MEMBER RESOURCES RE: COVID-19: APRIL 6, 2020
As the situation around COVID-19 (commonly referred to as ‘Corona virus’) continues to develop, so too does the information that comes with it and our response.
We have been instructed by the provincial health officer that the best course of action is to exercise good personal hygiene including regular hand washing, and to “help flatten the curve” by social distancing.
We will update this page as more information becomes available or changes
NON-MEDICAL PHONE AND TEXT LINES
The phone line is 1-888-COVID19 or 1-888-268-4319, and it is open and available from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There is also a text line available at 604-630-0300.
Please be aware the wait times can be quite long.
COVID-19 SUPPORT APP
The B.C. government has launched a COVID-19 support app to help provide residents with the latest information on the ongoing pandemic. The app can be downloaded through the Apple Store or Google Play and is also available as a website online here.
PRACTICE SELF-MONITORING & SELF-ISOLATION
The BC Centre for Disease Control offers information on self-monitoring and self-isolation on its website.
Self-monitoring means looking for new symptoms or signs of COVID-19 infection such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, etc.
Self-isolation means staying home and not going to work or school, and monitoring for symptoms for 14 days. Some essential service workers may be exempt from the 14-day self-isolation period.
Check the BCCDC website for full details.
WHO TO CALL
Non-medical hotline: 1-888-COVID19 or 1-888-268-4319. The line is staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and information is available in more than 110 languages.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19, call 811 to speak with a health care professional.
STAY UP TO DATE
The B.C. Government has developed a COVID-19 Support application, which lets you receive the latest updates and alerts, and resources from trusted sources. The self-assessment tool is also embedded in the application. Download it from the App Store or Google Play, or access the web version here.
COVID-19 SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOL
The BC Ministry of Health developed a self-assessment tool to help determine whether you may need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, if they are unable to. COVID-19 Self-assessment Tool
CALL 811 IF YOU HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, please call 811. This is where British Columbians should call to reach health professionals and if they are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 and/or have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. For more info check out the BC Centre for Disease Control website.
Also be aware that wait time to get though are quite long, please be patient if trying to get through.
OFFICE IS CLOSED, BUT WE ARE AVAILABLE
Please see our Office operations and contact information here.
GOVERNMENT SAFE CONSTRUCTION SITE GUIDELINES
Under the province’s Emergency Program Act, construction work has been deemed an essential service.
Essential services are those daily services that are essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.
While the Provincial Health Officer has ordered some types of businesses to close, construction workers are considered non-health essential service providers. All construction work must continue to abide the orders and guidance provided by the Provincial Health Officer to ensure safe operations and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. This is not optional.
More information here.
On Sunday, March 22 the provincial government released its bare minimum requirements for a safe work site. These include:
- There should be no more than 50 people in the same space in any circumstances.
- Where possible, employees should maintain a distance of two metres apart from each other.
- Post signage that limits the number of occupants in any elevator to four people at a time.
- Reduce in-person meetings and other gatherings and hold site meetings in open spaces or outside.
- Increase the number of hand-washing stations and post signage that identifies their location.
- Maintain a list of employees that are currently working on sites and update this list daily.
- All common areas and surfaces should be cleaned at the end of each day. Examples include washrooms, shared offices, common tables, desks, light switches and door handles.
- Anyone with COVID-19-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, sneezing or coughing, must self-isolate at home for 14 days.
Read the full release from the provincial government here. If you see any unsanitary or unsafe working conditions on your work site please contact WorkSafeBC and the BC Building Trades, as they’re collecting stories.
PRIME CONTRACTOR, EMPLOYER AND SUB-CONTRACTOR RESPONSIBILITIES
WorkSafeBC has produced information regarding COVID-19 safety specifically for prime contractors, employers and sub-contractors, who are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of workers. Notably, they must have a mechanism in place for workers to raise issues and concerns about COVID-19 exposure so that additional precautions and controls can be put in place where required. Full information here.
