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.

Manitoba Government responds to CUPE’s demand for 14 days paid leave, more information needed

Today the Manitoba government announced 14-days paid administrative leave for health care workers who are sent home due to possible contact with COVID-19 in the workplace. This announcement is retroactive to March 1st.

CUPE has been advocating for 14 paid sick days for all Manitoba workers who are told by their employers to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19 CUPE Manitoba organized a petition to call for 14 days paid leave, which garnered over 1,200 emails being sent to the government.

“We are glad the government is listening to CUPE, and moving to provide paid leave for health care workers who are sent home due to possible contact with COVID-19. This will ensure these health care workers will not be forced to use their sick banks to self isolate,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE’s Health Care Coordinator.

“We want the government to extend this paid leave to all workers who are sent home by their employers for the 14 day isolation period,” added McAteer.

Sick banks are intended to ensure workers can take time off if they get sick. When those sick banks are used for self isolation, it results in workers not having enough sick leave if they get ill after the pandemic.

The government’s plan to provide paid leave for health workers in self-isolation due to contact with COVID-19 in the workplace will ensure these health workers have enough sick days available when the pandemic is over.

It is unclear if this extends to front-line workers who are told by the employer to self-isolate due to flu/cold symptoms, but who haven’t knowingly come into direct contact with COVID-19 in the workplace.

CUPE calls on the government to extend the 14 days paid leave to all workers being asked by their employers to self-isolate, regardless of contact with COVID-19.

“Workers who are sent home by their employers should be covered”.

Manitoba health care support workers report facing racism during COVID-19

WINNIPEG – A new survey reveals many health care support workers on the frontlines of the
COVD-19 pandemic are experiencing anti-Asian racism.  It’s one of the findings of a Canadian Union of Public Employees membership survey of 1,877 CUPE health care workers.

One in five members responding to CUPE’s poll who self-identified as being of Asian heritage have personally experienced racism/bigotry in the workplace in the past month.  Comparatively, only one per cent of respondents who did not identify as being of Asian heritage reported experiencing racism at work in the same time period.

“Racism in the workplace and in the community is not acceptable – ever,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE Local 204, representing health care support staff in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and Shared Health.  “Our Union stands with all front-line health workers who are experiencing racism.  CUPE is calling on all Manitobans to confront racism in the workplace, at home, and in the community,” said Boissonneault.

Over the past several months, anti-Asian racism and xenophobia have spiked across North America in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19.  This spike is a pattern of refueled racism towards the Asian population, much like what transpired during the SARS pandemic.

CUPE Manitoba is amplifying health officials in making it perfectly clear that ethnicity, background, or country of origin have nothing to do with COVID-19, in fact it is often marginalized communities that bear the brunt of pandemics due to systemic or institutionalized discrimination and colonization.

“There are other curves we need to flatten besides COVID-19,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Manitoba is not immune to racism.  But we can fight it together.”

CUPE is urging members facing any form of harassment, discrimination and or racism to contact their employer, and let CUPE know.  “CUPE does not tolerate racism or discrimination, and our Union is dedicated to supporting our members who are targeted by ignorance and hate,” said Araya.

The online survey was conducted between March 30th and April 5th.  CUPE invited members to participate through email and member-only CUPE Facebook pages.

Respondents are CUPE members, and work in the WRHA, Shared Health, Northern Regional Health Authority, and Southern Health-Santé Sud.  The survey also showed health care support workers are not getting enough training, personal protective equipment, or support from the government.

Members are encouraged to learn about how to intervene against racism.

Two-thirds of health care support workers say Manitoba government isn’t doing enough to keep them safe at work, according to CUPE member survey

Straw poll of 1,900 Manitoba health care support workers offers stark insight into experiences of front-line health care workers during COVID-19.

WINNIPEG – Manitoba health care support workers are not getting enough training, personal protective equipment (PPE), or support from the government, according to a new membership survey conducted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Manitoba health care workers are telling us that they need more support from the government and the health authorities,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE’s Health Care Coordinator.

Of the 1,877 health care support workers who responded to the survey, 58 per cent indicated they feel they have not been provided with enough personal protective equipment to keep themselves and the people they care for safe.

The response from home care workers are even starker, where 77 per cent of respondents reported a lack of PPE.
53 per cent of health care support worker respondents reported receiving insufficient COVID-19 training to keep themselves and the people they care for safe.

68 per cent of survey respondents from home care reported insufficient training.

“During a pandemic we need every health care worker to have the training, personal protective equipment, and supports they require to get the job done. If health care workers feel that they aren’t being supported, then the entire system suffers,” said McAteer.

63 per cent of health care support workers responding feel the government is not doing enough to keep health care workers safe.

“It worries us that the confidence in government is so low among so many health care support staff,” said McAteer. “Nearly two-thirds of health care support workers who answered our survey felt the government hasn’t been doing enough to keep them safe. We hope the government takes note of this, and acts to support front-line support workers.”

This survey was a “straw poll” designed to get basic responses from Manitoba health care support workers about their experiences to-date during COVID-19. Some respondents did not complete the entire survey, and the poll captures a moment in time in an ever-evolving pandemic.

READ THE FULL RESULTS HERE

Information and Training from Employers about COVID-19

  • 56% of health care support workers responding indicated they feel they have enough information
    on the Employer’s COVID-19 plan to keep themselves, and patients safe.
    In home care, only 42% reported having enough information from Employers.
  • 58% of health care support workers reported receiving regular updates from their Employer on
    their workplace’s COVID-19 plan.
    In home care, only 43% reported receiving regular updates from their Employer about their
    workplace plan for COVD-19.
  • 53% of health care support worker respondents reported receiving insufficient
    COVID-19 training to keep themselves and the people they care for safe.
  • 68% of survey respondents from home care reported insufficient training.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Only 41% of respondents indicated they feel they’ve been provided with enough personal
    protective equipment to keep themselves and the people they care for safe.
  • The responses from home care workers are even starker, where 77% of respondents reported a
    lack of PPE.

Government Response

  • 63% of health care support workers responding feel the government is not doing enough to keep
    health care workers safe.
  • 51% of health care support workers responded they feel the government is doing enough to keep patients/residents/clients safe.

Stress Levels of Health Care Workers

  • 65% of health care workers responding indicated they are suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, or insomnia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.