New supports for CUPE health care workers on the front lines of COVID-19

CUPE has finalized a new Memorandum of Agreement #2 (MOA #2) with the Employer regarding the impacts of reassignment, redeployment and shift disruptions.

CUPE worked tirelessly over the past number of weeks to ensure these new benefits were fair and respected your rights in the workplace.

This new MOA #2 will be in addition to the one the unions negotiated back in March (MOA #1).

We know that there have been unprecedented impacts from COVID-19 in the workplace and on your working life.  We know you have been working many long hours, and often working short under very stressful conditions – often while not in your regular workplace.

CUPE frontline staff have selflessly answered the call to help the facilities and units experiencing an outbreak.

In light of this, the new MOA #2 has included additional premiums for when staff are reassigned, redeployed or have their regular shift disrupted.  CUPE was also able to clarify many questions members had, including around the payment qualification and general process for everyone.

Download the new MOA#2 here.
Download the MOA#2 Appendices here.

Download the explanation document here.

Highlights of MOA #2

There is a “shift disruption allowance” (SDA) of $25, $35 or $50 per shift.

There is also a “work disruption allowance” (WDA) which is an hourly premium of $5/hour.  These will be retroactive to November 1, 2020.  These benefits and the benefits under MOA #1 can be combined if circumstances allow.

If you received the current $20 or $25 shift disruption allowance already for a certain shift, that amount will be deducted from any money you are owed for the same shift in the retroactive period and you will receive the balance of any additional monies.

Change in Schedule/Shift Disruption:  see Section 5 of MOA #2

  • You would be entitled to $25, $35 or $50 per shift (depending on the circumstances);
  • Your EFT should be maintained unless you volunteer or agree to work extra time or shifts.

Redeployed to work in a Personal Care Home (PCH)

  • You would receive the $5/hour work disruption allowance (WDA).

Working in ICU

  • If you currently work, have been reassigned or redeployed you would receive the WDA of $5/hour.

Working in a designated COVID unit or a unit/ward declared in outbreak

  • You would receive the $5/hour work disruption allowance (WDA).

Being redeployed to work in the North

  • There are special provisions for being redeployed to the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA);
  • $500 per bi-weekly period, travel allowance, mileage, parking, accommodations and daily per diem will be provided.

Being redeployed or volunteering to work in another town within the NRHA and you already work there

  • Mileage, accommodation, meal reimbursement, daily travel allowance of $60 and additional $75 per shift.

This new MOA #2 will be in effect until the end of the pandemic is declared and is fully retroactive to November 1, 2020.

Please read the full MOA #2 and the explanation document from the employer for full details, and do not hesitate to contact your local executive if you have further questions.

As always, CUPE is here to fight for you and your rights in the workplace.  Thank you all for your ongoing efforts in these challenging times.

Manitobans support public and non-profit take-over of private long-term care homes

WINNIPEG – A new poll from Probe Research, commissioned by CUPE, has found that two thirds of Manitobans would want the government or non-profit agencies to take over at least some privately operated personal care homes in the province, with nearly 40% saying *all* private personal care homes should become public or non-profit.

The poll further finds that over half of Manitobans do not trust private companies (like Revera) to provide good quality care to the elderly and chronically ill, and that eight-in-ten Manitobans do trust non-profit organizations and the government (like Regional Health Authorities) to provide good care.

“Manitobans have seen first-hand the critical need for strong, public and non-profit care for our elders,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “The Manitoba government needs to phase out private for-profit care homes and invest in a strong public system.”

More than half of all COVID-19 related deaths in Manitoba have been in long-term care facilities, with many in privately operated care homes.

Overwhelming majority of Manitobans support legislated minimum staffing requirements in care homes.

Ninety-four percent of Manitobans support regulations that would increase the minimum staffing levels at long-term care homes. Support for increased staffing levels runs across party lines, and finds support in both rural communities and Winnipeg.

“CUPE has been calling for increased staffing levels in long term care homes for years,” said Araya. “Manitobans understand the critical need to legislate minimum staffing levels so we can get our seniors the care and attention they deserve, now and post-COVID-19.”

On May 27, 2020, NDP healthcare critic Uzoma Asagwara introduced a bill to legislate mandatory minimum staffing requirements for long term care homes, however the Pallister government used their majority to filibuster it, preventing it from being debated in the last legislative session.

“It is unfortunate that the government missed this chance to do the right thing for our seniors,” said Araya. “With such a wide range of Manitobans supporting legislation on minimum staffing levels, you would think the government would act.”

The poll ran between November 24 and December 4, 2020, surveying a random and representative sampling of 1,000 adults residing in Manitoba.

Download the full report and data tables here.

CUPE represents approximately 19,000 health care support workers in Manitoba, including in both private and personal care homes.

CUPE: New wage support program is welcome news – Manitoba’s crisis in care still needs urgent action like paid sick days

WINNIPEG – The Canadian Union of Public Employees welcomes the new Caregiver Wage Support Program (CWSP), but warns that more comprehensive action like guaranteed sick pay is still urgently needed to stem the crisis in residential care in Manitoba.

CUPE represents workers in nearly all the eligible caregiving roles. The Union is hopeful that the program will be extended by adding additional weeks, expanded to help more workers (such as those working in Home Care, hospitals, and community clinics), and amended to include sick days.

The program, jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments, will provide a $5/hour wage supplement to eligible workers earning less than $25/hour who provide care in a variety of different care home, disability care, youth care, or assisted living settings. There will be two intake windows, in December and January, and the benefit will apply to regular and overtime wages for hours worked from November 1, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

“We welcome the new program, as it recognizes the sacrifices frontline workers are making during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are concerned that the benefit does not cover enough workers, does nothing to increase wages long-term, and does not cover sick time pay,” says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “We wish it would not take a pandemic for government to recognize the critical role that frontline workers play in caring for Manitobans.”

Sick time provisions are a big problem for lower-paid caregivers working shifts, and CUPE has been advocating for guaranteed paid sick time for frontline workers since the beginning of the pandemic. Many workers have had to go without pay when they are sick or in isolation. Denying them the new wage supplement puts pressure on workers and on the safety of residents, their families, and other staff in caregiving programs. No worker should have to choose between paying their bills and safe work.

“If we want to get this pandemic under control, we need better leadership from government. Today’s announcement hailed the lowest-paid caregivers as heroes, but these heroes need better pay and the reassurance of paid sick time if they are home with COVID, COVID-symptoms, or required to isolate,” Araya added. “It was a missed opportunity by government to show they really respect frontline workers and will do what is needed to make caregiving safer for workers and residents.”

 The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members. In Manitoba, CUPE is the province’s largest union, representing approximately 36,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries, and family emergency services.

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.

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.