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.

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.

 

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Manitoba announces deeply flawed “risk recognition” program

Today the Pallister government announced a $120-million risk recognition program for Manitoba front-line workers. This program is 75% funded by the Federal government and 25% funded by the provincial government, and is intended to provide a one-time payment to recognize employees who are working during the COVID-19 pandemic in essential services.

However the program is limited to certain industries, and positions within those industries, and therefore excludes thousands of essential front-line workers who have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.

The list of eligible industries and jobs can be found at https://manitoba.ca/covid19/infomanitobans/mrrp_eligible.html.

Further to the industry and position criteria, the program is limited to those workers whose total pre-tax employment income during March 20 to May 29 to be less than $6,250 ($2,500 per month for 2.5 months).

This means that many front-line workers in health care or emergency response will not receive the recognition.

For example, while the program technically includes positions like nurses, health care aides, and emergency services workers, in practice many of these workers will exceed the maximum income allowed for the program, despite being in high-risk positions throughout the pandemic.

Ironically, many part-time and low wage health care support workers will be disqualified from this program because they stepped up during the pandemic and took on additional shifts and overtime. Some may very well find themselves in a worse financial position than if they had not volunteered to work.

Additionally, some sectors, such as non-emergency municipal workers and education workers have been excluded, despite the fact that workers in these sectors are doing the same or similar work as workers in the private sector who are included in the program.

School sector workers such as custodians and cleaners have been working throughout COVID-19 to keep schools clear and safe for returning students in June – but government chose to exclude despite private-sector cleaners being included. Many Education Assistants have also been working throughout the pandemic, providing resources to families. They too are excluded.

CUPE raised these concerns throughout the stakeholder consultation program, and demanded that all front-line workers deserve to be included in the program. This program as it stands is simply unacceptable. When you leave out a group of workers, you send a strong message about their value. An insult to one is an insult to all.

While the Premier says this program was intended to “recognize risk”, in reality this program is being used to subsidize the very low wages that are all too common in Manitoba’s non-unionized private retail and grocery industry. While we at CUPE are 100% of the belief that these workers deserve better, we also believe that the Pallister government has missed an opportunity to recognize all Manitoba workers who have been on the front-lines of the pandemic.

CUPE is committed to continue working with other unions and the community at large to raise the minimum wage to a minimum $15/hour, paid sick leave, and improved employment standards, so that these deserving workers get what they rightfully deserve at all times, not just during a pandemic.

CUPE believes all workers deserve good wages, benefits, and supports, during COVID-19 and after the pandemic. A “risk recognition” program cannot and must not substitute fair wages, decent benefits, and safe work environements for workers. We call on the Pallister government to introduce a living wage as the minimum wage, paid sick leave for all workers during and after the pandemic, and to reverse changes he made which makes it harder for workers to join a union.

COVID-19 has taught our community the value of front-line health workers, municipal workers, school staff, crown services staff, community living workers, and more.  We know Manitobans value all these workers. So why doesn’t Pallister?

If you do meet the criteria for the Manitoba “risk recognition” program, visit https://manitoba.ca/covid19/infomanitobans/mrrp.html beginning June 3 at noon.

Premier Pallister is playing smoke and mirrors with Hydro

Winnipeg – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is playing smoke and mirrors with the public, and is using the COVID-19 pandemic to justify his agenda of public sector cuts, says CUPE 998 President Michelle Bergen representing clerical and technical staff at Manitoba Hydro.

“The half-truths and disinformation coming out of the Premier’s mouth show a deep lack of leadership, and need to be addressed,” says Bergen in response to Pallister’s media conference today.

The Premier consistently claims that public sector unions have not been participating in meaningful dialogue with government or government departments as per Pallister’s April 17 demand for reduced spending.

There is no merit to the latest claim that Manitoba Hydro staff and their representatives have not been participating in constructive dialogue.

On April 20, CUPE and other unions representing Manitoba Hydro employees provided numerous suggestions for alternatives and requested more in-depth discussions, including the option of pursuing Work Share programs (as suggested by Pallister himself), but were turned down by Hydro.

