Joint Community Benefits Trust expands plan service to support substance use recovery

BURNABY—Thanks to a three-year pilot project, the Joint Community Benefits Trust (JCBT) has enhanced services for employees covered under the JCBT to provide virtual health support for those facing challenges with alcohol and substance use. CUPE community health members working under Community Bargaining Association (CBA) contracts qualify for such support.

As of October 7, the JCBT has approved Special Program Funding for the pilot project, known as the ALAViDA TRAiL program. ALAViDA supports the mental health of health workers covered under the JCBT plan by providing a care team to assist with each member’s unique roadmap for recovery and allowing them to access private support from anywhere on any device. Personal information is not shared with employers, the union, or with JCBT.

Health benefits for CUPE community health members working under CBA contracts are provided by the Joint Community Benefits Trust. This Trust was established on April 1, 2017 to ensure that members receive Extended Health and Dental, Long Term Disability, Group Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefits. In 2021, JCBT trustees established the Special Funding Committee to address the Memorandum of Understanding 31. The ALAViDA TRAiL program is funded by the Special Program Funds.

To learn more about the JCBT, visit: https://www.jcbt.ca/.

To learn more about the ALAViDA TRAiL Program, visit: https://try.alavida.co/jcbt/.

 

Categories CBA

CUPE Community Health workers set priorities at online bargaining conference

STANDING UP FOR PUBLIC HEALTH—CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council chair Andrew Ledger and Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson prepare for the online bargaining conference.

BURNABY—More than 60 people attended an online bargaining conference on October 6, with CUPE health workers from the Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA), joined by guest speakers and CUPE staff, gathering to set priorities for upcoming rounds of bargaining in the sector.

CUPE 1004 President Andrew Ledger, hosting the conference as chair of CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC), thanked delegates for the valuable public service they provide and all CUPE health workers for their daily efforts in keeping British Columbians healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now more than ever, CUPE health care workers are fired up to enter into collective bargaining,” said Ledger. “During the pandemic and moving forward, it is critically important that our members’ interests are well represented and articulated so that we can make the most gains possible, not only for ourselves but for the public and our health care system in general.”

Supporting our members’ bargaining efforts

Regional Director Ann Lennarson reminded delegates that CUPE’s B.C. region has their back and will provide full staff resources and support throughout the bargaining process. CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta, noting the history of coordination between the union’s political and servicing operations during bargaining, said the strong relationship between the B.C. Division and CUPE National is an important asset.

While CUPE BC may not have a direct role in bargaining, said Ranalletta, the Division can be helpful when negotiations reach an impasse and issues can’t be resolved at the table. “We have shown we can make a difference in many ways,” she said, “up to and including mobilizing public and political support in the event of a strike or lockout.”

Keynote speakers Audrey Guay and Edith MacHattie of the BC Health Coalition described the role of the Coalition and its relationship with labour in defending public health care. Citing campaigns for primary care reform, critical efforts on behalf of seniors’ care, and the successful court challenge of the private Cambie clinic, Guay and MacHattie stressed the importance of the health care system remaining public—especially during a pandemic. They also addressed COVID-19’s impacts on health care workers, including workload, understaffing, burnout, and mental health. Bargaining for better provisions on issues like paid time off and sick leave, they said, can make a difference for everyone.

“You’re not just fighting for yourselves,” concluded MacHattie. “The public needs you to be healthy and well so that our public system is strong and improving.”

Narrowing down the priorities

The BCGEU’s Richard Tones, representing the CBA, and HSA’s Josef Rieder, representing the HSPBA, described their respective roles at the two association tables. They also outlined priorities shared by their own unions and other constituent unions in the associations. During their presentation, there was a discussion about logistics surrounding the question of whether bargaining will take place virtually or in person.

CUPE Research Representative Carissa Taylor presented the results of a member survey on health sector bargaining priorities. Some of its key findings corresponded with an earlier survey on workload and mental health in the sector. This became a major theme through all the conference discussions: bargaining efforts should focus on improving supports for CUPE members’ mental health, particularly in light of workplace pressures that have been amplified by the pandemic.

