Health care support workers call for immediate changes to PPE guidelines

Health care support staff across Manitoba are calling on Shared Health to update PPE guidelines to reflect the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recognition that COVID-19 can be transmitted through both respiratory droplets and aerosols.

“Shared Health’s PPE guidelines related to N95 masks have not been changed since July,” says Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204 representing health care support workers within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and Shared Health. “Health care support staff are catching COVID-19 at work in unacceptable numbers, so something is not working, and it needs to be changed.”

Yesterday public officials announced that 16 support staff had been tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 48 hours, and that 476 health care workers have acquired COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. One health care support worker died after contracting COVID-19 at work.

Earlier this month the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines were updated to recognize that the virus “spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks.” However, under Shared Health protocols, N95 masks are only provided to health care support staff when a risk assessment is conducted related to whether or not there is an ‘aerosol generating medical procedure taking place.’

“CUPE has been calling for N95 masks to be immediately provided to support workers who are working with COVID positive patients, residents, or clients, and this has not been happening,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Our members are being denied N95s based on outdated protocols, and this needs to be changed now.”

CUPE health care support workers sent a letter to Lanette Siragusa, Provincial Lead Health System Integration & Quality, Chief Nursing Officer for Shared Health outlining the urgent need to change the policy to reflect current science on the transmission of COVID-19.

CUPE has also filed grievances across the WRHA, Shared Health, Southern Health-Santé Sud, and at Parkview Place calling for stronger PPE.

“Front-line support staff are telling us they are not being protected,’” said Boissonneault. “What we are hearing back from management is ‘grievance denied’.”

Read CUPE’s letter to Shared Health here.

CUPE represents approximately 19,000 health care support workers within the WRHA, Shared Health,
Northern Regional Health Authority, Southern Health-Santé Sud, and numerous private personal care homes.

Statement from Abe Araya, CUPE Manitoba President on the cancellation of the CUPE Manitoba virtual convention

The CUPE Manitoba Executive have unanimously voted to cancel our upcoming convention scheduled for Friday, November 20, 2020.

While we have important work that needs to get done as a union, we know that our members and activists are on the front-lines fighting against COVID-19, and right now that’s where they’re needed most.

Although our convention was to be held virtually, with all of Manitoba under an unprecedented Code Red, we felt it prudent to cancel this convention until a future date, when our members can fully participate in the work of our union.

We encourage all our members to continue contacting us and your workplace representatives throughout these challenging times. Your voices are critical in ensuring we can continue to hold government and employers accountable. And indeed, you are making a big difference in the lives of workers and families province-wide.

Thank you and feel free to reach out to me any time.

In Solidarity,
Abe Araya
President of CUPE Manitoba

CUPE calls on public health officials to conduct immediate inspections of private personal care homes

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling on public health officials, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, to immediately conduct in-person inspections at each private personal care home that currently has COVID-positive cases, and automatically launch inspections for any future outbreaks.

“We need to be proactive and have public officials inspect these privately-operated homes,” says Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator. “The results of the inspection during the Parkview Place outbreak yielded important findings and recommendations, including staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) that can help that facility fight the spread of COVID-19, but we cannot let other facilities get to that point.”

CUPE learned on Tuesday, that Maples Personal Care Home, operated by Revera, now has 70 active cases of COVID-19, including seven staff.

“Government and private operators dragged their feet before, and we cannot have a repeat of what happened at Parkview Place,” said McAteer. “We are asking for public health inspectors to immediately conduct in-person reviews at all private care homes with current outbreaks, and automatically launch inspections at future outbreaks to ensure each home is prepared for, and can prevent an outbreak.”

CUPE represents support staff in 10 private personal care homes in Manitoba, including Revera facilities: Parkview Place; Heritage Lodge; Maples Personal Care Home; Charleswood Care Centre; Kildonan Personal Care Centre; Valleyview; and Extendicare facilities: Oakview Place; River East Personal Care Home; Tuxedo Villa; and Hillcrest Place.

