Member Update: COVID-19 – April 21

 

Fourth Update on COVID-19

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Thanks to a fortunate mix of hard work, patience, front-line efforts, geography and a pinch of luck, New Brunswick and PEI are both experiencing below average progression rates of COVID-19.

Despite this relatively enviable position in our country, the Federal government has not indicated when they will seriously consider loosening public health restrictions to reopen the domestic economy. This will be likely done in phases with some regions and industries starting sooner than others. It is too early to say what will happen.

Members are doing important work across both provinces in our region during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the public is noticing. This is good news for us, as before this crisis, too many front-line workers were forgotten or underappreciated by government. Keep up the good work!


The CUPE Maritimes staff is doing phenomenal work and I want to recognize their efforts. They have been “behind the scenes” working long hours ensuring CUPE members are having their rights respected and that information that members need is being shared. We have daily staff calls to share information and work collaboratively and this united and consistent approach is working very well in our region.

Bargaining Paused Until May 11th

As you were already aware of the bargaining talks being paused, I wanted to let you that there will be no bargaining at least until May 11th, 2020. On that day, we will reassess the situation and inform members. For the moment, government and employer negotiators cannot meet, as there is still not enough safety to permit gatherings or hold in person talks.

Meeting virtually and doing union business in a new way

As you were already aware of the bargaining talks being paused, I wanted to let you that there will be no bargaining at least until May 11th, 2020. On that day, we will reassess the situation and inform members. For the moment, government and employer negotiators cannot meet, as there is still not enough safety to permit gatherings or hold in person talks.

ass gatherings will likely not be feasible until restrictions are lifted in many, many months from here. Therefore, every local should do all they can to have the capacity to conduct all necessary business according to their bylaws. This means adopting new technologies and online meeting tools. Talk to your servicing reps on electronic voting tools and the best way to keep conducting union business.

REMINDER: Every CUPE member must register online so that we can have emergency communication lines and electronic voting capacity. Please ask your local union rep for the registration link.

It is very important that you add your current local number in the form. If you do not know your local number, please clearly indicate the employer you work for (where you work) in the box titled “Name of Employer”.
Personal cellphone numbers (not work cellphones) are needed to ensure mass member emergency texting. To keep our lists as “clean” as possible, we ask that you do not post the links on social media.

Updates on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI-ERB)

CERB has been expanded and made more flexible. The federal government is making changes to aid seasonal workers without jobs and those whose hours have been drastically cut but who still have some income. The changes will also allow people who are making up to $1,000 a month to qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, as well as those whose employment insurance benefits have run out since the start of the calendar year.

For those doing jobs deemed essential and making less than $2,500 a month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will top up their pay to encourage them to keep going into work during the health and economic crisis.

To apply to the CERB, visit : https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Servicing Representative.

In Soldarity,

Sandy Harding
Maritimes Regional Director

COVID-19 Definitions

Most people have some confusion about all the various terms being used during the current pandemic. Here is a list compiling terms and definitions used by various governments, media outlets, health centres and universities. COVID-19_Glossary_ENG_2020

PPE use and care

Personal protective equipment (PPE) exists to create a barrier between you and a patient/resident/client to prevent spread of a contaminant such as the virus that
causes COVID-19 to either you or the patient. It exists to help protect your skin, airways, mucous membranes, and/or clothing. This fact sheet summarizes use and care of gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection. PDF:PPE Use and Care

Protecting the Unsung Heroes in Healthcare

Fredericton, NB – March 31, 2020  – As we begin a second week under the “State of emergency “, CUPE Local 1252, the union representing 10 000 healthcare workers in New Brunswick, wants to remind government of the importance of all healthcare workers.

“It’s more than doctors and nurses putting their lives on the line each and every day to fight this terrible virus. There are many unsung heroes in healthcare, particularly those in-patient service-like licensed practical nurses, personal care attendants, paramedics and dispatchers. Also, we can’t forget maintenance workers, food service employees, clerical staff and environmental service workers, “said Norma Robinson, president of CUPE Local 1252.

Currently, Local 1252 is in continuous discussions with the Health Department so all front-line workers’ safety is not taken lightly.

“Workers need proper safety equipment and adequate resources and time to follow all the sanitation protocols. As a union, we want to make sure the employees can work but also return home after a stressful day and not worry about spreading it to their families as well,” said Ralph McBride, CUPE National Servicing Representative.

“Social distancing, or physical distancing as we are now saying, means no gatherings. In Quebec, the government had to put a ban on public gatherings of 3 or more. This might happen here too if people are not doing what they must,” added Robinson. “This is vital not only to you but also the system and workers as well. “As much as possible, please stay home and don’t frequent public areas,” concluded Robinson.

