TO ALL CUPE CHARTERED ORGANIZATIONS

This week the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, a global pandemic.

We recognize this is causing great concern for our members, many of whom are on the front lines providing care and support to the most vulnerable in our communities.

Public services are the backbone of a safe and healthy community, and are never more important than in the face of a crisis. We have always been proud of the work our members do despite the many challenges they face, including chronic underfunding and austerity measures by governments. We want to acknowledge that work today as you help your communities navigate this new crisis, while dealing with your own challenges and family responsibilities.

It is important that our members know that their union will be there for them throughout this crisis. In the coming weeks, our members may face closures, cancellations and quarantines that impact their work and their workplaces. As always, CUPE staff are available to help ensure our members’ rights and benefits are fully protected. The work of our union continues, and COVID-19 does nothing to change that.

We know that spring is a busy season for union meetings. CUPE locals should check advisories from local and provincial public health agencies before making decisions to cancel or postpone meetings and events. Democratic principles of accountability and transparency remain important, and staff are available to assist in the application and interpretation of the National Constitution and your bylaws.

CUPE will continue to monitor the situation, and will make decisions about whether to proceed with upcoming national meetings, courses, and events as required.

CUPE will be posting updates for our members as they become available on our website at https://cupe.ca/search/COVID. We recommend checking back regularly.

Stay safe, and stay strong.

In solidarity,

MARK HANCOCK
National President

CHARLES FLEURY
National Secretary-Treasurer

CUPE Canada News

  • Saskatchewan's updated return to school plan inadequate on student and staff safety
    by 882 on August 12, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    The Government of Saskatchewan’s latest tweaks to the Safe School Plan ignores expert advice and the concerns of many staff, parents, and students says CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. In the last week, the Public Health Officer of Canada came out with recommendations that students over the age of 10 wear masks, that students and teachers stay two metres apart wherever possible, and that students and teachers be grouped together to reduce the number of people they come into close contact with. This advice is echoed by physician organizations in Saskatchewan and across the country. “The Ministry of Education is ignoring expert advice and passing the buck to school divisions,” said Jackie Christianson, chair of CUPE’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Why is the government refusing to do their job – be strong leaders when it comes to keeping our students and staff safe?” CUPE is also concerned about the lack of engagement with support staff. “First, they excluded support staff from the planning process, and we continue to be ignored from government announcements,” added Christianson. “Where are the guidelines for educational assistants who support students in multiple classrooms? There are no details regarding the caretakers who will be responsible for the enhanced cleaning in our schools. What about substitutes, our library assistants, or community school coordinators?  It is unacceptable that there are so many unanswered safety questions for support staff with less than two weeks remaining before most staff return to work.” CUPE is echoing the calls for a more robust plan, which would include: Mandatory masking for all students and staff at all times while in school, and separate cohorts for students unable to wear masks for medical reasons. Physical distancing of two metres required for staff and students.  Online and/or distance learning to be implemented to ensure student learning is achieved when not in school. Enhanced hygiene for students and staff to access for handwashing. Enhanced school ventilation air exchange/HVAC system to reduce COVID-19 aerosol transmissions. Emergency pandemic funding. CUPE is calling for the government to ensure that there is enough staff to implement their enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols. Christianson concluded, “COVID-19 cannot be compared to lice or pink eye. What will it take for our government to come up with an actual safe plan for all students and staff returning to school in less than two weeks?”

  • The Port of Montreal is closed, but negotiations continue
    by 31 on August 10, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    In spite of sustained efforts by the Syndicat des débardeurs du port de Montréal (CUPE 375) to reach an agreement, the union had no other alternative but to uphold its notice of an unlimited general strike. “The port is closed because the MEA changed the salary conditions of our members on Thursday, August 5, 2020 at 3 p.m. and because we noted that a technical lockout had been in place since Monday, August 3 when several ships had been diverted to other ports, including Halifax, New York and St. John, New Brunswick, which took work away from our members and made normal operations impossible at the Port of Montreal.” “We issued a strike notice on Friday to restore balance in our discussions, while at the same time offering a truce to open the port and have the parties focus on negotiating a collective agreement,” explained Michel Murray, the CUPE union representative. “The MEA, the shipping companies and shipping lines are the only entities responsible for closing the port and keeping it closed. The union will continue negotiations before a mediator and will keep the channel of communications open between the parties to achieve a possible truce.” The collective agreement between the union and the MEA expired on December 31, 2018. Talks broke down mainly over scheduling, particularly with respect to the work-life balance issue. The union filed a notice of an unlimited strike last Friday after receiving the support of 99.22% of longshore workers during a secret ballot that ended on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, at which 1031 of the 1151 members of Syndicat des débardeurs du port de Montréal cast a vote.

