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

db/cope491

CUPE Negotiations paused 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, ratification 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.

Message From our National President

Sisters, Brothers and Friends:

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, with public health agencies providing updates and new guidelines and restrictions almost daily. All regions are now recommending social distancing measures, including restricting public gatherings.

CUPE locals, councils, and divisions should follow directives from the public health authorities in their region.

These recommended measures will impact our regular activities, and in most cases will require locals to postpone or alter meetings.

In these extraordinary times it is important to maintain good governance, accountability and transparency. With this in mind, I am providing the following guidelines to help address questions of compliance with local bylaws and CUPE’s National Constitution.

Teleconferencing and Video Conferencing

If necessary, where feasible, and until further notice, meetings may be conducted electronically via conference calls, telephone town halls or videoconferencing. We advise locals to explore available electronic meeting platforms.

Electronic Voting

Where adopting motions to conduct the regular business of the union, such as for decisions of the executive board or executive committee, voting can be done via email.

Where voting must be secret, such as ratifications or job action mandates, and where votes cannot be delayed, locals can explore the possibility of using a secure and reliable electronic voting platform. Remember that some votes are also governed by labour legislation.

Nominations and Elections

Wherever possible, local elections should occur within the same timeframe as laid out in local bylaws. Nominations that might normally occur at a membership meeting can be done by email, and elections can be conducted electronically using a secure platform.

If maintaining the existing timeframe is not feasible, the elections process can be delayed by up to one month.

Postponing Meetings

Where it is not possible to hold a meeting and remote solutions are not feasible, local meetings may be postponed for a period of one month. Applicable timelines in the bylaws will be extended accordingly. We will be monitoring the situation across the country and will provide updates on this timeline if necessary.

Opportunities

While there are many other issues facing our union right now, we encourage you to consider the challenges you might be having communicating with your members outside of the workplace. Consider using this opportunity to collect and compile personal contact information for your members. This may also be a good time to review your local’s decision making and election processes and note possible future bylaw changes.

Other Issues and Exemptions

Bylaws vary widely from one local to the next, and these guidelines will not address every variable. For issues not contemplated here, for questions related to council and division meetings and conventions, or to discuss possible additional exemptions, please contact your National Representative.

In solidarity,

MARK HANCOCK
National President

Facts on Covid – 19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is caused by a virus from the same family as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus. According to Health Canada, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pneumonia in both lungs

Transmission

Though it has been determined that the virus can spread from person to person, how exactly the virus is transmitted remains unclear. There continues to be a debate over whether or not COVID-19 transmission is “airborne”. However, it is the position of CUPE that in the absence of a definitive proof, a conclusion that COVID-19 is “not airborne” is not appropriate and the precautionary principle should apply.

For CUPE members that are working with infected (or potentially infected people), we recommend the use of a fit-tested N95 mask and eye protection like a face shield. This includes front-line health care workers, acute care providers, paramedics, and flight attendants who deal with symptomatic passengers, just to name a few. Additional precautions should be implemented for health care workers doing patient care that requires aerosol generating procedures (such as intubation, airway suction etc.), which require higher levels of protection.

What we learned from SARS – follow the “precautionary principle”

In the aftermath of the SARS outbreak, Ontario established a commission to look at the introduction and spread of SARS.  In its final report, Commissioner Justice Archie Campbell wrote that “we cannot wait for scientific certainty before we take reasonable steps to reduce risk”.

Campbell’s report identified the precautionary principle as an approach for protecting workers in circumstances of scientific uncertainty. This reflects the need to take prudent action in the face of potentially serious viruses without having to wait for complete scientific proof that a course of action is necessary. This means that unless we know with certainty that the virus is not spread through the air, we must conduct ourselves as if it were.

Common practices still hold

To help reduce the likelihood of becoming infected by any viral infection, common practices still hold:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice physical distancing where possible.

Occupational safety

When new viruses are identified, employers, in consultation with their health and safety committees or worker representatives, should follow an appropriate hazard-assessment methodology that looks at the virus and considers if existing controls are appropriate. The goal of a prevention plan must be to eliminate exposure to the infectious virus as much as possible. The selection of controls should be guided by a hierarchy of controls and include both engineering and administrative controls. More information is provided in the general COVID guideline (found below).

Note: The use of surgical-type masks does not provide adequate protection from viral exposure. N95 respirators usually grant minimal protection. All workers who are fit-tested with N95 respirators must carry identification indicating the type and size of their respirator. Additionally, workers need to receive training on all aspects of personal protective equipment (putting on, wearing, removal, disposal, etc.).

What’s next?

CUPE will continue to monitor and advise our members when there are any significant changes. Please review the document below for additional information and check back frequently for updates.