GUIDELINES FOR INDUSTRIAL WORK CAMPS
The province has provided specific guidelines to keep workers safe who are in industrial work camps. They include prevention measures, outbreak protocols and support for camp residents who must self-isolate.
The guidelines are located here.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY – WASHROOM FACILITIES ON CONSTRUCTION SITES
The condition and provision of washroom facilities on construction sites and any other workplace is covered by Section 4.85 of the B.C. Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. This regulation requires workplaces to have either fixed or portable washroom facilities that include provisions for hand-washing, and that they are kept in clean and sanitary condition with the proper supplies necessary to use them.
We know that many construction sites are not following these rules, and we are in the process of working with contractors and government to address this issue.
If your construction site is not maintaining proper washroom and hand-washing facilities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we ask that you:
Email BC Building Trades at email@example.com so that we can compile information to advocate on your behalf AND Call WorkSafe BC at 604-276-3100 (Lower Mainland) or 1-888-621-7233 (toll free) to report your site.
RIGHT TO REFUSE UNSAFE WORK
You have the right in B.C. to refuse unsafe work. WorkSafeBC provides the steps to follow in order to achieve a remedy here. In these circumstances, the worker would begin by reporting the undue hazard to their employer. Employers must investigate immediately and ensure that any necessary corrective action is taken without delay (OH&S Regulation s.3.10).
We realize that conditions of “unsafe work” have taken on new meaning in the context of COVID-19. If you feel you are being asked to work unsafely (physical distancing and sanitation requirements and recommendations are not being met, for example).
Employers in B.C. are required by regulation to provide minimum standard around the provision of washrooms and hand-washing facilities. Where plumbed facilities are impracticable, employers must provide access to portable washroom and hand-washing facilities, these facilities must be maintained in good working order, and must have the supplies necessary for their use.
Employers have an obligation to protect the health and safety of employees under OH&S legislation. If you have a reason to believe that there’s dangerous conditions in the workplace you are able to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties.
Employers cannot dismiss, discipline, or intimidate employees for properly exercising a health and safety right.
Importantly, workers who voluntarily quit instead of being laid off are normally not entitled to Employment Insurance. However, if you have “just cause” for quitting – you can show that quitting your job was the only reasonable alternative – you may be paid regular EI benefits. Just cause may include occupational health and safety regulations, human rights or labour rights not being followed. See full information on the steps to take here.
Please note that the BC Building Trades Council has put significant pressure on WorkSafeBC and the provincial government to address the sanitation problems in our industry in light of COVID-19. WorkSafeBC has responded to our pressure by creating a special inspection initiative for the construction industry to ensure compliance with WorkSafe regulations on handwashing and sanitation, as well as proper physical distancing in keeping with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s public health directive on the construction industry. WorkSafe has put resources into field inspections in our industry.
Please see the below post with some information from BCCWITT, and check out WorkSafeBC for more information.
The B.C. Government has amended the Employment Standards Act to provide job protection to workers who are unable to work due to COVID-19. This allows workers affected by COVID-19 to stay home as needed for the following reasons:
- they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are acting in accordance with instructions or an order of a medical health officer or the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
- they are in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the federal Quarantine Act, or guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control or the Public Health Agency of Canada;
- they have been directed by their employer to stay home because of concerns about their exposure to others;
- they are unable to return to B.C. because of a travel or border restriction; or
- they are providing care to their minor child or a dependent adult who is their child or former foster child, including when a school, daycare or similar facility has closed.
There is no limit to how long people can take leave. More information here.
EXTENSION OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY CERTIFICATES
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, WorkSafeBC is granting extensions on any occupational first aid, or equivalent certificates, that are due to expire between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020. These certificates will now be acceptable in the workplace for 90 days beyond their original expiry date. More information here.
WorkSafeBC continues to provide services related to work-related injury or disease, including for new and outstanding claims. All call centres remain open.