CUPE 204 files 55 policy grievances against WRHA, Shared Health

Front-line health care support staff cite inconsistent provision of PPE

WINNIPEG – Seven months into a global pandemic, and many front-line health care support staff in Manitoba are still fighting for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep themselves and the people they care for safe, says CUPE.

“Hospitals, long-term care homes, and home care employers are inconsistent in the provision of adequate PPE to support staff on the front-line in the fight against COVID-19,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE
Local 204, representing 14,500 health care support staff within the WRHA and Shared Health.  “We are hearing from support staff across the city who are being denied or having to argue for protective equipment.”

On Monday, October 19th, CUPE 204 filed policy grievances at fifty-five health care facilities across the WRHA and Shared Health, citing the inconsistent provision of N95 masks to support staff working with COVID-19 positive patients, residents, or clients. In some cases, face shields are no longer being provided.

While health officials cite that N95’s will only be given in circumstances where aerosol transmission of the virus could be present, CUPE contends that health care support staff work closest with patients and residents, including bathing, feeding, and cleaning them, and that safety should be automatic.

Grievances include Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg, Misericordia Health Centre, and Golden West Centennial Lodge, all of which declared outbreaks of COVID-19 yesterday.

“In some facilities, health care aides have to beg to be provided appropriate PPE before working with
COVID-positive community members,” said Boissonneault. “We believe if a health care worker is assigned to a COVID unit, resident, or client they should be automatically provided every possible protection available without delay or resistance.”

Grievances were also filed on behalf of home care workers, many of whom have still not been fitted for N95 masks. Some are also not being provided information on whether their client is COVID positive or awaiting testing.

“Home care workers have been working incredibly hard to support their clients, but they are being treated like their health and safety are second-tier to the rest of the health care system,” said Boissonneault. “These workers visit very vulnerable Manitobans, and we need to make sure both the worker and the community member are protected.”

Home care workers also have very little “sick time” available if they are asked to self-isolate. While the new Federal sick time program will be helpful, it will not go far enough to cover a 14-day self-isolation period.

“We need government and employers to step up and keep all health care support staff safe…period,” said Boissonneault. “We have seen what can happen if we are not taking every measure to protect staff and residents, and we need action now.”

These grievances were submitted at the start of Manitoba’s Health Care Support Workers’ Recognition week, a week usually declared to celebrate the commitment of Manitoba’s health care support staff.

 

CUPE 2039 files grievance at Parkview Place

On Friday, October 9, 2020, CUPE Local 2039 submitted a policy grievance against Parkview Place, citing concerns over unsafe working conditions. The Union met with the employer on October 14 to discuss our concerns.

As of October 14, 67 residents and 22 staff have contracted COVID-19, and 9 residents have died.

“Staff at Parkview are doing their best to support residents during this critical time, but they need help,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE’s Health Care Coordinator.  “We are beyond an emergency, and staff are completely overwhelmed and frightened for themselves, their families, and the residents they care for.”

CUPE 2039’s grievance called on the Employer to immediately provide N95 masks/respirators to all staff who work on COVID-19 units at Parkview Place.  Prior to yesterday, N95 masks/respirators were only being provided to staff following a nurse’s risk assessment.

As a result of CUPE’s grievance, the employer confirmed that N95 masks/respirators will now be provided to all staff working in COVID-19 units.

“It is clear that staff are contracting COVID-19 at work, and we need every safety precaution in place at all times,” said McAteer.

Parkview Place has offered an additional $2.00/hour premium for staff retroactive to September 15 and lasting until the outbreak at Parkview Place is declared over.  However, that premium does not negate the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment and permanent improved compensation for all staff, according to CUPE.

CUPE’s grievance also demands the immediate hiring of more health care support staff, as increasing numbers of staff are exposed to COVID-19 and are forced to isolate.  In many cases health care workers have been unable to take breaks due to staffing shortages, leading to exhaustion as they continue to care for residents.

