Workplace Violence Prevention

Worksafe BC along with Partners in the Education sector, including both CUPE and BCTF, have put together a resource package on Preventing Violence in the Workplace. Do you sit on your jobsite’s Health and Safety Committee? Are you an EA who is wondering about the steps on reporting an Incident? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ian, the office, or your District Health and Safety Reps. We are here to help!

Mandatory Vaccinations

There is a great deal of misinformation circulating not only about the science and medicine behind vaccinations, about which I am unqualified to comment, except to say that I have had both shots, but also on questions of what these policies mean for those who refuse vaccination.

To get straight to the point, the question we seem to get more than any on this topic is: “Are there grounds by which I can be exempted from being required to be vaccinated?” This question, however, should have an additional fragment added – “and remain working at the workplace where the vaccination is being mandated.” The answer, by the way, is yes, there are two, but it is unlikely that either would apply to you.

This gets me to my first point: Vaccines are required to continue working for the Employer, but that isn’t the same as being forced to take a vaccine. There is no guarantee to employment in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But all things in life are trade-offs, and risks, since we are all mortal. The Employers are not forcing you to get the vaccine, they’re forcing you, I suppose, to get vaccinated if you wish to continue working for them, since they must, by law, consider the welfare of the collective, and appropriately balance competing rights and interests.

The two grounds by which a person could be exempted from the vaccine and be accommodated are so rare, limited and will affect so few Canadians, that it’s almost not worth thinking about. They are:

  1. Medical Exemption
  2. “Creed” / religion protection under the HRC


To obtain a medical exemption, the person has to be at known risk of a severe, high-risk allergic reaction to a component of a vaccine or to inflammation of the heart. Even at that, the College of Physicians and Surgeons has stated that the exemptions will not be given to those who have relatively minor potential adverse reactions, as the risk of the virus has been judged to be worse.

The religious creed prohibited grounds in the Human Rights Code are not something workers can just suddenly claim; they have to be a member of a religion, and prove as much, which has as one of its known and communicated tenets a prohibition on vaccinations. No such religions are known to exist in Canada. Members should be careful about claiming this exemption, as the outcome may be the employer concluding that the member had attempted to fraudulently misrepresent a claim toward an accommodation, which could result in discipline.

Thus you see that the list of grounds by which exemption is possible is basically nil.

The question, then, becomes: “Can I retain my employment if I choose not to get vaccinated.” The short answer is “yes,” but it isn’t entirely clear for how long, and your leave of absence would be without pay or benefits.

Amendments to the Employment Standards Code enacted by the provincial government at the start of the pandemic limit employers from terminating employees on COVID-related leave, and we would certainly argue that this statute enables our members to take a leave of absence without pay for a strong objection to being vaccinated. The Union would do so, I should clarify, because we have a duty to represent all our members, but for clarity, we do not agree that the vaccines are unsafe, and our recommendation is for all our members to follow medical advice, which recommends vaccinations.

However, it’s not clear how long such a leave could be, given that whenever a worker chose to return to work, they would likely still be required to be vaccinated prior to their return to work.

Members are reminded that a leave of absence without pay would mean a loss of pensionable service for the period of the leave, and EHB/LTD/Group Life premiums would need to be borne fully by the member, which, if additional beneficiaries are insured on the plan, with two children and a partner is somewhere between $460 and $650 per month.

Members must also be given a cold shower with respect to their prospect of remaining employed if they continue in their resistance to the vaccine. While the Union can provide you help to arrange for a leave of absence or similar, and continue to advocate for you, we are of the view that Employers will get impatient in time and then their response will become more severe, which may include terminations from employment since Employers have an obligation both in common law and by provincial edict through OHS/WCB schemes, to provide workers with a healthy and safe work environment, let alone the obligation school districts have toward vulnerable and minor children.

I hope the above has been helpful at least in so far as it will allow members not to harbour false hope and know where they stand.

In solidarity,


Dan Todd, CUPE National Representative

Cupe National Reconciliation Webinar

In honour of the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, CUPE National hosted two virtual discussions on reconciliation, one in English and one in French. The panelists provided a powerful conversation touching on their own personal experiences, the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and the legacy of residential schools.

Sharing this video for those of you that were not able to attend the CUPE National Reconciliation Event.  Thank you for putting on such a powerful event, and making it available for us to view.  More information and resources can be found here.

CUPEBC: Vaccine Mandate for Provincial Public Service

Vaccine mandate for provincial public service makes sense—CUPE BC

Given rising cases in public schools, K-12 system vaccine mandates next logical step

BURNABY—Today’s announcement from the B.C. government implementing mandatory vaccinations across the public service makes sense as they are the best proven measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta said today.

“Throughout the pandemic CUPE BC has supported the efforts of public health officials as they’ve led the fight against COVID-19, and the introduction of a vaccination mandate for the public service is the next logical step to protect our communities,” said Ranalletta. “Given the rise in COVID cases in our schools, we think it also seems prudent to apply this mandate to the K-12 system.”

