Save-On-Foods to Rescind the Pandemic Premium. UFCW 1518 Takes Action.

UFCW 1518 received news on Friday that Save-On-Foods has decided to end its Pandemic Premium effective Saturday, May 30.

We are shocked and disappointed by this announcement and our union is ready to take immediate action to stand up for our members in the face of this troubling development.

On March 20, 2020, when the Pandemic Premium was first announced, UFCW 1518 commended Save-On-Foods for taking the important step to recognize their employees for their essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic. As British Columbia re-opens and businesses begin to navigate new regulations and business practices, there is tremendous uncertainty about the future and the safety of front line workers. Premier John Horgan has said that “we are far from out of the woods” on the COVID-19 pandemic. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has assured the public that a second wave of the virus is imminent.

Rescinding the Pandemic Premium during this time is an irresponsible and unfair move and our union is ready to take a stand for grocery workers.

“BC is only beginning to relax its pandemic response this week, and the crisis is far from over, especially for front line workers,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “There remains a lot of uncertainty around what could happen in the coming months. Meanwhile, Save-On-Foods members continue to assume risks by showing up to work every day. Ongoing recognition for that commitment is the least these workers deserve. It is just too soon to end the Pandemic Premium.”

Last month, Save-On-Foods President Darrell Jones stated that their “top priority is always the health and safety of team members (…). They are the ones leaving their homes to help their neighbours get food on the table, and it’s so important that they’re recognized for their commitment to their communities.” We need the company to act according to their words and recognize the current state of the pandemic, as well as the heroic work of those still on the front lines.

On May 25, BC’s Finance Minister Carole James called for businesses like Save-On-Foods to pay their workers fairly while they are playing such a critical role, saying “I would encourage all businesses who’ve seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time.”

We’ve been in touch with Save-On-Foods to make our position clear: we need them to reinstate the Pandemic Premium immediately. Today, the union started a letter-writing campaign, asking union members and members of the public to send a letter of support to Darrell Jones asking him to extend the Pandemic Premium.

If you are a Save-On-Foods member and have any questions or concerns about this recent development, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at reception@ufcw1518.com or 1.800.661.3708.

Understanding The New WorkSafe Regulations for Retail and Health Care Workers

Phase 2 of the fight against COVID-19 began on Tuesday, May 19 with some businesses and health care services being allowed to reopen to the public. Whether you are back at work, waiting to go back, or if you have been at a worksite that has remained open, WorkSafeBC has created new regulations and guidelines that retailers and health care professionals must follow going forward.

To help you understand the new regulations and to make sure that your workplace is doing everything it needs to do to keep you, your coworkers, and your customers safe, here is a guide to the new regulations.

COVID-19 Safety Plan

 
Your workplace must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place in order to be open for business in Phase 2 of the pandemic, and it must be posted at the workplace. In creating this safety plan, your workplace must involve the Joint Operational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC). Your input into this plan helps to protect the health and safety of you and your coworkers, and it is your right to be involved. If you’d like to join your JOHSC, contact your union steward or union rep.

For members of a JOHSC, you can use WorkSafe’s six-step COVID-19 Safety Plan tool to help develop your workplace’s safety plan

If you have been asked to do something at work that you believe is unsafe, please follow the correct procedure to refuse unsafe work.

Levels of Protection

 
There are four levels of protection for people who are working with the public. The first level represents the highest level of protection, and the fourth the lowest – always use the highest levels possible.

  • First level protection (elimination): Use policies and procedures to keep people at a safe physical distance from one another. Limit the number of people in your workplace at any one time, and implement protocols to keep workers at least 2 metres from other workers, customers, and members of the public.
  • Second level protection (engineering controls): If you can’t always maintain physical distancing, install barriers such as plexiglass to separate people.
  • Third level protection (administrative controls): Establish rules and guidelines, such as cleaning protocols, telling workers to not share tools, or implementing one-way doors or walkways.
  • Fourth level protection (PPE): If the first three levels of protection aren’t enough to control the risks, supply workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as non-medical masks. PPE should not be used as the only control measure. It should only be used in combination with other measures.

Rules for Retail

 
Retail workers, including Grocery, Pharmacy, Cannabis, Gas Bar, and other workers who interact with the public, should observe the following guidelines:

