New survey on women’s access to appropriate PPE

Personal protective equipment is designed for men. This means it can be hard for women to get PPE that fits appropriately.  

As part of CUPE’s ongoing work on this issue, the Health and Safety Branch is asking all members who use PPE at work to fill out a new survey from the Canadian Standards Association. The survey is part of a research project on whether work-mandated PPE is meeting the needs of Canadian women. The findings of the project will be used to update PPE standards.  

To continue reading: https://cupe.ca/new-survey-womens-access-appropriate-ppe?utm_medium=email&utm_source=CUPEToday

CUPEBC Press Release: CUPE BC welcomes one-week delay to in-classroom education in K-12

CUPE BC welcomes one-week delay to in-classroom education in K-12, urges additional safety measures

 

BURNABY—CUPE BC welcomes the provincial government’s announcement today of a one-week delay to returning to in-classroom education in B.C. schools and urges the province to implement additional measures to keep students and staff safe, CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta said today.

 

“With the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases over the holidays, it makes sense to delay the return of students to classrooms, and it’s essential that the Education Ministry and school districts use this week to ensure that schools be made as safe as possible for everyone, students and staff alike,” said Ranalletta. “We all know how rapidly conditions can change but we need to make sure that detailed information is provided so that everyone in the education system is on the same page. Anything that school districts can do to reduce stress and anxiety for parents and staff is hugely important. Across all our sectors, I know our members appreciate their employers’ flexibility and understanding as they deal with the impact of this pandemic on their families.”

 

Ranalletta said that CUPE has been meeting regularly with the Ministry of Education and other K-12 system stakeholders over the holiday break and has offered several priority recommendations to protect school district staff, students, and communities. These recommendations include:

 

– Rapid tests should be made widely available to staff, students, and their families at no cost.

 

– K-12 staff should be prioritized for booster shots to ensure maximum possible immunity levels in the K-12 sector.

 

– N-95 or equivalent respirator-style masks should be provided to staff and students. CUPE also supports increasing education efforts on the importance of wearing masks, and the proper use of well-fitted, high quality, Canadian manufactured respirator-style masks.

 

– Daytime custodial services be utilized for twice daily cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, including at least once during school hours.

 

– Support for improved ventilation in school district buildings. In situations where mechanical HVAC or open windows are not feasible (particularly in winter), portable HEPA filters in classrooms and other school spaces to ensure maximum air filtration.

 

“I know these are stressful and worrying times for everyone, particularly for families of students and education workers,” said Ranalletta. “And that’s especially true with the New Year and the end of the holiday season coming up so soon. I know we’re all so frustrated that this pandemic is still with us, but I also know that together we will find the energy to finish the fight against COVID-19.”

 

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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

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.