“CUPE has been warning the Manitoba government that chronic staff shortages in long-term care will result in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in privately operated care homes,” says McAteer.  “This applies to all long-term care homes in Manitoba, and we need the government to take action now.”

CUPE 2039 represents approximately 163 support staff at Parkview Place.

Public services in Manitoba are in trouble under Pallister: CUPE responds to Throne Speech

If the government plans to do to education, what they did to health care, then Manitoba is in really big trouble, says CUPE Manitoba representing 36,000 workers in the province.

“The province’s ongoing health reforms led to worker fatigue and staff shortages before the pandemic started, and now those issues have become even worse,” says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“The looming threat of education reform has already impacted morale among front-line workers and educators in the school system at a time when the focus should be entirely on supporting our kids.”

Any report on education reform that was written before the pandemic is now archaic and should be scrapped, according to CUPE.

“We now know the value of having distinct school boards in our diverse communities who can respond directly to the needs of families, as well as the critical importance of ensuring school support staff have the resources they need to help keep our kids safe and help deliver the best quality education possible. Now is not the time for education reform,” said Araya.

The elimination of the education property tax will further erode school divisions abilities to respond to the education needs of their communities.

Health care in distress

On the health care front, CUPE continues to call on the government to increase staffing levels in long term care homes and provide robust paid sick leave to health care support staff who self-isolate.

“CUPE has called on the government to address the now systemic issue of working short in health care prior to the pandemic, and now we are seeing the very serious impact this is having on staff and residents,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204 representing 14,000 health care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health.

“The government plans capital upgrades in long-term care facilities, but why won’t the government meet with us to discuss staffing levels? Why won’t the government act now to ensure our support staff and residents get the care they deserve?”

While the federal government recently announced 10 paid sick days for Canadian workers who are impacted by the pandemic, it does not go nearly far enough to support front-line staff who have already used up their sick banks and vacation time for the 14-day self-isolation period.

Some workers have already self-isolated more than once, and the Provincial government should fill that gap.

“Health care workers, including home care, need to be assured that they won’t be financially penalized because they take self-isolation and the wellbeing of their residents seriously,” says Boissonneault.

“Health care workers have been on the front-line in the fight against COVID from the start, and they need to be able to continue fighting for the months and maybe years to come. Those limited sick days are critical in ensuring they can take the time away from health care settings if they get ill – COVID or otherwise.”

CUPE is also deeply concerned that the provincial government may be considering privatizing home care services for seniors.

“Home care must remain public,” said Boissonneault. “Private profit has no place in the delivery of health care services to our elders, and this government must not be allowed to privatize this critical service for Manitoba seniors.”

Child care “choice” concerning

CUPE is concerned that this government is going to move further in the direction of private-for-profit child care under the guise of “choice,” while letting the non-profit child care centres continue to struggle under the combined challenges of inadequate funding and COVID-related challenges.

Manitoba Hydro’s future uncertain

Pallister is chipping away at Manitoba Hydro, carving out Power Smart, privatizing Hydro’s money-making subsidiaries, and forcing staff into furloughs despite the continued need for a strong public energy utility, says CUPE.

“Pallister is leading Hydro down the path of privatization and CUPE is afraid he could use the pandemic as an excuse to sell off Hydro in whole or in part to pay down the debt,” says Araya.  “This government has been making very strategic cuts to Hydro, and Manitobans should be very concerned with Pallister’s agenda for Hydro.”

Lastly, CUPE urges the provincial government to support the thousands of Manitoba workers who have been without a contract since the unconstitutional wage freeze legislation was introduced.

“If Pallister cared about working people, he would get to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal for the thousands of front-line workers who have been stepping up to the plate to protect Manitobans every single day.”

CUPE Manitoba celebrates School Support Staff Recognition Week, Sept 28 – October 2, 2020

The Province of Manitoba has declared the week of September 28 – October 2, 2020 as School Support Staff Recognition Week.