Before the break, CUPE Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson reminded delegates of CUPE’s national bargaining policy, which prohibits concessions or two-tiered agreements. Along with priorities established by the two associations, the next rounds will also incorporate national bargaining policy to include proposals related to workplace and domestic violence language improvements, as well as improvements to precarious work and union leave language.

For the afternoon session, delegates separated into breakout rooms for CBA and HSPBA members. As well as setting the top three bargaining priorities for CUPE members in the respective associations, delegates elected CUPE representatives to the two bargaining committees. For CBA negotiations, CUPE’s representatives will be Andy Healey (CUPE 1004) and Liza Taylor (CUPE 15), with Shaunah Cairney (CUPE 3403-01) serving as alternate; for HSPBA negotiations, the representatives will be Jennifer Kassimatis (CUPE 15) and Angela Wheeler (CUPE 1978), with Brian Moore (CUPE 15) serving as alternate.

Preparing for negotiations

In the wake of the conference, bargaining committee representatives will participate in bargaining training, including strategic bargaining plan workshops and job action preparation.

“We’ll be rolling up our sleeves to increase member engagement and solidarity in advance of the bargaining process,” said Paterson. “It’s exciting to be working with such a diverse group, knowing how much their collective experience and knowledge will contribute to CUPE’s strength at the bargaining table.”

CUPE represents more than 2,200 members in B.C.’s community health sector providing diagnostic, clinical, inspection, advocacy, home support, counselling, preventative, housing, and harm reduction/safe substance use services. Their contracts expire on March 31, 2022.

CUPE health presidents prepare for bargaining conference, awareness campaign

BURNABY—At its quarterly meeting this week, CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC) finalized plans for the upcoming Health Sector Bargaining Conference and held a detailed strategy discussion around a CUPE National cost-share campaign scheduled to begin in earnest in early 2022.

Discussing the bargaining conference (October 6), HCPC members voted to shift from an in-person to a virtual event. Even with current health orders allowing for a hotel-based conference, the presidents cited individual comfort levels and travel issues during the pandemic, unpredictable shifting of health orders, and capacity issues with the hotel as a few reasons an in-person event would not be feasible.

Discussion about the conference proceedings included confirmation of guest speakers from the BC Health Coalition—Labour Co-chair Edith Machattie and Organizer Audrey Guay—and an update on the recently launched bargaining survey for Community Health Bargaining Association and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association members. Survey results will be presented at the conference for discussion while delegates set priorities for the next round of bargaining. Members have until September 24 to complete the survey.

During the meeting, HCPC members discussed various elements of a cost-shared campaign proposal submitted to CUPE National. The campaign calls for member engagement in building public awareness about their critical work during the pandemic and COVID-19’s impact on their mental health.

Also at the meeting, CUPE 15’s CBA sector representative, Mona Mirzayan, was acclaimed as HCPC recording secretary for the remainder of the term.

CUPE Community Health survey to seek member feedback on bargaining priorities

BURNABY—CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council has launched a survey canvassing CUPE members in Community Health about their main priorities for the upcoming round of bargaining. The survey, for CUPE members working under Community Health Bargaining Association (CBA) and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) contracts, was launched this morning and will remain open until September 24.

“This survey is the best way to canvass our members on what they really want to see in their respective collective agreements,” said CUPE Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson. “The survey results will help us set priorities for the next round of contract negotiations and will form the groundwork for discussions at our upcoming bargaining conference.”

Responses to the survey, which should take approximately 15 minutes to complete, are confidential. Members will receive the survey from their local presidents.

As well as discussing the survey results, delegates to the October 6 bargaining conference will select the bargaining committees for CBA and HSPBA contract talks.  The current collective agreements expire on March 31, 2022.

The Health Care Presidents Council is made up of representatives from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (CUPE 15), Vancouver Island Health Authority (CUPE 1978), Fraser Health Authority (CUPE 4816), Canadian Mental Health (CUPE 3403-01), and PHS Community Services Society (CUPE 1004).

CUPE Health Care Presidents Council celebrates DTES members during National Nursing Week

VANCOUVER—As invaluable partners in B.C.’s public health care system, CUPE 1004 nurses working in the Downtown Eastside exemplify this year’s National Nursing Week (May 10-16) theme, “We Answer the Call,” says CUPE Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC) chair Andrew Ledger.