Ranalletta said that CUPE locals representing workers in the B.C. K-12 education system are ready to work with school districts and the provincial government to ensure any immunization plans are effective, efficient, and respect the rights of K-12 school workers.

“Although individual school districts are responsible for bringing in such a mandate, there can’t be a patchwork quilt of differing approaches to this across the province,” said Ranalletta. “We are urging the provincial government to develop a uniform set of standards to guide the implementation of mandates so that all districts—and all employees—have a consistent framework. And of course, there needs to be reasonable accommodation for the small number of education workers with recognized human rights exemptions.”

CUPE BC continues to strongly encourage all its members to get vaccinated, as it is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. In addition to considering vaccine mandates, CUPE is urging school districts to expand safety measures that promote clean and healthy schools, such as permanent daytime custodial services.

Vaccine mandate for provincial public service makes sense—CUPE BC

Given rising cases in public schools, K-12 system vaccine mandates next logical step

BURNABY—Today’s announcement from the B.C. government implementing mandatory vaccinations across the public service makes sense as they are the best proven measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta said today.

“Throughout the pandemic CUPE BC has supported the efforts of public health officials as they’ve led the fight against COVID-19, and the introduction of a vaccination mandate for the public service is the next logical step to protect our communities,” said Ranalletta. “Given the rise in COVID cases in our schools, we think it also seems prudent to apply this mandate to the K-12 system.”

Ranalletta said that CUPE locals representing workers in the B.C. K-12 education system are ready to work with school districts and the provincial government to ensure any immunization plans are effective, efficient, and respect the rights of K-12 school workers.

“Although individual school districts are responsible for bringing in such a mandate, there can’t be a patchwork quilt of differing approaches to this across the province,” said Ranalletta. “We are urging the provincial government to develop a uniform set of standards to guide the implementation of mandates so that all districts—and all employees—have a consistent framework. And of course, there needs to be reasonable accommodation for the small number of education workers with recognized human rights exemptions.”

CUPE BC continues to strongly encourage all its members to get vaccinated, as it is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. In addition to considering vaccine mandates, CUPE is urging school districts to expand safety measures that promote clean and healthy schools, such as permanent daytime custodial services.

Options Paper on Paid Sick Leave

Dear CUPE member,

As working people, we all know that access to paid sick leave is much more than just a workplace issue. During an ongoing pandemic, it’s also essential to maintaining public health and building a resilient province; it’s critical to ensuring that our workforce is prepared to weather this COVID storm and confront future crises. But most of all, it’s a matter of equity and fairness: workers should never have to be forced to choose between their health and their financial well-being.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, only 53 per cent of working people have access to paid sick leave in B.C., and nearly 90 per cent of low-wage workers have no paid sick leave at all. The provincial government is now seeking public input to create minimum standards for paid sick leave. Using an online survey, they are gauging public support for three options: the provision of 3, 5 or 10 days of employer-paid sick leave for all workers.

These changes will benefit all workers—including CUPE members, many of whom do not have fully-employer-paid sick leave at 100 per cent of their pay rate. Many earn sick days over the course of the year based on time worked; they have to wait, unpaid, for a number of days before they can access short term disability or other sick leave protections. Ten days of fully-employer-paid sick leave at full wages would make a significant impact for CUPE members and all workers in the province, including some of the most vulnerable.

We urge you to fill out the BC Government consultation survey and say that you “Strongly Favour” Option 3 (10 days paid sick leave). A link to the survey can be found here: Options Paper on Paid Sick Leave

Please note that, in completing the survey, you can skip the response sections for Options 1 (3 days of paid sick leave) and 2 (5 days of paid sick leave) and go straight to Option 3 to indicate that 10 days of paid sick leave is the best option.

In solidarity,

Karen Ranalletta

President

CUPE British Columbia

#410-6222 Willingdon Avenue

Burnaby, British Columbia

V5H 0G3

P: 604.291.9119

www.cupe.bc.ca

CUPE BC Statement on Mask Mandates

CUPE BC supports Vancouver School Board mandatory mask mandate for K-3 students, urges all school districts to follow suit

BURNABY— CUPE BC is renewing its call for making masks mandatory for all students in K-12, including students from Kindergarten to Grade Three. This call is being made with new urgency given the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in young school-age children who are still not eligible to be vaccinated.

“Clearly the Delta variant has changed the situation in schools. An extra layer of protection is needed more than ever to protect everyone in the school system,” said CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta.

CUPE BC, which represents more than 30,000 workers in the K-12 public education system, is applauding the Vancouver School Board’s recent decision to expand the mask mandate to all students.

“We thank the Vancouver School Board Trustees for their leadership on this, and we’re encouraging school trustees all over the province to do the same thing, so that all students and staff all across the province have the same level of protection,” said Ranalletta.

CUPE BC is also advocating for additional measures to keep schools healthy, such as reinstating daytime cleaning by custodial staff to reduce the spread of disease through frequently touched surfaces. Increased ventilation and rapid tests could also be used to deal with the rising cases in schools.

“At this time, it is more important than ever to use every measure available to protect children and workers in our school system,” said Ranalletta.