 

Member Update: COVID-19 – March 27

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you to all locals and members for your extraordinary work during this unprecedented time. Members are doing important work across both provinces in our region during the COVID-19 pandemic. We always appreciate and value everything that you do, especially during this crisis.

Members Contracting COVID-19
Currently, we have no reports of CUPE members in our region contracting COVID-19. In order to help everyone stay safe, we would like to track our members who contract COVID-19 and would appreciate that you forward this information to us as you receive it.  Basic information is required: local number, occupation of the member and information if this was a workplace transmission. For obvious privacy concerns, we are not asking for the names of the individuals.
If you have been laid off due to COVID-19, please notify your local’s executive.

Provincial COVID-19 Information Websites
New Brunswick: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/ocmoh/cdc/content/respiratory_diseases/coronavirus.html
Prince Edward Island: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/covid-19

PEI & NB Emergency Child Care Services
Emergency childcare services are reserved for children of essential service workers who have no other alternatives. Please complete the form linked below only if you require childcare services during this time and are an essential service worker.
PEI: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/emergency-child-care-services
NB: https://www.nbed.nb.ca/parentportal/en/

EI Benefits

Federal government announced laid-off workers who have applied for EI due to coronavirus-related job losses should be eligible for a $2,000 benefit for up to four months. After this period, they will be switched over to standard EI if they are still out of work.  To apply for EI benefits, you can do it online: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html

Afterwards, you can apply to have the one-week waiting period waived by calling the government’s toll-free number at 1-833-381-2725. Applicants usually need a medical certificate along with records of employment, though the new rules allow quarantined workers to apply without the former.  We have also included below the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Q & A: https://cupe.ca/canada-emergency-response-benefit-qa

State of Emergency in NB, PEI and the rest of Canada
State of emergency laws mean many closures and restrictions are now required to be followed by law. There are still too many people not abiding by the restrictions and recommendations from chief medical officer of health. All non-essential retail businesses must cease all operations immediately. Gatherings of 10 or more people are now not permitted.

CUPE Taskforce on Virtual Work and Member Registration
Virtual tools and phone work permit us to coordinate and carry out our union duties. Thus, we set up a CUPE Maritimes staff taskforce to find the best tools and actions to take on those challenges we face. Our goal is to get information and power to you, but we need your help. Every CUPE member must register so that we can have emergency communication lines and electronic voting capacity. Please consult your union emails or your executive for registration info.

Mass member registration is necessary to build lists for all locals. The provisions to engage in social distancing (i.e. staying home as much as possible, keeping 2m apart when you have to go out) could remain in force for many more weeks and possibly longer. All locals must gain the ability to conduct virtual meetings, ratification votes, sharing of meeting minutes, etc. Personal cellphone numbers (not work cellphones) are needed to ensure mass member emergency texting.

Postponement of AGMs
As social distancing rules and gathering restrictions remain at this point, no large union gatherings or AGMs can be held. Below are the cancellations that we have confirmed:

  • CUPE New Brunswick Convention
  • New Brunswick Community Services Unions Annual General Meeting
  • CUPE Local 1252 Convention
  • CUPE Local 1253 Convention
  • CUPE Local 1418 Convention
  • CUPE 1190 Annual General Meeting
  • CUPE Local 2745 Convention and July Education Sessions

Please send us your intent to cancel your AGMs and we will add them to our list.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Servicing Representative or myself.

In Solidarity,

Sandy Harding
Maritimes Regional Director

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Locked out Because of Sick Leave

Allardville, March 20, 2020 –Despite a provincial State of Emergency, the Chaleur Regional Service Commission (CRSC) directors are still refusing to let the Red Pine landfill workers come back to work.

“On Tuesday, we asked the Employer to pause their lockout during the COVID-19 crisis. They refused,” said Serge Plourde, President of CUPE Local 4193.

The 23 workers are locked-out since February because CRSC management wants more power to deny sick leave to workers.

“They say doctors’ notes are required on the first day you call in sick. Top medical experts have all denounced such policies. Why? Because it seriously increases the number of employees working sick,” said Robert LeMoignan, CUPE Servicing Representative.

“The whole world is doing all it can to fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, the CRSC wants to force work policies that aggravate the crisis!” said LeMoignan.

After the province declared a State of Emergency on Thursday, CRSC management posted 6 new “scab” job openings online.

“At least 3 replacement workers (each paid over $15 an hour more than regular workers) are on site. The directors are also paying $300 an hour for the services of an anti-union lawyer from Fredericton,” said LeMoignan.

“They are noticing our members’ experience is necessary to run the site, but they still want to break us. We should be back at work during this crisis. It’s not a time to fool around,” said Plourde.

“These directors – Dayna Carroll and Jocelyne Hachey, have lost all credibility. Their refusal to pause the lockout, during a state of emergency, is making the Chaleur area mayors look like complete fools,” said LeMoignan.