Information on work-related injury claims for workers is available here.
PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
These are challenging times, and we urge you to be mindful of your mental health as well as your physical health.
As a member of the BC Building Trades, you have access to the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan, which offers a number of options to keep your mental health in check.
CIRP offers long-term counselling to assist members dealing with depression, anxiety, Substance use, pain management and other mental health concerns. All services are free, completely confidential, and available via video conferencing during this new working-from-home normal.
In addition, crisis centres across Canada are also here to help. Help is available if you need to talk and you:
- are not feeling yourself
- are experiencing a crisis
- have emotional pain
- have thoughts of suicide
- know someone who needs help
More information on help available in your community here.
MEETINGS & APPRENTICESHIP SCHOOL CANCELLED
As per International: “The General Executive Board has approved and will work with all of the Local Unions to ensure that our members health and safety is of the utmost concern. As a result, we are placing a suspension on all Local Union Meetings and Local Union Elections shall be postponed until such time as the COVID-19 virus national emergency quarantine and isolation recommendations are lifted.” – All union meetings and area meetings will be cancelled until later notice.
Along with the cancellation of meetings, our apprenticeship school will also be canceled until further notice. We are assessing the situation which is evolving on a daily basis and staying up to date with all available information. If you have NOT been notified that classes are cancelled – please plan to attend as originally scheduled. We will update you as we receive more information and if any further classes are to be cancelled.
If your classes are CANCELLED we will be tentatively rescheduling classes to run in Fall 2020. For example, Level 3 March class should expect we will be doing everything we can to schedule the class to take place in September of 2020. If Level 4 April class ends up getting cancelled, you may expect that to run in October 2020 and so on. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
EI, CERB, BC EMERGENCY BENEFIT AND OTHER RELIEFS & HELP
The Government of Canada has made changes to Employment Insurance in response to COVID-19, including waiving the waiting period for those who qualify for EI Sickness Benefits, as well as waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access these benefits. Members should apply for Sickness Benefits if they are unable to work due to illness, injury or quarantine.
If a job is cancelled or suspended because of COVID-19, members out of work are on an economic lay-off and the current waiting period for EI still applies. We hope this will change, and we are currently lobbying government to eliminate the waiting period altogether. Members who have lost their job through no fault of their own and do not qualify for EI Sickness Benefits should apply for Regular Benefits.
For those who do not qualify for paid sick leave or EI benefits, a new Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to four months to:
- workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
- workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
- working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
- workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
- wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.
Workers who are already receiving EI should not apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
For information on this and additional federal supports, click here.
A provincial Emergency Benefit of $1,000 is available to workers, regardless of their eligibility for Employment Insurance and any other federal income top-up. Subscribe to this page to be notified about eligibility requirements and how to apply for the benefit.
Relief for employers
The federal government is helping employers, including non-profits, that are facing revenue losses and staff layoffs. Small employers may be eligible for a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10 per cent of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Employers will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration. More information here.
A new temporary rental supplement of $500 a month for four months is available to help tenants. Evictions have also been halted and rents have been frozen. The benefit will be available to low- and middle-income tenants who do not qualify for other rental assistance. Funds will be paid directly to landlords on behalf of tenants in order to ensure landlords continue to receive rental income during the pandemic. More information is available here.
In addition, the government has placed a moratorium on all evictions for non-payment of rent.
In addition, residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 will receive a credit to help cover the cost of their electricity bills. The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home and does not have to be repaid.
Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months. BC Hydro is waiving bills for these customers from April to June 2020. More information is available here.
Fortis BC has waived late payment fees and will ensure no customer is disconnected from the energy they need due to financial hardship at this time. More information is available here.
Car insurance relief
ICBC customers on monthly payment plans can defer payments for up to 90 days without penalty.
Deadlines for various tax payments have been extended.
