Recognizing your contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic

CUPE’s community health sector locals would like to meet with you to personally express our appreciation for the outstanding work you do. We have partnered with Lush Handmade Cosmetics who join us in thanking our members who continue to provide critical public service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will be setting up at safe locations at various worksites to express our gratitude and provide a token of our appreciation from Lush soaps. Please watch for communication from your CUPE local in the coming weeks, with information on specific worksite locations, dates and the times we’ll be visiting.

SHOWCASING YOUR WORK—We are also encouraging our members to participate in a special promotional project within CUPE that will highlight your experiences on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this project, we are interested not only in your day-to-day role, but also stories of redeployment and the tasks you’ve been assigned to in responding to the pandemic. This is a rare opportunity to highlight your vital role in the health care system under extraordinary circumstances. A professional photographer will be made available for this project.

If you are interested in participating, please contact CUPE Health Coordinator Chris Losito at closito@cupe.ca or at (604) 291-1940, ext. 286.

MORE UPDATES—With so many new developments during the crisis, we are frequently updating the Frequently Asked Questions document on our COVID-19 web page. This week, we’ve added some new information about the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. There’s also an update on accessing childcare and the process you should follow if you have non-school-age (0-K) children.

 

CUPE seeks health sector equity

Dear members,

CUPE is aware of the news that some nurses in the Nurses Bargaining Association (NBA) are receiving a premium as of April 1, 2020.

Early this morning, senior staff from CUPE held a phone call with the president and CEO of the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC). The purpose of this call was to seek an understanding of what the NBA and HEABC agreed to and the reasons why, and to request that the employer and government take certain actions.

The premium paid to nurses has been mischaracterized as a ‘COVID-19 premium’ or similar reference.  CUPE has confirmed that the premium has no relation to COVID-19, but rather was collectively bargained by the HEABC and NBA in their last round of negotiations. This is an important distinction: just as CUPE and the other unions in the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) and Community Health Bargaining Association (CBA) were able to bargain improvements within the government’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate, so were the nurses and the other unions of the NBA.

This “working short” premium was to be paid to nurses identified as working short as of April 1, 2020, following a collaborative assessment and implementation process with the health authorities and Providence Health Care. However, that process was suspended due to the emergence of COVID-19 and instead the Parties agreed to implement the premium as a temporary measure until the process can resume. The result is that all nurses who provide direct patient care will be paid that working short premium of $3.00/hour for nurses in units with 11 or more nurses and $5.00/hour for nurses in units with 10 or fewer nurses. This agreement is in effect for the month of April.

CUPE expressed to the CEO that the impact of this premium is to further the disparity in compensation between nurses and our members in the HSPBA and the CBA. CUPE noted that this inequity is felt by our members as undervaluing their critical roles in the public health care system, which has an especially harmful impact on morale during this public health emergency.  CUPE also pointed to wage disparity as being a major cause of chronic staffing shortages and excessive workloads, which have existed for years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CUPE also made the following two requests:

  1. That the employer and government make it priority to address the wage disparity between jobs in the NBA and those professions within the other health sector collective agreements; and
  2. To ensure safe workplaces for our members at all times, but especially during this public health emergency. We specifically called on the employer to provide personal protective equipment and an expedited accommodation process for members who require an accommodation as supported by their primary care provider.

CUPE members in the health care system serve the public with professionalism and dedication. Our members are providing frontline care and vital services during this pandemic, just as nurses are. We take your concerns seriously and will continue discussions with government and the HEABC to achieve recognition and equity for the services you provide.

In solidarity,

Chris Losito
CUPE Health Sector Coordinator – B.C. Region

Updates to CUPE members in the Community Health Sector RE: COVID-19

Dear CUPE members in the community health sector,

As the province responds to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Provincial Health Officer has issued orders and the BCCDC and Ministry of Health continue to provide more information which we can share with you. This information has been updated today, is summarized in this bulletin and is posted in greater detail on our frequently updated COVID-19 FAQ page.