The mandate from government becomes clear: it is either wage rollbacks or layoffs, regardless of what discussions took place.

“The reality is that unions have been at the forefront of constructive labour relations during the pandemic, offering solutions and ideas, and I don’t think the Premier expected that”, says Bergen.

“Pallister is caught in his own web, and is looking for anyone to blame, whether it be unions, universities, school divisions or Crowns who are telling him they just can’t cut any more.”

The government has resisted questions on what employees constitute ‘non-essential’ for the purposes of layoffs.

To-date Pallister has provided only deflections and musings about how we’re all family and we need to pull up our boot straps, or something tedious like that.

“Premier Pallister needs to stop using the pandemic as a smoke screen for his austerity agenda, and he needs to come clean to Manitobans”, concludes Bergen.

In the meantime, it is CUPE 998’s intention to get back to meeting with Hydro to discuss alternatives to mass layoffs.

Thank you to all Manitobans fighting to flatten the curve

Today, when asked if the Manitoba government would be providing assistance to small and medium size retail employers so they can operate safely, Premier Brian Pallister ignored this very legitimate concern, and instead  criticized unemployed Manitoba workers and the Federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

“We are fighting against a federal program that is actually paying people to stay out of the workforce right now. I don’t like the fact that that is real, but that is real. People are being paid to stay home and not work.”  Brian Pallister on April 29, 2020

CUPE’s message to all Manitobans is “Thank you”.

Thank you for doing your part to flatten the curve. Thank you for staying home.

All your efforts these past six weeks have been to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
You are helping to protect front-line health workers who are fighting COVID-19 every day.
You are helping seniors, elders, and those in our community who are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
You are saving lives.

We encourage all Manitobans to continue practicing physical distancing.

If you are laid off, have seen your hours cut, if you are sick or in quarantine due to COVID-19, you are taking care of someone who is in quarantine or suck due to COVID-19, or you’re taking care of children or other dependents because their school or care facility is closed, please continue to access the resources available to you. Those resources are there to help you get through these difficult times and provide for yourself and your families.

You are not “being paid to stay home and not work”. You are doing your part to fight a global pandemic, and we truly thank you.

 

Week of the Early Childhood Educator, April 26 – May 2

April 26 – May 2, 2020 has been proclaimed as the 29th Week of the ECE.

On behalf of 37,000 CUPE members across Manitoba, we thank all early childhood educators, providers, and child care staff who are on the front-lines serving our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a greater public light on the incredible value our child care workers provide to the community, a value that has been under-recognized for decades, and as a result, early childhood educators and staff have historically been underpaid. There are also thousands of unorganized child care workers across the country who have little job security and very few benefits.

“We should be looked at as professionals and not just one week out of the year, but always” says Peggy Robichaud, who sits on CUPE’s National Child Care Working Group and is President of CUPE Local 1543 at Knox Day Nursery in Winnipeg.

“Child Care has always been essential, not just in times of crisis. So I want to wish all the ECE’s, CCA’s, and Support staff to have a great ECE Week in spite of all the chaos that’s going on, and know that you are valued 365 days of the year”.

This Week of the Early Childhood Educator, CUPE hopes all Manitobans will take note of the tireless work of our child care workers across the province, and take a moment to thank the child care workers in your community.

We also hope the provincial government and child care organizations recognize the importance of fully funded, public, and accessible child care for all Manitobans and will invest in creating more public child care spaces to fill critical gaps in the care for our children.

The Manitoba government has been slowly introducing more private, for-profit child care into Manitoba, a move that could undermine the quality and accessibility of child care to many families. CUPE Manitoba has been advocating to protect public, non-profit, accessible child care and has already raised red flags over the province’s direction.

We also continue our call to the federal government for a national, universal, quality, publicly funded child care plan across Canada.

Today is an important day to recognize the work of child care workers across Manitoba, and to be steadfast in our commitment to fight for child care staff across the province, today and into the future.

CUPE represents approximately 12,000 child care workers across Canada.
Learn more about CUPE’s child care sector and our advocacy for child care workers nation-wide.

