Letter from your CUPE President Ian Hillman


Hi Everyone,

I appreciate all the emails expressing your concern over our current situation and I am happy to answer any questions I can. Unfortunately, some of them I cannot give you an answer to. Please continue to reach out to me, but please also contact the employer. As much as I have conveyed your questions and concerns to them, they need to hear from you as well. The amount of stress and anxiety this is causing is unprecedented.

Please direct any questions regarding Health and Safety to Gus Lee at alee@sd38.bc.ca or 604-868-5134.
All other questions please contact Laura Buchanan at lbuchanan@sd38.bc.ca

Thank you,

Ian Hillman
President, CUPE 716

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit have been merged into the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The CERB has also been better integrated with Employment Insurance to allow workers to apply for benefits through a single window.

Who is covered by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?
This new benefit will cover people who have lost their job, people who are sick or quarantined, and parents who must stay home without pay to care for children, the same as the two previously announced benefits. The new CERB also includes workers who have no income due to the COVID-19 slowdown, but who haven’t yet been officially laid off. It will cover employees, contract workers, and self-employed workers. To qualify, applicants must have had $5,000 in employment income, self-employment income, or maternity or parental leave benefits for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day they make the application. 

How much will I get?
The CERB will pay out $2,000 per month for the next 4 months, backdated to March 15th. 

Where can I apply?
The application form will be available on April 6. If you have already applied for EI, you do not need to also apply for this new benefit, your claim will be automatically moved over to the CERB and you will receive the 16-week benefit. If needed, you can use your hours to apply for benefits after October 3, 2020.

You can apply in one of these three ways:

  • by accessing it on your CRA MyAccount secure portal;
  • by accessing it from your secure My Service Canada Account; or
  • by calling a toll free number equipped with an automated application process. 

What if I’ve already been laid off and applied for EI?
If you’ve already applied for EI you do not need to reapply for the CERB. Your claim will be automatically moved over to the CERB, and benefits paid from this program first. If needed, you can use your hours to apply for EI benefits after October 3, 2020.

What if I don’t qualify for EI?
You can qualify for the CERB if you had $5,000 in employment income, self-employment income, or maternity or parental leave benefits for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day you make the application.

When will I get benefits?
The application is expected to be available April 6. Benefits should be delivered 10 days after you submit your application form. The earliest you could receive benefits through direct deposit is April 16th  (or slightly later if by mail).

What if I’m already receiving EI Benefits?
You will continue to receive your EI benefits. If your EI benefits end before October 3rd, 2020, and you are still unable to return to work, you can apply to the CERB once your EI benefits run out.

What if I continue to be sick or unemployed after October 3, 2020?
If you have enough EI insurable hours, you will still be able to access your normal EI benefits after the 16-week period covered by the CERB.

Employment Standards Act Updates

This is to notify you that the Employment Standards Act was amended yesterday by an act of the Provincial Legislature.

Here are the new provisions:

COVID-19 Leave: The first amendment to the ESA provides workers with an unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. Employers cannot ask for medical notes but can request “reasonably sufficient proof.” The leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020. Employees terminated for these reasons after that date are considered on leave and must be offered re-employment in the same or a comparable position. The specific circumstances in which this leave applies included where:

  1. the employee has been diagnosed with COVID19 and is acting in accordance with the instructions of a medical professional;
  2. the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation pursuant to a provincial order or the guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control or pursuant to a federal order or the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada;
  3. the employee is providing care to a child or to a dependent adult;
  4. the employee is outside B.C. and cannot return to the province because of travel or border restrictions; or
  5. the employee is directed not to report to work by their employer due to concerns about their exposure to others.

Unpaid Sick Leave: The second change to the ESA creates a new entitlement for all workers to three days of unpaid sick leave each year. While the COVID-19 leave is tied to the current crisis and will be repealed after the crisis, this leave is meant to be a permanent change to the Employment Standards Act.

Emergency Medical Services Only: All medical practitioners, from chiropractors to doctors, are being directed to minimize physical contact with patients and reduce their practices to emergency services only.

As you can see, our employers already provide far and above any of the minimum requirements enacted above.

The general principle we should be aiming for here is as follows:

  1. Employees in designated vital public services who are asked to return to work who have health concerns or are concerned about being exposed to the virus should be permitted to remain at home, however, they would at that point use their sick days.

Legislative Update

Legislative Update – March 2020 


Provincial State of Emergency: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province has declared an official state of emergency. This measure provides the province with the authority to access to land and human resource assets that may be necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of the emergency. This includes securing the critical supply chains to make sure people have access to essential goods and services, and that infrastructure necessary in a response is readily available.

Provincial Health Officer Orders: The Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people and has ordered self-isolation for any traveler who has returned from outside of Canada after March 12, 2020. She has also ordered all businesses with liquor primary licenses (bars, pubs, night clubs, etc) to close and that restaurants and cafes that cannot maintain social distancing of one to two metres between patrons must move to take-out and delivery models. Finally, she has reminded employers that they must excuse workers for sickness without requiring a doctor’s note.

Economy: It is likely that the economy will go into a deficit situation. The province’s priorities are ensuring there are services and supports to protect health of British Columbians, bringing in immediate relief for people and businesses and building a plan for economic recovery.

Education Statutes Act: The government passed changes the School Act to allow school boards to directly offer child care services. The legislation also allows the government to protect any spaces funded specifically for child care on school property. Government will make it easier to school boards to work with licensed child care providers, share professional development and create inclusive, welcoming spaces for children to learn.

B.C. Access Grant: The new, needs-based B.C. Access Grant will provide up to $4,000 per year to those who need it most: low- and middle-income students. Students will receive the grant at the beginning of their studies so they can pay for tuition, textbooks, lab supplies and other items needed for their program of study. More than 40,000 low- and middle-income students will be eligible for the new B.C. Access Grant, which will be available starting in the fall 2020 semester.

More Child Care Spaces: Funding has been approved for more than 17,000 new child care spaces since July 2018 under the Childcare BC plan and the Early Learning and Child Care agreement with the federal government.

K-12 Maintenance Funding: B.C. Schools will be receiving record annual maintenance funding of $217.7 million this year. Included in this total is $17.2 million from CleanBC’s program to provide schools with resources to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

BC Auditor General for Local Government: Following a 31% budget reduction for the BC Auditor General for Local Government, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson advised that they will be phasing it out and then shuttering this office within the next two years. The Union of B.C. Municipalities and CUPE previously had called on the provincial government to close this office.

Paid Domestic Violence Leave: Following last year’s introduction of up to 10 days of unpaid, job-protected leave for domestic or sexual violence leave, government has passed legislation that will provide for up to five days of paid leave for workers impacted by domestic or sexual violence, or parents of a child or dependent impacted by this kind of violence.

Coastal Ferries Consultation: The government has extended their consultation regarding the future of our coastal ferries. They would like to collect the public’s input on what should the coastal ferry service look like in 20, 30 or 40 years and how should services be delivered to better support a desirable future? You can share your feedback by completing the online questionnaire.

Legislative Session: The House is scheduled to return on Monday, March 23, 2020, but it will return with just 12 members (7 NDP, 2 Liberals, 2 Greens and the Speaker) to pass the supply bill (providing funding for government ministries) and two pieces of legislation to amend the Employment Standards Act to ensure that no worker can be fired for following direction of the provincial health officer. All three parties are working collaboratively on these matters and hope to pass all the legislation in a single day.