NEW INFORMATION:

Critical Public Service (“essential”) workers and your rights

We have clarified what it means to be deemed an “essential” or critical public service worker. Working in this sector, you are more than likely deemed a critical worker (“essential”). What this means is that you are expected to be at work, unless your manager approves that you work from home or take a leave (unpaid or otherwise).  Extenuating circumstances, such as the need for dependent care (child or elder), must be supported by clear documentation.

Advice for members who are pregnant

The BCCDC and Ministry of Health have determined that pregnant women are not at greater risk of acquiring COVID-19, nor are they at greater risk of severe symptoms than comparable aged persons.  If you are pregnant, we encourage you to consult with your primary care provider on whether you should remain in your current role or be accommodated to work in a low-risk setting or work from home. Supportive documentation from your primary care provider will be required to seek the approval of an accommodation from your manager/accommodations department.

Childcare

At this time, childcare providers and schools that provide care and/or in-class instruction have been instructed to prioritize placements for those children whose parents are employed as ‘Tier 1’ essential service employees, a field that includes front-line health care as well as social services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response.

With spring break now concluded, the Province is partnering with health authorities as of this week (March 30) to assist ‘Tier 1’ workers in accessing childcare on an urgent need basis. If you are someone in this position, please take the following steps:

  • If your children are school-aged (Kindergarten to Grade 6), contact their school principal as soon as possible to determine how best to meet the need for urgent childcare beginning this week.
  • If your children are non-school aged, contact childcare providers that operate on their school grounds to see if they have the capacity, or call their local Childcare Resource and Referral (CCRR) Centre and they will work to match front-line health care workers with a child care provider that has available space.

For parents with school-aged children, here are the links to the school districts:

Vancouver (City of Vancouver Info, they are working jointly with the school district)
Burnaby (School District 41)
Surrey (School District 36)
Richmond (School District 38)
Langley (School District, no information available about childcare for essential workers to date.)
Delta (School District 37, no information available about childcare for essential workers to date)
North Van (no information available on emergency childcare to date)
West Van (West Vancouver Schools)
New West (School District 40, look for the link to take the survey, which is where canvassing for childcare needs is taking place)
Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore/Belcarra (School District 43, general info on COVID-19 but no specific info available about childcare to date)
Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows (School District 42)
Abbotsford (School District 34, no information available about childcare for essential workers to date)
Mission (School District 75, no information available about childcare for essential workers to date)
Victoria (School District 61)
Sooke (School District 62)
Saanich (School District 63, no information available about childcare for essential workers to date)
Port Alberni (School District 70)

Because the immediate focus is for critical need only, the Province and health authorities are prioritizing requests from health care workers who have no other childcare options this week.

Additional information on childcare for essential workers can be found in “COVID-19 Questions and Answers for the Child Care Sector” – a document produced by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The full document can be found here. The government is also encouraging families to check the ministry and government of BC COVID-19 websites regularly for the most up to date information regarding childcare services in the province.

Single Site and Data Collection Orders by Provincial Health Officer

On March 26 and 27, 2020, the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, issued orders to limit staff movement between long-term care facilities, hospitals and other health care work sites. We believe that few CUPE members are impacted by these orders. However, If you are a CUPE member who works at least in part at a long-term care facility, hospital, assisted living residence, provincial mental health facility, extended care centre or rehab centre in B.C., please review the following prepared Q & A:

Will this affect me if I currently work at only one worksite?

No. If you currently work at only one worksite, you will continue to work at that worksite and will not need to do anything different at this time.

Will this affect where I work long term?

This order and related orders will be in effect for as long as is necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We cannot predict how long that will be, but you should anticipate disruption to your regular schedule for some time.

My job involves me visiting multiple sites to deliver specialized care. If I am limited to one worksite, patients will go without critical care, and their health will be compromised.