To our child care heroes, thank you!

Learn more about the Week of the ECE at the Manitoba Child Care Association.

Read the Full Provincial Proclamation

Pallister’s support for health workers is hollow

WINNIPEG – Brian Pallister’s promise of 14 days of paid administrative leave for front-line health workers has given false hope to hundreds of health workers who have been in isolation due to COVID-19, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“When Brian Pallister announced 14 days of paid administrative leave for front line health care workers, it was expected that this was to ensure workers told to self-isolate by their employer would be covered,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator.

“It turns out his promise only covers very few health workers, and hundreds will be forced to exhaust their sick banks, leaving the health system vulnerable in the future.”

On April 14th, Premier Pallister and health officials promised a 14-day paid leave for health care workers who come in contact with COVID-19 to self-isolate. On April 24th the government informed staff that the coverage indeed only covers staff who the employer officially recognizes have come in direct contact with COVID-19 in the workplace.

It does not cover health workers turned away at the door when they are screened coming in to work.

“When you force health workers to use their sick bank to self-isolate, you are asking those workers to return to work with no sick time available going forward,” said McAteer.

“Sick banks in health care are there for a reason, and that’s to ensure if a health worker catches a cold, or gets ill, they aren’t choosing between a paycheque or staying home: they stay home.”

Home care workers have access to a maximum of four paid sick days at any time and many have less sick time available than that. This is unacceptable at the best of times and a dire circumstance during this historic pandemic.

CUPE calls on the provincial government to extend the 14-day paid administrative leave to cover all health care workers who are sent home by their employer to self isolate.

CUPE also calls on the provincial government to extend presumptive WCB coverage to all workers who are sent home due to COVID-19.
“During a health pandemic we need to make sure workers are protected,” said McAteer. “Pallister’s support for health workers is hollow.”

Q&A for CUPE health care locals: 14-day paid administrative leave & working single sites

CUPE has been working hard to get answers from health authorities. The following Q&A provides some answers to frequently asked questions from health care members. Keep in mind, this update is as of April 24, 2020.

Things change very quickly, and CUPE will continue trying to provide up-to-date information.

14-day Paid Administrative Leave

Q. How are staff to access/apply for the 14-days paid sick leave from the Province of Manitoba?
A. Managers and/or supervisors are supposed to review anyone who was off due to workplace exposure automatically. This applies for pick-up shifts and part-time and casual shifts that were scheduled during the period. However, it only applies while employees are asymptomatic. If employees become symptomatic, then the coverage ends and income shifts to sick time. If staff become symptomatic during quarantine, they should notify their manager and OESH.

Q. Does it apply for people who were quarantined due to travel or community exposure as well as at work?
A. No. It only covers possible exposure in the workplace.

Q. Does it apply to folks who are sent home during the onsite screening?
A. No, members will have to utilize sick leave, vacation or any banks that they have. If you do not have any of those, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI). Information about these programs and how to apply can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

Q. Does it apply for community/primary care clinics?
A. Yes, if the exposure is at work.

Q. When the claim is retroactive, how will it work if someone has received EI and/or CERB for that time frame?
A. If you received CERB or EI for the quarantine/isolation period and then receive this paid administrative leave from the Employer – you must report to CERB/EI when you receive the money.

Q. In what cases should I report to Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and fill out incident reports?
A. When you have been exposed at work, you should fill in an incident report and make a claim with WCB as well.

Q. Does it apply for private personal care homes (PPCH)?
A. Yes, it applies to both public and private personal care homes. However, the private (Revera and Extendicare) do not fall under the Provincial Health Labour Relations Services (PHLRS) so how it will be implemented may be different.


Working Single Sites

 

Q. Do I have to tell my Employers if I have another job?
A. Yes, during this pandemic you have to tell the Employer about additional jobs. You should not have to provide your social insurance number. Your Employer has that on record already.

Q. When will I have to start working at only one site?
A. The provincial government says that as of May 1, 2020, staff will have to work at only one site.