  • Store layout and occupancy limits: the number of people allowed in the store at the same time must be posted at the store’s entrance. The store layout should support physical distancing and items and areas should be rearranged as needed. If physical distancing cannot be maintained, the employer should consider the use of masks. Shifts can be rearranged to support physical distancing.
  • Welcoming customers into the store: Stores must have signs near the entrance informing customers not to enter if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Customers should be informed of protocols in place in the store. Crowd control devices should be used. Any staff member that is expected to perform crowd control duties must be trained in COVID-19 protocols and given support and strategies for managing customers who are unwilling or unable to understand the crowd control measures. Stores must not hand out any flyers, coupons, samples, or testers.
  • Deliveries: delivery drivers must observe physical distancing requirements when they are delivering to the store.
  • Stocking Shelves and Product Displays: Stores should consider stopping or reducing product stocking during opening hours. Stores should consider closing aisles while restocking is happening. Workers should wash their hands before and after stocking shelves. Customers should be given information on the store’s policy on touching items
  • Assisting Customers: Stores should consider stopping, reducing, or modifying customer interaction, demonstration, and assistance practices to reduce the number and intensity of contacts.
  • Fitting Rooms: Unnecessary objects should be removed from the inside of fitting rooms, and stores should consider closing every other fitting room to reduce the number of people in the changing area. There should be protocols for the cleaning of fitting rooms. Customers should be asked to leave unwanted items in a designated location, including hangers.
  • Payment and Till Area: Stores should provide physical barriers, such as plexiglass, if the physical distancing requirement cannot be maintained. The barriers should cover all areas where the customer can move around while interacting with the cashier. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be available near pay stations. Curbside pick-ups or staff-assisted purchases (e.g., large items or building materials) should be done with prepayment, a means of identification, and ensuring the customer stays in the vehicle while the worker loads the items. Stores should try to limit the use of cash and limit the handling of credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible, by allowing customers to scan or tap their cards and handle the card readers themselves. Encourage tap payment over pin pad use. Staff should wash or sanitize hands after handling cash. Customers should hold their ID so it is visible for controlled products. If reusable bags are accepted, the store should consider asking customers to pack the bags themselves. If workers handle or pack goods into reusable bags they must be allowed to frequently wash their hands.
  • Recycling Facilities: Customer contact intensity should be reduced and physical distancing maintained. Determine where splashing may occur and ensure workers have appropriate PPE. Workers handling recycled items should wash their hands after the task is complete.

Rules for Healthcare Professionals

 
Healthcare professionals, including Community Health Home Care workers and Social Service workers, should observe the following guidelines:

  • Hygiene, Cleaning, and Disinfection: There must be adequate hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer available. Workers and clients should both practice hand hygiene. There should be protocols and procedures in place for sanitizing treatment areas and equipment. Staff should be trained in the safe handling and effective application of cleaning products.
  • Modify Staff Areas and Work Flow: Workers should stay home when sick. Meetings should be held virtually, and when in-person meetings are required, staff members must be positioned at least two metres apart.
  • Scheduling Appointments and Communicating with Clients: Ask clients to consider rescheduling appointments if they become sick, are placed on self-isolation, or have traveled out of the country within the last 14 days. Where possible, clients should attend appointments alone and not have other family members or friends with them.
  • Provision of Health Services: Conduct a point of care assessment for risk of COVID-19 for every client interaction. Health services should not be performed on ill or symptomatic clients if it is clinically appropriate. Where the client requires timely treatment, ensure PPE is used in accordance with BC CDC guidance. When possible, the health professional should position themselves at least two metres from the client. Wherever possible, each employee should use their own products. If products are shared, they must be cleaned and disinfected between uses. Practice effective hand hygiene after each client by washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada.
  • Preparing for end of day: Change into a separate set of street clothes and footwear before leaving work. Work clothing should be placed in a bag and laundered after every shift. Shower immediately upon returning home after every shift.
  • Documentation and training: Workers must be provided with training on the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the signs and symptoms of the disease. They should be provided with training on methods for maintaining physical distance, such as not greeting others by hugging or shaking hands. They should be trained on changes to work policies, practices, and procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there should be records kept of that training. They should be trained in donning, using, and doffing PPE. Staff should be given up-to-date information on public health officer orders and guidance and how to report an exposure to COVID-19. There must be a process is in place for workers to report concerns and for employers to address them, and worker reps or joint health and safety committees must be in place where required.

If you have questions or concerns about any of the above, don’t be afraid to contact your union representative or to speak directly to WorkSafe BC by calling their Prevention Information Line at 604.276.3100 in the Lower Mainland (toll-free within B.C. at 1.888.621.SAFE).

You can read the full list of recommendations for retailers here and the full list of recommendations for health care professionals here.

Community Health Home Support and Social Services Workers to Receive Pay Boost

After weeks of campaigning for higher pay for home support workers, joint letters to government with the BC Government and Service Employees Union, and nearly 6,000 signatures of support for the work these health care workers do, we are pleased to share that the provincial government has announced a pay boost for Community Health Home Support and Community Social Services workers.

Finance Minister Carole James announced today that these essential front line workers will be receiving a pay boost of around $4 per hour for 16 weeks. The pay boost is retroactive to March 15 and is available to Health Care Assistants, Community Health Workers, Patient Care Support Workers, and Social Services workers, in addition to other front line workers. Eligible workers do not need to apply to receive the pay boost.

“Our frontline workers are providing vital support to people who are most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. The pay boost “recognizes all that our health and social service workers do to help keep people healthy, our communities running, and deliver important care and services to the most vulnerable during this challenging time.”

The measure was created after the federal government announced a $4 billion deal with the provinces to top up pay for essential front line workers. The measure is intended to help these workers stay on the job so that those needing additional in-home support and social services can continue to receive professional care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re thrilled that Home Support and Social Services workers will be getting the pay recognition they deserve,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “These workers are critical and under-recognized part of our health care system – they’ve played a pivotal role in this crisis by helping the elderly and vulnerable stay in their homes, reducing the strain on hospitals and long-term care homes. At the same time, those who work in Social Services have provided essential support to those in need through COVID-19 and we are very pleased to see that hard work being recognized by government.”