  • New EI Rule is a Good First Step
    by 5817 on August 10, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    The Canadian Union of Public Employees welcomed the federal government’s announcement today that a universal threshold of 420 hours of work will apply to anyone seeking Employment Insurance benefits. This is a good first step in making EI more accessible to the millions of Canadians who have lost their employment or seen their hours of work reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. However, much more remains to be done to ensure that everyone receives the income support they need. For those who qualify for EI, many will receive benefit levels significantly below the current $2000 a month available through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), unless the government takes action to set a minimum benefit level. Furthermore, even with the new minimum threshold, millions of Canadians will still be excluded from EI once the CERB ends, because they are self-employed, seasonal or precarious workers, or recent graduates, or because their hours of work have been reduced but they have not been formally laid off. The federal government has said a new transitional benefit will be announced some time in August. CUPE will continue to press the government to ensure that all Canadians have the income supports they need to survive this unprecedented crisis.

  • Coalition calls for immediate action on pharmacare
    by 2306 on August 7, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    CUPE, the Canadian Health Coalition and eleven other national and regional organizations sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance calling for the federal government to take immediate action to implement universal, public pharmacare. The need for national pharmacare has never been more urgent. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 5 Canadians had either no drug coverage at all or had inadequate coverage. That number has increased significantly during the pandemic, with millions of people losing their jobs and their employer-sponsored drug plans. Canadians are counting on this government to implement universal, public pharmacare. Read the letter below. August 6, 2020 The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada The Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Morneau and Minister Hajdu, Now more than ever, Canada desperately needs a universal, single-payer, public pharmacare program. As organizations that have strongly advocated for this program, we are appealing to you, as our elected leaders, to get to work on delivering pharmacare to Canadians. During the 2019 federal election, we were pleased to see the Liberal Party of Canada commit to implementing a national pharmacare program guided by the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. However, we have yet to see your government take concrete action on this issue. There has never been a more urgent moment to guarantee universal access to prescription medications. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 5 Canadians had either no drug coverage at all or had inadequate coverage. That number has increased significantly during the pandemic, with millions of people losing their jobs and their employer-sponsored drug plans. As we prepare for a second wave of COVID-19, it is of utmost importance to keep people healthy and out of the hospital. Universal, public pharmacare would help us achieve this by ensuring that everyone in Canada can access the medications they need. This essential new program would help the millions of Canadian families and businesses that are struggling economically due to this crisis. Universal, public pharmacare would allow families to save on average $350 per year, and businesses to save on average $750 per year per employee. This program would also lead to system-wide savings of $5 billion a year. By consolidating our bargaining power through a national pharmacare program, we could significantly reduce the costs of medications, including new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines that come on the market. There is widespread support for universal, public pharmacare across the country. In May, a diverse coalition of 200 organizations signed a joint statement calling on your government to immediately begin implementing this program. And yet, universal, public pharmacare was absent from your government’s recent fiscal and economic update. For decades, we have been told that pharmacare would be too costly, and that governments simply cannot afford it. It is evident from government spending in the past few months that if there is a will, there is always a way. If governments across the country can provide $16 billion in aid to the fossil fuels sector, surely we can afford to implement this program that would benefit all Canadians. As the pre-budget consultations are underway, you have a unique opportunity to shape Canada for the better by implementing universal, public pharmacare. This program should be an integral part of your government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to seeing immediate action towards implementing universal, public pharmacare in the coming weeks. As always, we are eager to support you in realizing this vision. Sincerely, Pauline Worsfold Chair, Canadian Health Coalition Mark Hancock National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees Linda Silas President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions Bill Chedore President, Congress of Union Retirees of Canada Rick Smith Executive Director, Broadbent Institute Danyaal Raza Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare Ken Neumann National Director for Canada, United Steelworkers Jerry Dias President, Unifor Larry Brown President, National Union of Public and General Employees Diego Marchese Executive Vice President, Mission, Research, Social Enterprise, Heart & Stroke Anita HubermanCEO, Surrey Board of Trade Christina Warner Council of Canadians Chris Aylward National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

