Community health workers expose pandemic mental health issues

New video reveals CUPE members’ steadfast dedication despite workload, other challenges

CUPE members in B.C.’s community health sector are dedicated professionals who are committed to caring for the people they serve. But as their lives have become increasingly stressful after nearly two years of working through the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to know that health employers value them and their work.

That’s the chief takeaway from a new video released today, “Caring in a pandemic: Living and working through COVID.” In the video, 16 CUPE members from a diverse range of jobs across the sector share their experiences of life and work since the pandemic began. The interviews followed survey results that showed CUPE members have been experiencing significant mental health impacts as a result of insufficient staffing levels, redeployment, additional and excessive workloads, overtime, and lack of leave coverage, among other issues.

“The member feedback we got from those surveys indicated that there is a strong feeling of being undervalued or even considered disposable, and some of that really comes through in the interviews,” says CUPE Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson.

In the video, the members—who work under contracts for both the Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA)—describe the impacts of excessive workload on their personal lives during the pandemic. They also share some of the coping mechanisms they’ve developed along the way, and—in the lead-up to collective bargaining for both the CBA and the HSPBA—offer solutions to help employers improve the working environment.

“As with other sectors, these interviews reveal just how selfless and dedicated to their work and communities CUPE members have been during the pandemic,” says Paterson. “I am so proud of them—not just for their commitment to the people they serve but also for their courage and willingness to step up and demand better from the health care system.”

Paterson added that provincial bargaining for both the CBA and the HSPBA is expected to commence next month.

CUPE represents approximately 2,200 members in the community health sector across British Columbia. These members provide diagnostic, clinical, inspection, advocacy, home support, counselling, preventative, housing, and harm reduction/safe substance use services.

View the main video here and the short member interviews here.

Ground-breaking agreement reached for CUPE 1004 peer workers

VANCOUVER—CUPE 1004 peer workers employed by the Portland Hotel Society (PHS) have successfully concluded negotiations that will give them the same rights and privileges as all workers covered by the provincial collective agreement for the Community Health subsector throughout B.C.

The ground-breaking agreement features a significant wage lift along with benefits including extended health, municipal pension plan coverage, protected seniority rights, and provisions for occupational health and safety, vacation, sick leave, and many more.

“People finally have a chance at life while working here in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). We are finally being recognized as human beings,” said bargaining committee member Doug Everitt, an original employee of Insite.

After the peer workers voted to join CUPE 1004 in March 2020, their initial challenge was being formally recognized as employees deserving of the same rights as all B.C. workers, including the right to join a union. The parties were finally able to resolve the application in January 2021 and confirmed that all the workers had voted to join CUPE.

Bargaining committee member Mark Fraser, who has worked for ten years at the Molson Overdose Prevention Site providing frontline overdose response, says the agreement for peers will hopefully lead to more workers with life experience similar to the people they serve and support being recognized. “It’s excellent that we finally have a deal,” he said. “It’s a first step in properly recognizing peers as employees and respecting their lifesaving work during this unprecedented overdose crisis.”

PHS employs about 35 members who are primarily front-line health workers fighting the overdose death crisis at various DTES locations. These include the Insite supervised injection site, overdose prevention sites and the Opiate Agonist Therapies clinic, which provides the safe supply of narcotics so that users need not rely on the poisoned illicit drug supply, which has killed more than 8,500 people in B.C. since April 2016. CUPE 1004 peers at these sites provide overdose response, connection referral for safe supply, treatment, detox services, and opportunities for other DTES residents to join the workforce and help support their neighbours. There have been no deaths at these sites.

New COVID-19 Health Order on vaccine status to come into effect on October 26

Order contains important information for CUPE Community Health members

To all members,

Please find attached a copy of the Order of the Provincial Health Officer, dated October 14, 2021, related to Hospital and Community (Health Care and other services) COVID-19 vaccination status information and preventive measures.

The Order contains important information about who the Order applies to, how the impact of COVID-19 variant development has affected provincial efforts to contain the pandemic, and why a vaccine mandate for all health workers was deemed necessary. The Order, which applies to all CUPE members working in health care, comes into effect on October 26, 2021 and will replace previous requirements.

Under the Order, all health care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. No other exemptions will be accepted, and failure to comply with the Order could result in termination.

“The presence of virus variants of concern in the Province, in particular the Delta variant, has not only heightened the risk to the population generally but, more particularly, has significantly heightened the risk to individuals of advanced age, and individuals with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems,” says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, adding that the public health care system is under severe stress and stretched beyond its capacity to prevent and respond to illness resulting from COVID-19 transmission.

“Vaccination is safe, very effective, and the single most important preventative measure health professionals…can take to protect patients, residents and clients, and the health and personal care workforce, from infection, severe illness and possible death from COVID-19.”

The Order addresses concerns about individual rights and freedoms. It notes that individual liberty, as defined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is not absolute but subject to reasonable limits, including “proportionate, precautionary, and evidence-based restrictions to prevent loss of life, serious illness and death, and disruption of our health system and society.”

