COVID-19 – Member Update for May 24, 2020

Good Morning Members,

We apologize for the lack of updates this past week, but we were inundated with questions/concerns from members that consumed most of our available time to ensure everyone was responded to in a timely manner.

The bulk of concerns revolved around members returning to their workplaces for the first time, as well as the expectation to provide in class instruction to students and having accesses, or the ability to wear, medical and non-medical personal protective equipment if the 6ft/2m physical distancing protocols cannot be maintained, if personal care is required, or if working with students who cannot self-regulate.

The other issue at hand is members who have pre-existing medical conditions and what their options are moving forward.  Those that are looking for an accommodation have expressed concerns over the District’s safety protocols that they are asked to share with their physicians, as some of the expectations on this document are not being followed at their sites and this in turn proves problematic; therefore we have encouraged members to speak with their immediate supervisors to address the lack of follow through.  We are also asking members to reach out to the Joint Occupational Health and Safety reps should they have any concerns about protocols not being adhered to.  We anticipate that updated health and safety protocols will be coming out this week and this may impact members who are dealing with pre-existing medical conditions that are affected with COVID-19 thus requiring an accommodation or an adjustment to an existing one.

Your Union has been adamant that members should not be forced to use any of their leave benefits while the Employer works out an acceptable accommodation, members should be placed on “Paid Administrative” leave while plans are being worked out.  We also do not believe members should be forced to take a “Leave Without Pay” if they are unable to work due to COVID-19.  If you find yourself in either situation we ask that you please contact your respective Shop Steward so that we can gather the necessary information as we will be attempting to ensure that those members who have been negatively impacted by this pandemic are made whole.

The Employer is required to submit their educational plan for the month of June to the Ministry next week, we hope that these details will be shared with your Union Executive prior to submission so that we may have some discussion and input.  Given the tone of the K-12 Townhall that took place on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, it will be interesting to see how many parents will actually be willing to send their children back into a school setting at this time.  Therefore, we anticipate remote/on-line learning is still going to be required and not phased out district wide to one-day a week as your Union was originally advised.

There are still a lot of questions and concerns that are going to need to be addressed as we move through this health care crisis, but what we do know for certain is that COVID-19 is here and is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, so we are going to have to find a way to get back to work in a safe way for all school district staff and students.  Your Union is committed to supporting members and advocating for all health and safety measures that are needed in our K-12 environments.  We encourage members to remain vocal and vigilant in the coming weeks and months so that we can all get through this together.

In Solidarity,

CUPE 411 Executive

COVID-19 – Member Update for May 16, 2020

Good Afternoon Members,

Yesterday Premier Horgan and his team held a press conference that spoke specifically to the next phase for the K-12 sector here in B.C. and the message that came through loud and clear is that no one should feel pressured to either have their children return to school sites, nor should staff.  The Ministry of Education has created the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings, and we would ask members to please take the time to read and familiarize yourselves with this document over the weekend.  Your Union is looking for some clarity on a few areas of concern and we will be sending out further direction/information via email just as soon as we have the answers we are looking for.

Minister Fleming made statements yesterday indicating that remote learning will continue for those parents that want it for their students as well as for the students only attending part-time.  What this means for CUPE workers we are not sure, but clearly there will still be a need for remote support if that is the case.  The Minister further went on to state that they will have templates for Districts to follow as they are required to support all students.  It was also stated that school districts will need to make accommodations for those staff who have pre-existing conditions therefore we want any members who have concerns for their own health to please reach out to an elected Union representative to ensure proper protocols are being followed and that your rights to privacy are not being infringed upon by this Employer.

There were further updates that came from our Federal leadership as well yesterday and we wanted to applaud Dr. Theresa Tam who has done an outstanding job as our countries Chief Public Health Officer in the face of COVID-19.  Dr. Tam and her team continue to provide Canadians with accurate and up-to-date statistics as well as clear direction on what the expectations are for each and every one of us as we navigate this pandemic.

Lastly, we want to give a “Shout Out” to our Facilities Department, which includes Maintenance, Custodial and Transportation, as they have been doing an excellent job in tackling some of the challenges we are now faced with in our workplaces.  From increased cleaning schedules, to installing protective equipment on busses, and ensuring our trades and grounds crews do not travel in vehicles together if safe distancing cannot be maintained, are just a few of the examples of the measures that have been taken thus far.  However, we want to remind members from these divisions as you move from site to site to adhere to the protocols in place when entering/exiting the buildings as well as moving around inside of them.  It is imperative that you are familiar with the expectations at each location and if you have any questions that you seek out the sites Supervisor for clarity.  This is not just to protect yourselves, but to protect others in these buildings as well.

To all our members we hope that you have a safe and enjoyable long weekend.