Q. What will happen to my EFT from the site I do not choose?
A. The Employer is saying they will try to make everyone whole. This means trying to provide you extra hours at the site at which you choose to work. If you have more than a full-time EFT between your sites, they are also trying to figure out how they will handle that. CUPE has stated members should not lose income during this process.


Q.
What will happen to my benefits and pension?
A. CUPE has stated that members’ benefits and pensions must be protected. The Employer has said that they will look into this.

Q. What will happen to my wage?
A. CUPE has stated that staff should all make the higher public sector wages, no matter where you choose to work during this time.


Q.
What will happen to my seniority and vacation/sick time accrual at the site I do not choose to work at?
A. CUPE has raised this as a concern. The Employer has not made a decision at this time.

Other Resources:

Federal Income Supports:
https://cupe.ca/income-supports-workers-during-coronavirus-pandemic
https://cupe.ca/canada-emergency-response-benefit-qa
https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html
https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

CUPE Seeking Alternatives to Pallister Public Sector Layoffs

Last week, with extremely short notice, CUPE was advised by the Pallister government about their desire to reduce the cost of so-called “non-essential” public sector workforce by 10-30 per cent. Unions and employers were initially informed about the plan through a provincial news release.

The workforce reduction will not apply to essential workers in areas like health care, child care, K-12 teaching and certain other public services and utilities – but it is alarming news from our government in the midst of the crisis of our generation. To do this, they are asking government departments and agencies to submit plans that cut workforce spending by 10%-30%.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour, CUPE, and our union friends in the Partnership to Defend Public Services attended a meeting on April 14th to discuss the request from government.

The government has presented two main options to avoid full layoffs of individual employees:

  1. Implement work-sharing agreements where “non-essential” staff would have their work week reduced to as few as two days per week and receive Employment Insurance for lost workdays. This work-sharing would have to be workplace-wide or possibly department-wide, unless positions are “essential”. The EI maximum of $54,000 per year would apply to income under this option.
  2. Expand employees’ ability to participate in a Voluntary Reduced Work Week. Under such a scenario, employees would be allowed to take up to 35 days of absence without pay. Approved VRWs may be treated as regular working days for pension, group life, and accumulated service calculations.

The work-sharing option is only possible if the federal government deems your employer eligible. Currently, the Federal Government has deemed Government Business Enterprises eligible (such as crown corporations and certain independent, revenue generating agencies) and Universities, but core government services such as the civil service and K-12education are not. The Federal Government would need to expand program eligibility further to include these last groups.

The government has so far been unable to say which public services they believe are non-essential. At the same time, the government has also made it clear that they will start making decisions on these matters very soon. The government has requested options for cost reductions by as early as Tuesday, April 21th. The provincial government has new powers under emergency legislation and could pass orders to require workforce reductions. CUPE is calling on the provincial government to respect our collective agreements.

CUPE Manitoba has serious concerns about these proposals, and some are worse than others. We are working towards the best solutions to the financial pressures of COVID-19, options that keep the public sector working. We want to keep doing our part to support health care and other public services that are so important and to work towards a collective social and economic recovery.

Across Manitoba, we are seeing the difference that public service workers are making in our communities. We know that quality public services are essential for all Manitobans – in normal times, and in these unprecedented and extremely challenging times, too.

The government’s job during a crisis is to demonstrate leadership, keep people safe, and make sure people can pay their bills and put food on the table. Cutting services and laying people off isn’t the answer. These measures reduce the government’s ability to respond and support people, and further shrinks the economy and the tax base.

We know this is creating more anxiety in your life during an already overwhelming time for all of us. We know that members have mortgages, rent, utilities and other bills to pay, and that a forced reduction in hours or days of work could create a personal crisis for you.

Please let us know how this might affect you – we would like to have stories and concerns and questions to share with management as we continue to look for answers. (We will keep your identity confidential.)

Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of our members and our communities is one of our top priorities, and we are working hard to avoid layoffs and mandatory workforce reductions across our provinces.

CUPE is here with you, and for you. Please contact your local CUPE executives if you have questions or concerns, and we’ll do everything we can to support you.