Personal income tax filing deadline changed to June 1
If you owe taxes, ability to defer tax payments until August 31
Business tax filing deadline changed to July 31
Student loan relief
The Government of Canada has made changes to EI in response to COVID-19, including waiving the waiting period for those who qualify for EI Sickness Benefits, as well as waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI Sickness Benefits. Members should apply for Sickness Benefits if they are unable to work due to illness, injury or quarantine.
Community Savings Credit Union line of credit
Community Savings Credit Union is offering a special line of credit for workers facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those facing job losses can have access to an interest free $2,500 line of credit.
Due to the current economic situation, the credit union is also maintaining a degree of flexibility for applicants in terms of work history and current employment status. You can still apply for it whether you are receiving EI or other income supports.
Importantly, these offerings are for current or new members of Community Savings only. Workers must join the credit union in order to leverage these options. This is an easy process and although Community Savings has branches throughout B.C., workers do not need to live near a branch in order to sign up; they can apply on the website.
For more information, visit the website or call:
Lower Mainland: 604-654-2000
SHORT TERM DISABILITY
The union will be reducing the wait time on Short Term Disability from 8 days to 1 day if you are in self-isolation or ill, but your first course is to apply for EI Sickness Benefits. If a member is in the hospital (for any reason) they are to apply for Short Term Disability Benefits. Contact DA Townley if you have any questions.
DA TOWNLEY INFO
As we have previously notified members, DA Townley has implemented measures to reduce their physical workforce within their office space using a ‘lean team’ with the balance of staff working remotely from home.
During this time, with a remote workforce, it will be very difficult to take telephone calls. DA Townley asks that any requests and/or questions be submitted to them via email and Members calling their office will be directed to this method of communication. Again, their remote workforce is monitoring emails and will respond to all inquiries.
For Health and Dental claims questions use firstname.lastname@example.org and for Weekly Indemnity questions use email@example.com and for benefit plan coverage, reciprocity and remittance questions please use firstname.lastname@example.org and finally for any Pension-related inquiries use email@example.com
DA Townley’s website www.datownley.com now has a COVID-19 resource centre with the most up to date information available for clients and plan members.
They have added a banner containing a link to this information on the Plan’s website, www.hfbenefits.org
COVID-19 PROVINCIAL SUPPORT AND INFORMATION
The provincial government has a website with information and support since their aid announcement March 23. The webpage categorizes areas such as Child Care, Education, Housing, Transportation and more with links to relevant information and support services. For more information visit: COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information
YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION
We urge you to follow the guidelines laid out by our public health officials. Again, The main message we are hearing from health care professionals is that at this time the best course of action is to exercise good personal hygiene and to wherever possible limit interaction with the general public. Also:
- Gatherings of 50 or more people should be canceled or postponed
- Anyone returning from any travel abroad must self-isolate for 14 days
From Health Link BC:
British Columbians are asked to stay home. The more you stay at home, the safer it will be for everyone in your community. It reduces the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to others.
Physical distancing from others is important. The number of people getting sick across British Columbia is growing. Staying away from others is the only way to keep people from getting the disease. No community is immune. COVID-19 can spread by people who have minimal symptoms. Someone who seems healthy could spread it to parents, grandparents or other people in our community. Some of these people could get seriously ill from this virus.
Stay home except for essential errands. For example
Go to the grocery store only once a week
Send one household member on errands to reduce the number of potential exposures
Exercise at home or stay at least 2 metres from other people if you go for a walk in your neighbourhood
Avoid public places like malls
Do not have visitors
Learn more about how you can protect yourself and others by self-isolating:
BCCDC: Do’s and don’ts of self-isolation (PDF 391KB)
If you must go out into the community, keep a physical distance of about 2 metres between yourself and others to help stop the spread. Remember to avoid handshakes and wave instead. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth. Practice respiratory etiquette, such as covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
These are difficult times for our members and other construction workers as well as all Canadians. Please be assured your Union will do all it can get you back to work as soon as possible and safe. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.