  • Self-isolation and quarantine: why it’s important
    by 2306 on August 6, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    COVID-19 is transmitted by people who are infected and are spreading the virus. A person who comes into contact with the virus could develop symptoms quickly, or not until up to 14 days later (the incubation period). About half of people with COVID-19 will develop symptoms by day five after exposure. But becoming infected doesn’t always mean having symptoms, and in most cases, people will likely experience a mild illness. However, for a significant number of people, the virus can have devastating effects on their health, welfare and the health and welfare of those who depend on them. Virus transmission happens when an infected person comes into contact with an uninfected person, either directly (face to face) or indirectly, through contaminated objects the infected person has come into contact with, such as doorknobs, work surfaces, pens, and so on . The best way to help contain the pandemic is to isolate infected people and decontaminate or clean the objects they’ve come into contact with. In the current pandemic circumstances, many new practices have been implemented in workplaces to deal with infection prevention and control. Two of these are self-isolation and quarantine, and they are used to help control the spread of infections. It can be confusing to understand how these measures are different. Self-isolation is for people who are confirmed to be infected with the virus. This person either has symptoms or is asymptomatic but has been confirmed to have the virus by a COVID-19 test. They will remove themselves, and what they interact with, from other people. This kind of isolation has to be strict, particularly when a person is infectious, because that’s how others close to them will become infected. In a care setting, isolation may be imposed on individuals confirmed to be infected with the virus by the infection prevention and control practices at the facility (for example, being moved to an isolation room in a hospital). Quarantine is for people who have been in contact with a person who is confirmed to be infected, or have travelled to areas designated by your public health unit as requiring quarantine. This person doesn’t have symptoms yet, but that doesn’t mean that they are not infected, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t spread the virus. It also doesn’t mean that they will get infected, only that there is a greater risk for infection to occur. To prevent the spread of infection, a person who has been exposed to someone who has the virus will remove themselves from contact with the general public. They can interact with  family members living within the same household, but they shouldn’t be out in public because of the higher risk that they may be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. No contact with others means no infection transmission. For example, if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, they would self-isolate. That means that they would separate themselves from the rest of their household as much as possible, isolating in a separate room, using a separate bathroom, and so on. The rest of the family might quarantine together and continue their interactions but keep themselves separate from their sick family member. They would use precautions (like physical distance, hand washing, masking) when bringing food or any other thing to their ill family member and treat everything like it was infected. The isolation and quarantine would continue until advised otherwise by the public health unit.  A person with COVID-19 is considered infectious two days before the beginning of symptoms (it may be more), even if these symptoms might be mild, like a headache. The ability to infect someone else is considered to have ended when symptoms resolve and disappear. For a person who was exposed, tested positive but with no symptoms, the ability to transmit the virus remains a possibility for at least 14 days from the time of exposure. If the exposure event is unknown, you may need to quarantine for the full 14 days. The public health unit in your area will be able to inform you of how long the isolation period would be or under what conditions they might be lifted. By isolating those who have symptoms of, or have tested positive for COVID-19, and quarantining those who may have been exposed to the virus, we can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Remember, we can all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 when we: Maintain physical distancing of at least two metres or six feet; Practice good hygiene, like frequent handwashing, and coughing or sneezing into the crook of your arm/elbow; Wear masks in public, whether inside or outside; Isolate and quarantine when needed.

  • Mapleton rejects private sector takeover of local water resources
    by 5817 on August 6, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    In a major win for public ownership of local water resources, the Township of Mapleton, Ontario, has decided to terminate the public-private partnership (P3) to deliver its new water and wastewater facility, a plan that had been supported with a $20 million commitment from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB). This reversal raises questions about the flawed mandate of the CIB that puts private profit above the public interest. The failure of the CIB to conclude this relatively small deal also raises serious questions about its role in infrastructure development, questions that CUPE has been raising since the CIB’s creation in 2017. After years of failing to secure federal or provincial funding for various water system upgrades, such as a water tower, the township launched a Request For Proposal process in late 2018 to attract private sector corporations to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a new water and wastewater facility in the municipality. After receiving a number of initial submissions from private companies, Mapleton engaged PwC to prepare a Value for Money (VfM) report comparing the P3 with the public option for the new facility. The report concluded that a partnership with the CIB, which had pledged up to $20 million to subsidize the private sector’s higher borrowing costs, was the best option. The township council was prepared to select one of the private sector proposals at its meeting in March 2020, but this meeting was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, increased community awareness of the plan resulted in media scrutiny and questions from residents. The township had conducted its deliberations of the plan in private meetings with its lawyers, there had been no public consultation, and even parts of the VfM report had been blocked from public view. Meanwhile, the CIB had been publicly promoting the Mapleton deal as a “pilot project” for the private sector take over of small municipal water systems nationwide, a framing that raised red flags for community members, public sector workers and water rights advocates. After months of delaying the decision, the Mapleton township council decided in late July to terminate the RFP process, according to GuelphToday.com. “CAO Manny Baron said to council that after a long technical and financial review, his opinion was the town shouldn’t go any further in the RFP process,” reported GuelphToday.com. “Council was in agreement with the CAO and many felt there was too much risk involved in having a private company run water and wastewater.” The township will now be looking at how best to move forward with the project on its own. Mapleton recognized the risks in a plan that would have given private, for-profit corporations control over their water and wastewater system. Mapleton township joins other communities in Canada and around the world—from Port Hardy and White Rock, BC to Banff, Okotoks and Taber, AB to Berlin, Germany and Paris, France—in acknowledging that water should be public. It’s time to scrap the Canada Infrastructure Bank and provide funding and low-cost loans directly to municipalities to help build the water and wastewater infrastructure they need.