UFCW 1518 has been pushing for higher wages for Community Health Home Support and Social Services workers at the bargaining table since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. These workers have been providing an essential and professional service for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The increase in compensation reflects the hard work Community Health workers do today and every day, not just during COVID-19. The Union will continue to fight for pay rises for Community Health Home Support and Social Service workers.

For more information on the pay boost, check out the government announcement. To find out if you are eligible for the pay boost, click here.

For information on financial and mental health supports available during COVID-19, check out our COVID-19 Resource Page

Win for Workers: WorkSafe BC to Include Presumptive Coverage for Workers who Test Positive for COVID-19

WorkSafe BC has agreed to add presumptive coverage for some workers, meaning they will be able to get worker’s compensation if they tested positive for COVID-19 without having to prove their condition was caused by their work.

Before this change, workers who tested positive for COVID-19 needed to prove that they were infected at work to receive WorkSafe compensation. While WorkSafe has not yet decided which industries will be covered, UFCW 1518 will continue to fight for the inclusion of industries where our members work.

For the many grocery, pharmacy, industrial food, and home care workers who have been holding the front lines during this pandemic, this requirement represented a hardship and a barrier to getting the help they need for their work-related illness.

WorkSafe has also announced that they will speed up the process of instituting this change. Normally, coverage changes like this take 18-24 months to take full effect. For presumptive COVID-19 coverage, WorkSafe has proposed a six-month timeline to bring the changes into effect.

“We welcome this change from WorkSafe and we are glad that they have announced they will speed up the process to bring the change into effect,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “However, we are not satisfied with the six-month timeline when so many workers need coverage now and are taking a risk simply by going to work.”

UFCW 1518 will continue to pressure the government and WorkSafe BC to speed up this process so our members can get the help they need if they get sick. The union will also be advocating for WorkSafe to close the gap in coverage for those workers who have self-isolated because of COVID-19 symptoms as health authorities have instructed them to do.

For more information on COVID-19 related compensation and support, check out our COVID-19 Resources page.

COVID-19: BC Government unveils reopening plan

Today, Premier John Horgan unveiled “BC’s Restart Plan,” a pathway detailing how some guidelines will be gradually relaxed to allow for a “new normal” amidst COVID-19 in the province.

The next phase of British Columbia’s pandemic response will allow residents to host a small group of friends for dinner, access some in-person services and have a variety of businesses to begin reopening as early as mid-May.

As of next weekend, gatherings with two to six guests will be permitted, as long as there’s a strict understanding that no one will socialize if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Provincial parks will be open for day use as of May 14, just in time for the Victoria long-weekend.

The provincial government is set to provide more guidance on its reopening plan in the coming weeks, in particular as it relates to new safety guidelines for businesses. Our union is following the province’s reopening plan closely and will be following up with employers once more details are unveiled to ensure the safety of our members.

You can take a look the reopening timeline provided by the government today below. The province will be easing into Phase 2 of the  timeline beginning in mid-May. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at reception@ufcw1518.com or 1.800.661.3708.

Phase One (Today) – Essential Services Operating During COVID-19

  • Enhanced resources for hospitals and health care.
  • Child care for essential workers.
  • K-12: Online and in-class learning.
  • Non-essential businesses.
  • Construction, manufacturing, agriculture, silviculture.

Phase Two – Under Enhanced Protocols

  • Small gatherings.
  • Elective surgeries resume.
  • Dentistry, chiropractic, physiotherapy, in-person counselling resume.
  • Provincial parks will open for day-use.
  • More retail businesses to re-open, supported by WorkSafeBC.
  • Expanded in-person schooling for K-12 (voluntary).
  • Legislature resumes.

Phase Three – Under Enhanced Protocols

  • More parks open, camping resumes.
  • Film and TV production.
  • Movie theatres.
  • Personal services like spas and non-medical massage.
  • Hotels and resorts.

Phase Four (Treatment/Vaccine)

Conditional on at least one of: wide vaccination; “community” immunity; broad successful treatments.

  • Large gatherings (rock concerts, conventions).

Guide: How to resolve problems in the workplace

Having good communication in the workplace is one of the best ways to resolve problems, prevent future issues, and to be healthy and happy at work. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to bring a problem to your manager’s attention, and it can be very difficult to manage work relationships when there is conflict.

Your union is here to help you when you need an advocate in the workplace. The best place to start is with your steward and/or your union representative. Not sure who these people are? Have a look at your union bulletin board. If you can’t find them there, get in touch with us at reception@ufcw1518.com or 604.526.1518.

It is important to follow the correct procedure when bringing problems up with management. Following the right roadmap will help you to know who to talk to, ensure that you have documentation, and get help when you need it.

The illustration below outlines the process to resolve problems in the workplace. If you have noticed unsafe conditions at work, know that you always have the right to refuse unsafe work. As with resolving problems at work, there is an important procedure for refusing unsafe work, and you can read about that here.

An illustration of how to resolve problems in the workplace