Pages 10 through 17 provide specific information about how the Order will affect health care workers. Requests for exemption from the requirement to be vaccinated, or to provide proof of vaccination, “must be made on the basis that the health of the person would be seriously jeopardized if the person were to comply with the Order” and must follow the guidelines contained here:

If you believe you have a case for reconsideration that qualifies you for an exemption, you can submit a request directly to Dr. Bonnie Henry at with the subject line “Request for Reconsideration about Preventative Measures in Hospital or Community Locations.” For further clarification of the new Order, you can also contact Dr. Henry at:

Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer
4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
PO Box 9648 STN PROV GOVT, Victoria, B.C.  V8W 9P4

In the meantime, your CUPE National Health sector coordinator continues to work with HEABC, the bargaining associations and employers to ensure comprehension and clarity in the Order’s application. Please remember that matters are developing rapidly in response to the Order, and we don’t have all the answers yet. As we learn more, locals will be provided with updates for circulation amongst your memberships.

Please note that CUPE National supports COVID-19 vaccination as a mechanism to stop the virus and enable our members to continue providing valuable, public services. For more information, visit:

If you have any questions after reviewing the order, please contact me directly at

In Solidarity,

Tanya Paterson
CUPE Health Coordinator

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:

To learn more about the ALAViDA TRAiL Program, visit:


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).

HSPBA professional development fund applications now open to CUPE members

BURNABY—CUPE health science professionals can now apply for new professional development funds announced in the spring under an agreement reached between the provincial Ministry of Health and the Health Sciences Professional Bargaining Association (HSPBA).

All health science professionals covered by the HSPBA collective agreement, which includes members of HSA, BCGEU, CUPE, PEA and HEU, are eligible to apply for funding, which will be allocated to the constituent unions on a pro-rata basis.

Key points about the new professional development funding:

  • The funding is to be allocated to training and upgrading skills for HSPBA members working in professions experiencing shortages, or in rural and remote locations, as well as ongoing required professional development for all HSPBA members;
  • The funding will apply to education or training commenced between April 1, 2021 and August 31, 2022;
  • The education or training must pertain to professional development in a health science professional discipline being practiced in the public health care system; and
  • Eligible expenses for reimbursement include tuition fees, registration fees, cost of required books or materials, and other reasonable education-related expenses and may also include reasonable costs of travel and accommodation if the applicant must travel or temporarily relocate to attend education or training or related clinical placement.

Successful applicants will be reimbursed upon proof of completion of the program applied for, along with receipt for costs claimed. If a course, program or workshop is cancelled or otherwise not attended, the application will be cancelled and the member must reapply on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, see the eligibility requirements and frequently asked questions.

To apply now, fill out this form.


Sign the pledge to support public health care!

VANCOUVER—Public health care is under attack—again.

Last September, the BC Supreme Court dealt a strong blow to the efforts of Dr. Brian Day to undermine our publicly-funded health care system. Dr. Day’s Cambie Clinic, one of the largest for-profit surgical centres in Canada, sought to invalidate key sections of the BC Medicare Protection Act (MPA) and usher in U.S.-style profit-driven health care. But the Court’s decision made it clear that the Cambie Clinic’s case was about profit—not wait times—and that public solutions are the most effective way to ensure quality patient care.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Day has launched an appeal. Hearings start on Monday (June 14th) and will run throughout the week at the BC Court of Appeal. The BC Health Coalition is calling on its partners and all British Columbians to show strong support for our public health care system.

You can do that by taking a moment to sign and share the pledge to support public health care.

A loss at the BC Court of Appeal would invalidate the historic victory at the BC Supreme Court affirming the importance of public health care. Signing the pledge shows you are standing up to defend public health care. We need to make it stronger, not take two steps backwards by losing infrastructure and resources.

For more information on the Cambie appeal, see the Coalition’s webinar, “Defending public health care: the Cambie appeal,” or its abridged recording, now posted at


Health Care Presidents review survey results, begin preparations for bargaining

BURNABY—CUPE’s Health Care Presidents Council (HCPC), gathering virtually for their quarterly meeting on June 3, used the results of a recent member survey to start developing a plan for a public campaign while setting the agenda for an upcoming bargaining conference that will establish priorities for the next round of contract talks.

During the meeting, Council members reviewed the results of a CUPE Research survey on the impact of COVID-19 on health services workload and members’ mental health. With results showing that a significant number of frontline workers in CUPE Community Health are suffering from increased workload and stress as a result of the pandemic, Council members agreed that more needs to be done to raise awareness about the dedication and commitment of these members despite staff shortages, redeployment and other challenges in an increasingly complex working environment.

CUPE Communications presented a draft cost-share campaign aimed at addressing some of these issues and improving working conditions while lifting morale for CUPE health members.

“The campaign is an exciting project, focussed on improving working conditions, that will involve health sector members every step of the way,” said CUPE Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson. “It’s a work in progress that we’ll be reviewing again in early July, with the intention of submitting it to National in September.”

As well as reviewing the Action Plan and presenting local reports, HCPC members discussed plans for the upcoming Community Health Bargaining Conference on October 6. Depending on public health orders and declining COVID rates over the next couple of months, the conference initially planned for Zoom might be in person.