British Columbia

Union demands increased support for workers on the front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

The BCGEU says given that nurses have been granted a wage premium, its members also deserve extra compensation during the crisis.

BCGEU says in light of nurses being granted a wage premium, its members also deserve better sick leave and pay

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith has sent a letter to Finance Minister Carole James asking that her members deemed essential workers receive increased benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. (BCGEU)

The head of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union is calling on the government to give its members who are deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic increased supports around sick pay, sick leave and benefits.

"Your government is asking thousands of our members to step up for their province. I am asking you to step up for them in return," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

In a letter addressed to Finance Minister Carole James, Smith said a wage premium granted to nurses last month has undermined the morale of BCGEU members working on the front lines of the crisis.

"All working people deserve fair compensation and support and the consequences of singling out some workers for preferential treatment and additional support are dire," said Smith. 

Smith says her members don't want "hazard pay," rather that provincial authorities recognize that BCGEU workers who are deemed essential "are facing extraordinary expenses as well as risks to their physical and mental health that are worthy of extraordinary supports from their employer."

The demands are:

  • 100 per cent paid sick time for all workers.
  • 100 per cent pay for workers in self-isolation pursuant to the recommendations of the provincial health officer, or quarantined on the advice of a medical practitioner, including 811.
  • An increase in paid sick days for all workers to ensure they would be fully covered in the event of COVID-19 infection or self-isolation or quarantine as detailed above.
  • Continuing access to extended medical benefits regardless of age.
  • The ability of all workers to access paid special leave if they do not already have it to fully cover any period of infection, self-isolation or quarantine.
  • The ability for all workers subject to layoff due to COVID-19 to buy back pension time split with the employer.
  • Priority access to COVID-19 testing for front-line workers.
  • Access to job-appropriate personal protective equipment for front-line workers.

"We fully support the core message that our collective success in this pandemic depends on each of us doing what needs to be done for the greater good of all of us," wrote Smith.

According to the union, its members are employed in social work, child and youth mental health, highways maintenance, corrections, wildfire response, conservation officers, liquor/cannabis stores, mental health and addictions in the DTES and elsewhere and in women's shelters and transition houses.

The BCGEU represents 80,000 British Columbia private sector and public service workers.

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