to address your issues at the worksite and ensuring your rights are protected.
No one knows the issues at the worksite as well as you, the workers, do. You know the day-to-day impacts of the various issues and we have relied on you to tell us about those details, along with your ideas on how to address them. We need your involvement on educating us on the issues and working with us to address them. We are in this together.
With that in mind, we are creating a Lifelabs Covid-19 Action Committee. We are inviting you to be part of this committee. This committee will meet by video conference regularly. We will provide paid leaves from work for participation in the committee where practical. We would like to have representatives on this committee from every Lifelabs worksite. The committee will also include the BCGEU's negotiator for your next collective agreement. We want to be prepared for the next round of bargaining and will be asking this committee to help with that as well.
If you wish to be part of the Lifelabs Covid-19 Action Committee, please fill out the short form found on this link: https://www.bcgeu.ca/join_lifelabs_action. We plan to have the committee meet in the very near future, so if you are interested in being part of this important committee, please let us know without delay.
Our members provide a critical and importance service to all British Columbians and the important and dedicated work you do must be respected.
Vice President, Health Services Component
Download FYI re covid committee 20200424.pdf