CUPE nurses on the front line of the ongoing opioid crisis, says Ledger, continue to answer the call by providing new innovations to prevent overdoses—such as the delivery of a safe supply of prescription alternatives to the poisoned street drugs that continue to kill, on average, more than four British Columbians every day.

“Our CUPE nurse members have fought multiple crises this past year in delivering care for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 global pandemic,” says Ledger, noting that CUPE nurses continue to provide life-saving service despite the heavy emotional and physical toll that these crises have taken on their own lives.

“These members have faced the daunting challenges of increasing homelessness experienced by patients, and an ongoing dramatic rise in overdoses and overdose deaths, and they continue to answer the call every day.”

CUPE 1004 represents approximately 40 nurses who work for the PHS Community Services Society. Working in both housing and primary health care clinics, these nurses provide care to residents and clients with a wide variety and complexity of acute and chronic illnesses or conditions including communicable diseases, addictions, mental health and general health issues. They perform assessments, conduct referrals to physicians or psychiatrists, administer medication, and provide treatment as well as recovery support.

Categories CBA

CUPE Community Health survey to seek member feedback on workload, COVID-19 issues

BURNABY—CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council has launched a survey canvassing CUPE members in Community Health about workload issues and the impacts of COVID-19 on their working lives. The survey will be used to give CUPE a greater understanding of workload concerns for our members in the Community Health Bargaining Association (CBA) and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA), throughout and predating the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused increased strain on an already burdened health care system in B.C.,” said CUPE Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson. “The results of the survey will help us determine what kind of tools and support mechanisms our members need and how to best deliver them.” Paterson noted that the data will also be used to better prepare CUPE in the event of another pandemic.

Responses to the workload survey will be confidential unless members are willing to further share their thoughts through a follow up process. Contact information will be separated from responses received.

The survey, which is open to CUPE members from the CBA and HSPBA until April 30, should take approximately ten minutes to complete. It can be found here.

Later this year, the HCPC will conduct a bargaining survey to determine CUPE’s priorities in advance of contract negotiations.

The Health Care Presidents Council is made up of representatives from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (CUPE 15), Vancouver Island Health Authority (CUPE 1978), Fraser Health Authority (CUPE 4816), Canadian Mental Health (CUPE 3403-01), and PHS Community Services Society (CUPE 1004).

CUPE mental health workers – the pandemic’s hidden front line

Vital outreach workers must deal with triple threat of COVID, opioid and housing crises

READY TO HELP—CUPE community health workers like Local 1004 member Tuesday Andrich have helped maintain vital services for society’s most marginalized during the pandemic.

BURNABY—Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared last year, the efforts of B.C.’s front-line workers have been widely and rightfully celebrated. Whether it’s fighting the coronavirus directly and saving lives or risking their own physical or mental health to keep vital public services running, these workers—including CUPE members from multiple sectors— have been outstanding and inspirational in their selfless dedication and commitment to helping others.

Among these front-line employees are CUPE members who work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) and other urban pockets of the province where poverty and substance use intersect. From ambulance paramedics and social workers to nutritionists and housing coordinators, these members’ tireless commitment and sacrifices have literally saved countless lives while improving quality of life for many. But when it comes to the combined impacts of the housing crisis, opioid crisis and COVID-19 on society’s most vulnerable citizens, perhaps no other category of worker knows the pain and suffering these overlapping challenges have caused more than mental health workers.

CUPE represents hundreds of members doing mental health work for the PHS Community Services Society (CUPE 1004), Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health (CUPE 15, CUPE 4816), and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CUPE 3403-01) in Port Alberni. Among the many classifications their work covers, positions range from residence coordinators and homeless outreach workers to counsellors and social workers. To say that these workers provide vital services during a pandemic is an understatement: society’s most marginalized citizens need stability and support at a time when Health restrictions have made people sad and lonely, leading to a spike in alcohol and substance abuse. These CUPE members provide it.

A helping hand for those in need

Whether it’s arranging meals, offering emotional support or sharing leads for short-term employment, CUPE mental health workers play a pivotal role every day in helping the homeless and other people in need. Since the pandemic began, they’ve continued providing that support despite the many challenges COVID-19 has thrown their way and changed how they work.