 

CUPE Negotiations Halted in NB and PEI

Charlottetown (PEI) & Fredericton (NB), March 18, 2020 In order to focus all resources to fight the COVID-19 crisis, CUPE is halting bargaining for all CUPE locals in both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

“Collective agreement bargaining meetings, membership meeting, ratifications and strike votes will all be postponed until April 3, 2020, in both provinces,” said Simon Ouellette, CUPE Communications Representative for NB and PEI.

CUPE will reassess the situation and send information to members on April 4, 2020.

“We hope government will want to resume collective agreement negotiations when the situation is firmly under control,” said Ouellette.

CUPE takes the precautions required by the authorities seriously.

“We will act proactively to protect the health and safety of workers and the public,” concluded Ouellette.

COVID-19: CUPE Members Ready to be Redeployed and Reassigned

Fredericton, March 17, 2020 CUPE Locals have come to an agreement with the NB Provincial Government to improve coordination of our collective response to the COVID- 19 pandemic.

Provincial government is shutting down non-essential government services. All public sector workers who work in critical functions will remain on the job, while non-critical services employees could be redeployed and reassigned.

“Our Union leadership has agreed to suspend elements of collective agreement language on the mobility of employees. This will ensure rapid response and deployment of public sector employees,” said Simon Ouellette,” CUPE Communications Representative.

“CUPE members from public sector parts I, II, III and IV could be reassigned to other work locations during this situation,” confirmed Ouellette.

Twelve provincial CUPE Locals, representing close to 25 000 workers made a collective decision to take part in coordination of our public response:

  • Part I: Local 1190 – General Labour and Trades, Local 1251 – Institutional Care and Services, Local 1840 – Court Stenographers & Local 1418 – Rehabilitation and Therapy and RCPO;
  • Part II: Local 2745 – Educational Support Staff & Local 1253 – N.B. Council of School District Unions;
  • Part III: CUPE Local 1252 (NB Council of Hospital Unions)
  • Part IV: Local 5017 – NB Community Colleges, Local 5026 – Collèges communautaires du N.-B., Local 963 – NB Liquor Corporation, Local 1866 – Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission.

Union leaders have vital, practical and current information on what goes on at the front lines. We are confident the Government will see the importance of having us participate in the response discussions.

“CUPE members are proud to serve the public and will lead by example in these tough times. Rest assured, this crisis only increases our resolve to fight and win this battle,” concluded Ouellette.

Statement from CUPE NB on COVID-19 and CUPE NB events

As front-line public sector workers, CUPE members in New Brunswick are an integral part of collective efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most healthcare workers in Canada are CUPE members. It goes without saying we have been closely monitoring the progression of COVID-19 across the country.

Pandemic response is a collective responsibility and we all must take action to minimize the spread of this virus. CUPE members play very critical roles in our communities providing services and infrastructure the public rely on, especially during an emergency.

  • CUPE NB is therefore postponing its Mass Membership Tour to a further date, which was to be held in late March and early April 2020.
  • Postponing of all upcoming events, including our annual Convention, are being considered.
  • All education sessions scheduled for March are cancelled.

We must take all possible steps to reduce the potential for COVID-19 to spread among our members and communities.

Please stay tuned for updates from CUPE NB. We hope to give you more information of the future dates for the provincial tour and convention by the end of March 2020.

Public sector workers must be protected so they can serve and protect the public.

In Solidarity,

The CUPE NB Executive

NB Budget: A Surplus Made on the Backs of Ottawa and Workers

Fredericton On Tuesday, March 10th, the New Brunswick PC-Alliance flaunted an election-flavoured budget.

“Premier Higgs made his ‘surplus’ by short-changing workers and repackaging federal transfer money,” said Brien Watson, CUPE NB President.

In December 2019, Ottawa had announced over $219 million more from the previous year’s federal support to support New Brunswick.

“Federal transfer exists for 2 main reasons. First, to ensure provinces still deliver and improve key public services that every Canadian deserves, and second, to improve the provinces’ fiscal capacity — that is growth and our ability to generate tax revenues,” said Watson.
“Higgs’ budget fails both of those objectives,” said Watson. CUPE NB notes Finance Minister Ernie Steeves failed to give any attention to public sector negotiations.

“The PCs sprinkle money around in debt repayment rather than growth initiatives. They sprinkle it in programs without even considering how to staff and compensate them,” said Watson.

“This budget fails to tackle public sector recruitment and retention crisis, and it ignores key crisis. Even nursing home workers, for example, were not mentioned once the entire budget speech,” noted Watson.

“Higgs somehow blew last year’s funds allocated for collective bargaining. Yet, since taking power, he has not settled a single collective agreement with any of the 26 public sector union groups. Did lawyers and consultants chew up what is owed to the 46 000 public sector workers?” asked Watson.