CUPE understands the critical services of health science professionals, and the impact that such an order could have on patient care. CUPE has alerted the Medical Health Officers, who have the authority to exempt certain groups from being restricted from working at multiple sites, to take into consideration the implication of denying services to patients as a consequence of the order.

Anyone who is not covered by the exemptions must register to indicate their worksite preference. Exempted groups are:

  1. Physicians
  2. Resident Physicians
  3. Nurse practitioners
  4. Paramedics
  5. Delivery persons
  6. Trades people
  7. Visitors
  8. Any other class of person exempted by the Provincial Health Officer

I need both the jobs I have at different sites to maintain my family’s income.

CUPE and other unions have been working to ensure that members do not experience loss of income as a result of the Provincial Health Officer’s order. Employers are to make efforts to ensure that employees continue to work the same FTE they worked prior to the change, and all employees will be encouraged to maximize their hours.

I’m a casual. Does this order apply to me?

Yes. This order applies to everyone who works in health care.

What happens to all my pre-booked shifts?

Staff are anticipated to work all scheduled shifts, and the goal is to maintain at least the current maximum hours.

 

To all CUPE members in the Community Health sector,

Thank you for the meaningful work you do every day—especially right now. Like all British Columbians we appreciate the critical work of our health care members, and no more so than during an extraordinary crisis such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are all under significant stress as we cope with constantly shifting circumstances for our families and communities during the crisis, and health care workers are under the greatest stress of all. You are the line of defense between COVID-19 and the general public. If there is anything we can do to support you, please let us know.

B.C.’s health care system is on heightened alert to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19. As the situation evolves, the Ministry of Health, Office of the Provincial Health Officer, and BC Centre for Disease Control are providing new information on a daily basis.

To assist you further during this difficult period, we want to provide the most accurate and up to date information relevant to your work in health care. Please visit CUPE’s Community Health website for general information about COVID-19 for CUPE members in Community Health, including frequently asked questions and other resources.  There’s also help available for CUPE members in need of income supports.

CUPE National has also responded with these general occupational guidelines on COVID-19 and the CUPE BC website now has a landing page for information relevant to CUPE members from all sectors in B.C.  Meanwhile, CUPE has called on the federal government to provide more protections for coronavirus frontline workers.  CUPE welcomes the government’s announcement of the Emergency Response Benefit, which will cover people who have lost their job, people who are sick or quarantined, and parents who must stay home without pay to care for children. CUPE also welcomes changes to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act dealing with COVID-19 Leave, including an amendment that provides workers with unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. The leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020. The application form will be available on April 6.

Member rights

Members should be aware of their workplace rights during these extraordinary circumstances; some of which we have negotiated in response to this public health emergency:

  • Paid general leave on isolation/quarantine, without impacting on your leave banks, including sick leave;
  • A safe workplace, including the provision of personal protective equipment, procedures and training (where necessary) to protect you while you are working to keep the public safe;
  • Refusal of unsafe work in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Act, Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Sections 3.12 and 3.13 (view CUPE’s Refusing Unsafe Work – COVID-19 bulletin); and
  • Cancellation of pre-approved leave, such as vacation leave, at our member’s sole discretion.

Redeployment to another job or tasks in health care

We have been informed that there may be a need for redeployment within the health care system to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. Principles are being negotiated at the provincial level to determine how redeployment to different jobs, work areas, or tasks will occur. Our primary focus is to ensure that you, our members, feel safe and capable in the role to which you are redeployed. If you are asked to redeploy and have concerns, please contact your CUPE local and provide the name and contact information for the manager/director or HR Advisor discussing such plans.

During this current crisis, we can all appreciate feelings of uncertainty surrounding our employment. We want to assure you that, regardless of when the COVID-19 pandemic concludes or recedes, we will ensure that your collective agreement and employment rights are enforced.

If there is anything else we can do to support you, please contact your CUPE local. For additional information and resources specific to COVID-19 in B.C. not found here, please visit: www.bccdc.ca.