“We have been a valuable resource by being there and being present,” says CUPE 1004 member Tuesday Andrich, who works as a dayshift coordinator in the DTES. “There are many folks who don’t have access to services, so we make referrals to help them gain access to resources.”

CUPE 15 members cover a range of positions in mental health care work, says shop steward Mia Nickel, who works as a speech language pathologist.

“We have concurrent disorders counsellors and mental health counsellors across a huge variety of settings—primary care, mental health clinics, drug court, youth and family, youth clinics—and more,” says Nickel. “We have folks working in drug and alcohol treatment, detox/daytox—social workers, support workers and clerical staff. The list is long.”

Although not on the same scale as in the DTES or Metro Vancouver, CUPE mental health workers employed by the CMHA provide similar services while facing the same challenges in Port Alberni.

“We provide our clients with safe placements in supportive housing where they can get meals and gain access to programs where they learn skills and obtain transitional employment information and opportunities,” says CUPE 3403-01 chief shop steward Shaunah Cairney, who works as a residence coordinator.

Those employment opportunities, she adds, include everything from cutting lawns and painting bathrooms to the Food Matters program, where clients learn how to work in a kitchen and get Food Safe qualification so they can prepare for job openings.

Meeting the challenge on three fronts

CUPE members in this field have worked hard to navigate the challenges brought on by the three, large overlapping problems of homelessness, the opioid crisis and COVID-19.

“COVID 19 has highlighted the gaps in services, and our members have stood in those gaps by continuing to provide services to the most vulnerable people in our communities,” says Nickel.

For example, says Cairney, a decision to shut down the clubhouse in her community removed a vital social outlet for clients, as it provided a safe place to meet, learn skills and get other forms of support.

“That was challenging, because it meant doing a lot more outreach to make sure that clients had the resources they needed, even though we couldn’t do this onsite. Thankfully, between ourselves and other non-profits in the community, we’ve been able to meet those needs.”

Andrich says that CUPE 1004 members responding to overdoses have had to develop new processes and procedures to keep clients alive, regularly adapting how they execute their work. Part of the adjustment has meant taking on the various risks associated with supporting COVID-19-positive residents: some CUPE mental health workers are employed in newly developed housing programs or projects for COVID-19-positive community members who need the support these programs provide.

“Our members do their best to meet the needs of residents and program participants, whether it’s explaining the Health orders or taking on additional tasks as a result of changes to existing tasks,” says Andrich. Since the Food Security programs have shut down, she notes, members have had to make bulk orders to the food bank and package them for distribution to residents.

“The onus fell on our members to find other ways to do community outreach. We all have different styles and have found different ways to connect and let people know we’re available, but the important piece is that we are able to connect. And we do our best to make sure people have what they need.”

Sharing the burden

For CUPE mental health workers, the irony of this work is that the pandemic’s mental health impacts on clients can, as a result, affect their own mental health, says CUPE Health coordinator Tanya Paterson.

“Imagine working on a daily basis with so many people who were already struggling in their lives before COVID arrived,” says Paterson. “That is bound to create added anxiety and stress, especially with life changing so dramatically because of the pandemic and the added factor of dealing with the unknown.”

Nickel agrees.

“These front-line workers have stood in the breach. They lack guidance and support from employers, but they’re expected to do more and more work. So of course they have suffered,” she says. “Their clients die, regularly, of fentanyl poisoning and they deal with this within their teams and on their own.” Meanwhile, adds Nickel, workload issues across the sector have expanded job duties due to lack of adequate staff (it’s hard to attract and retain good mental health staff when wages are falling behind and workloads pile up), so mental health inevitably becomes a problem for workers in this field.

Andrich says that members’ work was already stressful and exhausting enough without a pandemic to deal with, so adding COVID-19 to the mix has also impacted members’ ability to deliver services.

“There has definitely been an increase in the number of members taking stress leaves, and others have had to take leaves because they have compromised immune systems and cannot risk exposure to COVID-19,” she says. “There’s a lot of fear of the unknown.”

Cairney says that members of her Local, too, have worried about their own health because of the unknown risks of exposure—and the fact they cannot control their clients’ actions or force them to follow Health orders.