In Solidarity,

CUPE 411 Executive

COVID-19 Member Update for May 14, 2020

Good Evening Members,

On May 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) held another of their weekly press conferences and at the 44-minute mark of the presentation Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove provided a clear explanation of the epidemiology of COVID-19.  She went on to further talk about the importance of the assessment and the types of interventions that need to be put in place.  Dr. Michael Ryan then went on to elaborate on the control measures for disease spread in communities, the dangers of swinging lockdowns, and managing the remaining risk with surveillance and response.  Having measures to mitigate the spread and to respond to cases along with community buy in is the key to making this work.

Both doctors addressed remaining questions that spoke to managing risk at an international level, and at the 57-minute mark Dr. Kerkhove outlined the six pieces of criteria that all countries need to take into account when they are considering adjusting their public health and social measures.  This is a must listen to as it might better help people to understand why different measures are being taken in different countries around the world, but also in various states, provinces, and regions within a specific country.  If you choose to listen right to the end there was also some very interesting dialogue about the possible longevity of this virus as well as reference to other well-known viruses.

While scientist around the globe are still learning about how this virus affects people there is one thing we can be assured of when it comes to adolescents and youth, they can catch COVID-19. Another definitive according to the W.H.O. is that adolescents can transmit the virus to other people, even if they have mild symptoms or do not feel ill.  For this reason, it is imperative that members take all safety measures seriously; from front door check-ins, to 6ft/2m physical distancing, and practicing good hygiene.  For those members that have even more cause for concern should they contract the virus, you need to be vocal about “Refusing Unsafe Work” should you see such measures not being adhered to; or if you feel you require additional protections while in the workplace and are being denied them.  The Union does have concerns about the reopening of our schools as we are receiving regular reports of staff/students not following the District’s protocols, and although we realize it is going to take some time for everyone to change their usual behaviours, people may need friendly reminders, so don’t be afraid to speak out.

With schools already undergoing their gradual re-open on the East coast it will be interesting to see how this is managed here on the West coast?  We believe there is going to be an announcement coming from B.C.’s Minister of Education, Rob Fleming, tomorrow morning at 9:00am, and we continue to be optimistic that the Government of B.C. will be forthcoming with some standard practices and protocols in so far as the K-12 sector is concerned, not forgetting that many of our members often are required to play similar roles as front-line health care workers.

We all know that this is not forever, but just for now; we are still all in this together and we will get through this together; take care and enjoy the long weekend ahead!

In Solidarity,

CUPE 411 Executive

 

COVID-19 Member Update for May 12, 2020

Good Evening Everyone,

A number of concerns have been brought to our attention and it is imperative that members reach out, either to their shop steward or email unionoffice@cupe411.ca  should you be experiencing any issues either at your worksites, or in dealing with our H.R. Department.

With our Employer’s decision to start bringing more and more students back into the worksites starting next week the Union has genuine concerns as to our members health and safety, primarily because we are hearing from members that the School Districts “Covid-19 Safety Procedures for Building Entry and Occupancy” is not being followed either in whole or in part.  The Union understands that these are guidelines, however, with some sites not following any or perhaps all of these it is putting our members at risk?   If you have time to review these and confirm with one of the Union Executive as to the practice at your site it would be greatly appreciated.

Our Employer has made it clear to the Union that there is going to be no more remote work permitted for our members and the messaging we are receiving is that they are not going to entertain the idea of accommodating any of our members who may suffer from a pre-existing condition that is affected with COVID-19.  If you find yourself in this position, we need to speak with you as you absolutely have options, you SHOULD NOT be using any “Sick” days unless you are actually sick. The Union wants to make sure the choices presented to you are in fact in your best interest and not the Employers.

Your site should be continuing to have their monthly Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) meetings, this is the table where all health and safety concerns must be addressed as there is a legal requirement to do so. Therefore, it is imperative that the CUPE JOHS reps be vocal about all concerns that are brought to your attention so that they are discussed at these meetings and captured in the minutes.  The Union would ask that any concerns be sent to the sites CUPE JOHS rep via email and please “cc” the Union’s Health and Safety Rep (vicepresident@cupe411.ca) in on that correspondence so that we are able to ensure your concerns are being brought up, and addressed promptly.  If you are unsure who your JOHS rep please email the Union’s H&S rep for details.

While Dr. Henry and Minister Dix continue to promote physical distancing and the wearing of protective face coverings while in public settings, we have heard rumblings that this might not apply or be permitted in a school setting.  This gravely concerns the Union; with a COVID-19 outbreak in a childcare centre in Quebec just last week, and on the heels of the outbreak in Ontario, it would appear that this virus knows no boundaries and we will not be complacent with our Employer simply conceding to meeting the minimum when it comes to our members health and safety.

Stay STRONG, Stay SAFE, and Stand in SOLIDARITY!

CUPE 411 Executive

COVID-19 Member Update for May 7, 2020

Good Evening Members,

Yesterday B.C.’s Premier, John Horgan, addressed the residents of this province with an update on the governments plans to ease public health measures, while Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer provided their update for today.

Many members have been reaching out with concerns about being directed to return to the workplace despite having pre-existing medical conditions and agreed upon arrangements to work from home, or face having to use their benefit entitlements (i.e. Sick, Vacation, O.T.) or take a leave without pay.  If this has been your experience your Union wants to hear from you.