A busy year for health care presidents

PACKED AGENDA—Members of CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council meet at CUPE’s B.C. Regional Office on May 15. Standing, from left: Warren Williams (CUPE 15, HCPC chair), Lindsay Fumalle (CUPE 1978), CUPE Health Coordinator Chris Losito, Mia Nickel (CUPE 15) and Brandon Laviolette (CUPE 3495). Seated, from left: Michael McKinley and Kaz Takeuchi (CUPE 1978) and Andrew Ledger (CUPE 1004 and CUPE BC executive liaison). Attending via Skype were Jill Stromnes and Connie Penman of CUPE 4816 and Shauna Cairney and Carla Bailey of CUPE 3403-01.

BURNABY—After a successful year of bargaining that saw its members achieve solid new collective agreements, increased visibility and new ways to address workload, CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC) met on May 15 to review progress so far, identify ongoing challenges in the sector, and solidify its relationship to CUPE BC.

At the meeting, Council members reviewed recent updates to the Community Health website (bcchs.cupe.ca), particularly new resources provided for the sector’s ongoing workload campaign. These include information post cards, customized for each local in the sector, on what action to take and who to contact regarding unsafe workloads, as well as tips on how to file a grievance.

In his report to the Council, CUPE Health Coordinator Chris Losito noted that low wage redress has now been implemented for members in the Community Health Bargaining Association (CBA), which by April 1, 2021 will bring those classifications to within 98 per cent of other Facilities Bargaining Association pay rates.

“Ultimately we’d like to see parity with Facilities overall, but this is a significant step in the right direction,” said Losito.

Presidents discussed a growing trend, among some employers under the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA), of changing required qualifications for certain professions, now requiring a minimum of a Master’s degree. Vancouver Coastal Health, for example, has been doing this for social work positions without notice and without considering exceptions for equivalent experience. Agreeing that the same system should apply across all locals, the Presidents said they would monitor job postings in their respective areas and strongly encourage members who feel they have equivalent experience to apply for positions of interest.

HCPC members also reviewed and put the finishing touches to the Council’s protocol agreement. Essentially functioning as a set of bylaws for the HCPC, the protocol agreement is a foundational document that describes the Council’s work on behalf of CUPE community health locals and members around the province.

“Once the locals sign off on it, the protocol’s adoption will ultimately expand the scope of the Council’s work, improve communication between its members and also between the HCPC and CUPE BC as well as between the HCPC and its allies in labour and the health sector.  The revised protocol agreement will also empower the HCPC to address urgent issues facing the sector in a more timely manner,” said Losito.

The HCPC is comprised of presidents and delegates from CUPE Locals 15, 1978, 3403-01, 3495 and 4816, each local representing members within two provincial collective agreements—the Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA)—as well as the QMUNITY collective agreement. Combined, these CUPE locals represent just over 500 members in the CBA and approximately 800 HSPBA members.

The group next meets on August 14 in Nanaimo.

New and improved resources now available to tackle your workload!

BURNABY—After conducting member workshops and compiling sector-specific information based on the results of a workload survey, CUPE’s Community Health sector has now produced a set of materials aimed at solving workload problems that members can easily access from the sector website.

The Workload Solutions web page, found at https://bcchs.cupe.ca/workload-solutions/, has been updated with a range of materials including Local-specific post cards on how to identify excessive workload, what steps to take in response and who to contact for assistance. The post card has also been distributed to CBA, HSPBA and QMUNITY Locals so that members will have a printed version at their fingertips when needed.

Additional workload materials on the website include the survey results, an FAQ document to inform members of what a grievance is and what to expect from the grievance process, workload tracking forms, and information from CUPE National on the health and safety implications of workload and their health and safety rights.

Significant updates to the website were also made for members of Local 3945 employed by QMUNITY—including the posting of their Collective Agreement in this location: https://bcchs.cupe.ca/resources/qmunity-resources/.

Please also remember to like and follow our CUPECommunityHealthBC page on Facebook, and our Instagram account @cupecommunityhealthbc.