Because of CUPE, the Manitoba government has recognized the hard work of school support staff since 2013, and has set aside this important week to acknowledge the value of school support staff to our education system. CUPE is launching a radio ad to let parents, families, educators, and students know.

“Manitobans know how critical school support staff are for our K-12 education system”, says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba and a school support worker himself. “We help keep our schools safe and clean, get our kids to school safely, keep our schools running, and help our children learn, grow, and succeed”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of support staff, with thousands of support workers mobilizing to keep our classroom, buses and facilities as safe as possible. Support staff are also stepping up to ensure our community’s children are able to cope with the very different learning environment this year.

“Recognizing school support staff goes beyond a proclaimed recognition week – we need governments at all levels to step up and ensure stronger workplace health & safety, better working conditions, and improved workplace contracts so staff can have security and stability in their lives.”

Minister of Education Kelvin Goertzen wrote to CUPE, thanking school support staff and our union for encouraging Manitobans to recognize and appreciate the work of school support staff in Manitoba.

CUPE also calls on the Manitoba Government and Winnipeg School Division to immediately resolve the UFCW 832 school bus drivers’ strike by getting to the bargaining table and negotiating a fair deal for workers.

“Celebrating our members’ work is important, but we also need to stand in solidarity with these workers and support them in their efforts to get a fair deal,” said Araya. “An insult to one is an insult to all”.

Download a copy of the proclamation:
English
French
Letter from Minister Goertzen
Letter from CUPE to Minister Goertzen

CUPE represents school support staff, including education assistants, custodians, cleaners, school bus drivers, library technicians, intercultural & community liaisons, trades persons, office administrative staff, and more in 25 School Divisions across Manitoba.

Manitoba K-12 education funding much needed, ongoing funding will be required

The Union representing K-12 education support staff in 25 school divisions is calling on the Government to commit to long-term funding to ensure that improvements made in September are sustainable in the years to come.

Today the Manitoba Government announced $52 million in new funding to help school divisions improve their readiness for September.

“We are pleased that the government has allocated new resources to the divisions, and that some of that has been earmarked for increased custodial staff, cleaning, buses, and education assistants,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“We need to ensure that funding is ongoing and is also available to improve the physical learning spaces, as well as address inequities in our school system that make it harder for some students to succeed.”

While K-12 support staff are ready to get back to school and support our children’s education, workers have highlighted a few areas that require additional resources, and encourage all school divisions to consider these recommendations.

CUPE Manitoba’s K-12 school support workers would like to see additional funding allocated for:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers for every classroom and every school entrance, additional hand washing stations, and staffing to install and refill as necessary;
  • Increased custodial and cleaning staff in schools to be able to keep up with greater cleaning requirements;
  • Additional education assistants to help with cohorting and monitoring mask and physical distancing requirements;
  • Additional education assistants to help students with special needs, language barriers, hearing disabilities, health concerns, etc.;
  • Additional intercultural and community liaisons to help families with language and cultural barriers;
  • Additional support staff on school buses to help ensure student compliance with mask and physical distancing requirements;
  • Professional and paraprofessional support to aid students with mental health challenges, and support well-being for students and staff;
  • Plexiglass barriers installed in school offices, libraries, and other staffed areas;
  • Adequate masks and other personal protective equipment made available for all school support staff;
  • Opening school spaces not currently used for instruction to accommodate for smaller class sizes (including additional support and cleaning);
  • An audit of school ventilation systems across Manitoba, and funding to upgrade these ventilation and filtration systems where necessary. This includes replacing any windows that are unable to open;
  • Clear direction on the protocol when a student exhibits symptoms while in the care of the school division. More specifically, who is responsible if a student tries to enter a school bus with symptoms and the parents are not home to receive the student who is not allowed on the school bus.

“September is approaching fast, and we want to make sure everything has been done to keep our kids safe while also providing the quality of education they deserve,” said Araya.

“There are still a few holes in the government’s back-to-school plans, and we hope the divisions are given all the resources they need to fill those holes.”