If members are experiencing situations where physical distancing is not being adhered to, or other safety protocols are not being followed at your worksite then your Union wants to hear from you.

The Union fully expects that Joint Occupational Health and Safety committee meetings are taking place and that all concerns regarding member safety are being addressed.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding the reintroduction of more staff and students into the worksites that are not being addressed your Union wants to hear from you.

If members have been or are being directed to go home because of suspected coronavirus symptoms, or have been mandated to self-isolate due to possible exposure to COVID-19 then your Union wants to hear from you.

Your Union has been in regular discussions with our Employer and have provided numerous suggestions on how to keep members doing meaningful work as well as the possibility of being re-deployed to fill in the gaps and provide supports at various sites around the district where the need is required.  If you are not being provided such opportunities then your Union wants to hear from you.

With restrictions slowly being lifted your Union is optimistic that the government will come out with some formal guidelines and expectations for all sectors of the workforce, especially K-12, as it has become evident to us that the past several weeks have created massive inequities in the workplace.  However, we remain resilient and strong in the face of adversity and forever optimistic that those among us with any integrity will continue to provide compassionate, supportive and unbiased leadership during this crisis and beyond.

In Solidarity,

CUPE 411 Executive

COVID-19 Member Update for May 5, 2020

Good Morning Everyone,

With new directives coming from the Ministry as well as new modeling coming from our Health Officer it would appear that there is definitely going to be some movement on opening up various sectors of the workforce in our province. It is your Union’s goal to provide the membership with as much information as possible to make informed decisions that best meet the needs of yourselves and your families. B.C.’s Premier is scheduled to make an announcement tomorrow pertaining to the easing of restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While your Union encourages members to stay connected to information that is being released on BC’s Centre for Disease Control website regarding COVID-19 it is important to take note that there is still much that the Scientist and those that study infectious diseases, Virologist’s, and their transmission, Epidemiologist’s, don’t know about the coronavirus. Therefore, we feel it is important that as a public employee you are vigilant in adhering to any and all safety measures at your disposal to protect yourselves from contracting the virus, as well as inadvertently or unknowingly transmitting it while in the workplace.

With the support of our parent Union, CUPE National, and our affiliates like CUPE BC and the Canadian Labour Congress, we have received excellent guidance and access to resources to help support us as we navigate these precarious times. Please don’t lose sight of the fact that we are all “In This Together”, with our shared interest right now being COVID-19. How we can provide guidance and support to our members and work with our Employer on outcomes that are fair and equitable for all members of CUPE 411 is your Union’s primary objective.

In Solidarity,

CUPE 411 Executive

COVID-19 Member Update for May 4, 2020

Good Evening Members,

Last week the government provided the K-12 sector with an update regarding expectations moving forward, and while they have not directed that Districts maintain employment and compensation continuity, it is your Union’s opinion that there is ample work to keep everyone employed whether it be from home or at the worksite until at least the end of June for our 10-month members.  We suspect the 12-month members will simply carry on as per usual and perhaps even be able to take some much deserved vacation time during the summer months which is often not possible due to work load issues.

Employers were encouraged to consider the following key factors in their decision making:

  1. Protect public services by maximising the productive use of workers and resources. Where possible, maintain business continuity in anticipation of the resumption of safe operations when the Provincial Health Officer’s guidelines allow.
  2. Operate within existing short and long-term financial parameters in partnership and consultation with funding ministries.
  3. Ensure workplaces are compliant with the Provincial Health Officer’s guidance and WorkSafeBC requirements so that employees can safely be at their place of work and support a resumption of normal operations.
  4. Work with unions, bargaining agents, and other employers to identify opportunities including job sharing, and redeployment opportunities. Encourage underutilized employees to access leave provisions and/or federal income support initiatives.
  5. If business continuity cannot be maintained and reduced staffing levels are temporarily required, consider staffing plans that allow a for a continued relationship with employees and a resumption of safe operations when the Provincial Health Officer’s guidelines allow.
  6. Ensure a ‘no surprises’ approach to staffing level changes by coordinating staffing plans with your employers’ association, funding/line Ministry, and the PSEC Secretariat.

As school spaces slowly start to open up to students it is imperative that you, our members, feel safe and supported in returning to the worksites and we would ask that if you have questions or concerns do not hesitate to reach out to us for answers.

For those members that have been re-deployed into other divisions, we are confident that this process will be carried out in a thoughtful and respectful manner.  We recognize that the work you are being asked to perform may be far removed from what you were hired to do, but please keep in mind that this is only for the next 8 weeks, and it was important to your Union Executive that you were not laid off but able to continue working and receiving benefits without any loss to your seniority or pension.

Lastly, for those members that absolutely cannot return to the workplace, are unable to work from home and are concerned what your options might be we would ask that you please reach out to one of your Union Executive for some guidance and support.  We want to make sure you know exactly what your rights and entitlements are before you make any decisions.

In Solidarity,

CUPE 411 Executive