CUPE LOCAL 1063
COVID-19 Q & A
In the past week we have received many questions and concerns from members regarding their health and safety, protection of their salary and benefits, and many other issues. We have tried to respond to these concerns as best we can given the information we had from the Employer. We have also continually advocated on behalf of members to ensure they are not negatively affected by this situation and the measures taken in response to it. We have made some progress and we will continue these efforts on your behalf.
We are disappointed that the Employer chose not to involve either the Union or the Workplace Health & Safety Committee in the initial stages of developing protocols to deal with how COVID-19 affects you and your work. Your Union challenged that decision on your behalf, as it is our position that we have a responsibility to work closely with your Employer to ensure that your health and safety is protected.
It has now been agreed that the Director of Human Resources and the Union’s designated representatives will be responsible for dealing with questions and issues arising related to the COVID-19 issue. Local 1063’s designated representatives are: Brother Dennis Kshyk, Brother Rick Rennie and Brother Bob Sawchyn. You may direct questions to your Shop Steward who will then forward these to Brothers Kshyk, Rennie and Sawchyn, or you may direct your questions directly to Brothers Kshyk, Rennie and Sawchyn, with a copy to your Shop Steward.
In our meetings with Human Resources, to date, we have asked several questions. We are providing you with these questions and the answers received to date.
Q: I have been ordered to self-isolate or self-quarantine, am I required to get a note from my doctor?
A: No, the Employer has agreed that the requirement to provide a medical note pursuant to the terms of the Collective Agreement will be, on a temporary basis, suspended in order to avoid overburdening the health care system.
Q: What should I do if I think I have developed symptoms?
A: If you think you are exhibiting symptoms, you should follow the Government’s recommendations and consult professionals as required. Manitobans are encouraged to contact Health Links at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or 1-888-315-9257 to speak with a professional and only visit an assessment centre in accordance with Government’s recommended protocols. If you have been directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate you should inform your Employer.
Q: What are my Employer’s obligations to provide me with personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect me against exposure to COVID-19?
A: Employers have a duty under the Workplace Safety and Health Act to provide PPE and ensure that it is maintained in good condition. PPE is appropriate where providing it would increase your safety by more than a minimal amount. The Union is reviewing the workplace and providing recommendations to the Employer about what, if any, additional PPE will increase your safety. You have a statutory right to refuse unsafe work and a summary of those rights is noted below.
Q: I am worried that a member of the public attending our offices will bring COVID-19 into my workplace and I will be exposed. Can I refuse to work on this basis?
A: Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health Act and the Canada Labour Code provide a right to refuse unsafe work. Both statutes impose a high threshold for risk, and a general fear of exposure to COVID-19 is unlikely to meet the threshold. Public health authorities have currently characterized the risk to the general population as “low” and, as a result, continuing with business as usual in most workplaces is unlikely to be considered unsafe or dangerous. It should be noted that this assessment is fluid and may change if COVID-19 becomes more generally circulating in the local population. It may also change if public health authorities issue guidance regarding what types of organizations should or should not operate. The assessment will also depend on members’ occupations and degree of exposure to potentially infected individuals, as well as their specific circumstances. As an example, immune-compromised individuals face a greater risk should they be infected than the average member of the population.
Your Union continues to remind your Employer of its obligation to take steps to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. This includes controlling public access to the workplace, having access to the necessary disinfectants, provision of appropriate personal protective equipment and communication to employees.
Q: What if an employee exhibits symptoms and does not self-isolate or self-quarantine and continues to come into work?
A: Your Union continues to remind your Employer of its obligation to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. This includes a requirement to ensure that all employees are well enough to attend at work so that they do not place an infection risk on co-workers. If your Employer failed to take action to maintain a safe and healthy environment your Union would file a grievance regarding that failure.
Q: Will I get paid if I am told to self-isolate or self-quarantine?
A: Quarantine is covered under the definition of sick leave in your Collective Agreement and the Employer has agreed that self-isolation would also be included in the definition of sick leave. If work from home is practical or feasible, then you may work from home during the period of self-isolation and there would be no deduction from sick leave.
Q: What happens if I do not have enough sick leave and I am directed to self-isolate?
A: The Employer rejected the Union’s proposal that employees in this situation be granted leave with pay for the duration of their self-isolation. The Employer has agreed that it will allow employees in this situation to go into a negative sick leave balance, subject to management approval. The Union will be discussing how the negative balance will be re-paid with the Employer. An employee who remains symptom free during the 14-day period can then return to work. If the employee developed symptoms during this period, they should call Health Links to determine next steps.
Q: What happens if it is determined that I have COVID-19 and I do not have enough sick leave?
A: The Employer rejected the Union’s proposal that employees determined to have COVID 19 be granted leave with pay for the duration of the illness. The Employer has advised that it will allow employees in this situation to go into a negative sick leave balance of up to 10 days, subject to management approval. The Union will be discussing the terms of re-payment of sick leave advanced for this reason with the Employer.
After the 10 days, the Employer will refer the affected employee to Employment Insurance (EI) to claim sick leave benefits. The Employer and the Union will be discussing how to resolve situations where an employee may not qualify for EI sick leave benefits (this would most likely apply in the case of an employee who does not meet the minimum hours required to qualify for EI sick leave benefits). Disability Management will assist any employee who is required to apply for EI sick leave benefits. If an application for Long Term Disability (LTD) benefits is required, the Employer’s Disability Management will assist in the application process.
Q: Will time spent in self-isolation or self-quarantine be noted as part of Attendance Management?
A: The Union proposed that the Attendance Management Program be temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 crisis. The Employer rejected the Union’s proposal. The Union has advised the Employer that, in the absence of a suspension of the Attendance Management Program, it is the Union’s position that any absence due to self-isolation or self-quarantine should not negatively impact an employee. Your Union will continue to press the Employer on this issue. These are extraordinary circumstances and that should be reflected in the Employer’s Attendance Management Program.
Q: Will the Employer be expanding work from home options to those who do not currently have the ability?
A: The Union continues to advocate for an expansion of the current work from home options. We believe that employees who are able to work from home should be allowed to do so to alleviate social distancing issues from the workplace and to address employee health and safety concerns. The Employer is currently reviewing the situation to assess its resource capability to determine feasibility.
Q: I have a vacation request that has been approved. Will that be cancelled?
A: Vacations that have been approved will not be cancelled. The Collective Agreement is clear that once a vacation request is approved the Employer can only cancel it if the employee agrees.
We will be providing you with further updates as the COVID-19 situation progresses. Please be sure to visit www.1063.cupe.ca for more information, and if you haven’t already, we encourage you to provide the Union with your home email address so that we can keep you informed of all updates. Many of you have already provided us with your home email address and phone number during bargaining – if you have not done so, please provide this information to Brother Dennis Kshyk by emailing CUPE1063@wcb.mb.ca.