CUPE also recognizes that some school divisions have implemented some of these recommendations, and we applaud those divisions for their leadership.

CUPE represents education assistants, custodians, cleaners, school bus drivers, library technicians, intercultural and community liaisons, trades persons, office administrative staff plus more in 25 school divisions across Manitoba.

 

DJ/wkp/cope 491

Provincial Plan to Re-open Schools Short on Resources, More a Wish Than a Plan

WINNIPEG – The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling for more support staff and resources following today’s announcement of provincial plans to re-open Manitoba schools in September. CUPE is disappointed that no additional resources will be available to ensure health and safety.

“CUPE Manitoba has members in school support jobs in divisions across Manitoba. We have many concerns and questions about school re-opening,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“Today’s announcement sounds more like a wish than a plan.”

The Provincial Government announced that the only funds available for schools to implement measures in line with COVID prevention would be the $48 million in savings that divisions achieved during the winter/spring 2020 remote learning phase.

Added Araya: “For this high-stakes school re-opening to be safe and effective, the Province will need to do better. Schools need to hire more support staff in all areas, from bus drivers to educational assistants, from custodians and cleaners to trades, from library staff to clerical staff, from technical staff to community and language liaisons.”

The Provincial Government announced that Manitoba students will return to school on September 8th, with some restrictions in place. CUPE understands that students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 are expected to learn in the classroom. Students with special needs in all grades will also be learning in-class. Students in high school will learn in-class provided physical distancing can be maintained – otherwise, they can expect some remote learning. School buses, schools and outdoor spaces will undergo additional cleaning and procedures to ensure physical distancing.

“As frontlines staff, CUPE members know firsthand that schools are underfunded and often overcrowded,” said Araya. “Before COVID, some schools already had a high demand for bussing, two or more shifts of recess and lunch, mobile classrooms, and hallway education. At around $68,000 per school, the plan to increase staff and resources for Fall 2020 is unlikely to be enough.”

Concluded Araya: “CUPE members will be the ones implementing many of the direct COVID prevention measures. We want to continue working with school divisions for a successful return in the fall. We look forward to proper support and meaningful consultation from the Province. Students, families and communities need detailed and practical information and options so that we can all have faith in a safe return to the classroom.”

CUPE represents approximately 5,000 education support staff in school divisions across Manitoba, including educational assistants, custodians, maintenance and trades, secretaries, librarians, mechanics, bus drivers, international student support, school liaisons and more.

BREAKING: Court ruling finds Pallister’s wage freeze bill unconstitutional

Manitoba’s largest public sector union applauds Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice McKelvey’s ruling that the Public Services Sustainability Act (PSSA) is unconstitutional.

CUPE and other unions through the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s Partnership to Defend Public Services brought Pallister’s government to court, and won.

“Brian Pallister has been pushing ideological cuts to public services, and attempted to do so by violating our constitutional right to bargain collective agreements,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Pallister lost in court today, but the fight against his austerity agenda isn’t over”.

CUPE provided testimony during the proceedings.

Now that the PSSA has been proven unconstitutional in court, CUPE intends to move swiftly to get to the bargaining table with the intent to negotiate fair deals for the thousands of Manitoba workers, including in health care, education, crown corporations, child care, social services, and more who have been without a contract for over four years.

“Manitoba’s public sector workforce has been on the front-lines fighting COVID-19, and now we are asking Manitobans to support us as we get back to the negotiating table” says Araya.

“CUPE has very straight forward demands: we want a fair deal for workers. But Pallister has made it clear that he is willing to violate constitutional rights to push workers down and that’s something we, and the courts, won’t accept”.

CUPE Manitoba extends our deepest gratitude to the work of the Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck, as well as the hard working staff at the MFL for the countless hours of work put into this fight.

We also extend our congratulations and thanks to all the other members of the PPDS which include unions from across the province for working together through challenging times.

See link for the decision summary provided by representatives of Myers LLP:

If you would like the full decision (download .pdf)

This was won by Manitoba’s labour movement, working together.