“It can be challenging to be present or totally engaged with other people in these circumstances,” she says. “But our employer does reach out to us, to ensure that everyone is okay and to offer resources to help us cope. It has been challenging, but we have been working through it.”

It’s that kind of selfless dedication—that commitment to people in need—that CUPE mental health workers exemplify, making their union so proud.

Health care presidents approve action plan, begin preparation for bargaining

BURNABY—In its first virtual meeting of the year, CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC) today reviewed its action plan in light of pandemic conditions, set a date for a bargaining conference in advance of the next round of contract negotiations, and elected a new executive.

Council members set targets for meeting goals and objectives, adapting the action plan as necessary in the face of changing circumstances brought about by COVID-19. Site visits, in many cases, have had to be cancelled and most locals are now holding virtual meetings.

“These online sessions cover most everything that an in-person meeting has to offer,” said CUPE Health Care coordinator Tanya Paterson. “That means including links to important guidance documents—such as those for occupational health and safety—and creating other ones for areas such as the right to a shop steward, the overtime process, and grievance procedures.”

The presidents confirmed that a health care bargaining conference will take place on October 6. At this conference, delegates will review survey results and set priorities for the next round of negotiations for CUPE members under the Community Health Bargaining Association and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association.

Also at the meeting, the HCPC confirmed that a half-day workshop on the Enhanced Disability Management Program will be held on March 18.

In elections for the HCPC executive, CUPE 1004 President Andrew Ledger was acclaimed as the new HCPC chair while incumbents filled most of the remaining positions: CUPE 1978’s Kazuhiro Takeuchi (secretary-treasurer), CUPE 3403-01’s Shaunah Cairney and CUPE 15’s Benita Spindel (trustees), and CUPE 1978’s Lindsay Fumalle (alternate trustee). The recording secretary position remains vacant.

The HCPC’s next meeting is on June 3.

 

Ending anti-Indigenous racism in B.C. health care

Last week’s release of former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s final report on anti-indigenous racism in B.C.’s health care system is a clear and resounding call to action to end systemic racial discrimination in the province’s health care delivery.

Turpel-Lafond’s media briefing, which summarized her findings and recommendations (her remarks begin at the 9:10 mark), revealed that many Indigenous people in B.C. don’t have access to family doctors and other primary care, that many First Nations, Inuit and Metis people end up with poorer health than non-Indigenous people, and that Indigenous people are 75 per cent more likely to experience a health crisis requiring emergency room care.

“When you combine these factors with the overwhelming evidence of racism in the health-care system … it’s not difficult to see why health outcomes for Indigenous peoples are poorer,” said Turpel-Lafond, adding that B.C.’s health care system must be free of entrenched racism.

“A full continuum of care and networks of First Nations-led primary care are needed to overcome the serious deficiencies we found for Indigenous peoples.”

The final report reveals much about how the system is working—or not—for Indigenous peoples. Among its findings, the review shows that Indigenous patients are less likely to have access to crucial medical services such as cancer screening and prenatal care (Indigenous women often arrive at the hospital in labour without having had prenatal examinations), and Indigenous children—less likely to see a dentist for regular checkups—are up to 9.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for treatment of cavities. The report also reveals a higher rate of chronic conditions among Indigenous people, worse outcomes for babies and children, and a disproportionate impact from both the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis.

Turpel-Lafond was appointed last June to investigate racism in the B.C. health care system following reports that hospital emergency staff were playing a “game” where they would guess the blood-alcohol content of Indigenous patients. Her initial report, titled In Plain Sight, was released in November.

Health Minister Adrian Dix, accompanying Turpel-Lafond at last week’s media briefing, pledged immediate action to address systemic racism in B.C.’s health-care system and “rip out its deeply damaging effects.”

Workload reporting now available for CUPE Community Health members

BURNABY—CUPE members working under the Community Health Bargaining Association (CBA) and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) can now report workload issues with a tracking form that covers excessive workloads.

Among other things, this form can be used to record such problems as missed breaks and frequent interruptions.

If you’re a CUPE member under a CBA or HSPBA agreement and are experiencing workload issues, please complete the workload journal form and submit it to your shop steward.