COVID-19 UPDATE: Precautionary Principle, Federal Income Support and Provincial Measures

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Precautionary Principle

Knowledge about how COVID-19 is transmitted has yet to be fully understood. For this reason, CUPE is recommending that health care settings adopt the precautionary principle towards infection prevention and control of COVID-19. The precautionary principle means taking action to prevent infection from potentially serious viruses without having to wait for complete scientific proof that a course of action is necessary. While there is continued uncertainty about whether or not the virus is spread through the air, we must conduct ourselves as if it is. For that reason, CUPE is recommending that health care workers who are in direct contact (within 2 meters) with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 request a fit-tested, seal-checked N95 respirator covering the nose and mouth.

Federal Income Support

What was in the federal government’s March 18 announcement:

  • A new Emergency Care Benefit that will apply to workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance and who are in isolation, caring for a sick family member, and/or providing childcare.
    • The benefit will provide a maximum of $450 per week for up to 15 weeks.
    • Parents who are unable to work because they need to provide childcare due to school closures are eligible even if they do qualify for EI.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Personal Protective Equipment

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety, Uncategorized

Fact vs Myth: Personal Protective Equipment

While our workplaces prepare to confront the threat of COVID-19 there have been many discussions around Personal Protective Equipment and the role it can play in protecting members from communicable diseases like COVID-19, especially those situations where respiratory protection is required. With these discussions occurring in many workplaces we wanted to ensure CUPE locals have a reference for understanding the options in respiratory protection devices and what their relative strengths and weaknesses are.

Types of respiratory protection

There are a number of respiratory protection products on the market. They do not all offer the same level of protection.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Advisory from Eastern Health on Hospital Appointments

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The following advisory from Eastern Health contains information for CUPE members in the Eastern Health district

Eastern Health advises the public that a new temporary phone line is now available for individuals who have questions about the status of their hospital appointments.

Due to service reductions related to COVID-19 emergency planning, patients and clients can call 709-752-4500, or toll-free at 1-833-752-4500, from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to inquire if their previously scheduled hospital appointment is going ahead or is cancelled; or if it is being rescheduled.

At this time, Eastern Health is focusing on the delivery of urgent and emergent services. Questions about appointments for elective and non-urgent procedures and treatments at any of Eastern Health hospitals and acute care centres should be directed to this new phone line.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Advisory from Eastern Health on Public Screening and Access to Facilities

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The following advisory from Eastern Health contains important information for CUPE members and families in the Eastern Health district

Eastern Health advises the public that facilities within the region will begin to reduce the number of entry points, or entrances, into its facilities in an effort to manage and screen individuals upon entry. Individuals entering health-care facilities can expect to be screened for COVID-19 through a series of questions.

Eastern Health is also decreasing the number of hours that building entrances will be open, and encourages the public to check with relevant facilities before arriving to confirm hours of operation. Signage will be posted at the entrances of affected facilities displaying hours of operation, and employees reporting for work should be prepared to display their employee identification badge at building entrances.

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Joint Statement: Keeping Health Care Workers Safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic 

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The following is a joint statement issued today by the Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland & Labrador (RNU), the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and the Association of Allied Health Professionals (AAHP).

Our province’s health care workers are committed to providing the best and safest care possible to patients. Health care workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and we must keep them safe.

Labour organizations representing health care workers are calling for the Provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Regional Health Authorities to protect health care workers and their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this pandemic, protection of our most valuable resource – the human resource – is of paramount importance. With conflicting scientific evidence of how COVID-19 is transmitted, the precautionary principle – to err on the side of caution – must be followed.Read More

COVID-19 UPDATE March 18, 2020

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Right to Refuse

CUPE has been receiving many questions from members who want to know how the current COVID-19 pandemic may affect their right to refuse. As a worker in Newfoundland and Labrador, you have the legal right to refuse unsafe work, according to Section 45 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the work, tool, or equipment is dangerous to you or another person’s health and safety.

Here’s how you can refuse unsafe work:Read More

Let’s look out for each other

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During these uncertain times we are thankful for the work of CUPE members that keep our public services available to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, even while more and more private sector workplaces close or delay operations.

Our Health Care members are on the front lines of the struggle to contain COVID-19 and protect the health of the public; we see your efforts and you have the gratitude of all of CUPE. Please know, we will continue to advocate for your protection while you are working to protect the rest of us.

To our members who staff our libraries, community services, public buildings and schools; you are the glue that binds this province together and keeping you safe and informed is our top priority. To our members in the municipal sector; the services you provide literally keep our communities running and your dedication to your work is worthy of celebration.Read More

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON COVID-19

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The following letter from CUPE National President Mark Hancock and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury contains important information on the novel coronavirus and a link to our national website where updates will be posted.

We are also including a link to the NL Government web page on COVID-19 which includes protocols for public safety and up-to-date information on the spread of the virus.

Our members’ safety and well being is our priority during these uncertain times, and we will do our best to keep you informed as this situation evolves.

TO ALL CUPE CHARTERED ORGANIZATIONS

Last 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

Information from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on COVID-19

For Information on COVID-19 including how to recognize symptoms, how to protect yourself, protocols for self-isolation, travel information and updated information on the spread of the virus go to: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/

SAVE THE DATE: 2020 ATLANTIC WEEKLONG SCHOOL June 21-26

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CUPE Atlantic’s Weeklong School will be held this year at the highly acclaimed White Point Beach Resort on the South Shore, in Queens county:  https://www.whitepoint.com/.

The following programs are being offered:

Program 1/ Pensions: The nitty gritty, the political context, the paradox.

Program 2/ Health & Safety: Introduction and the basics along with political action, including concerns about the health of our environment.

Program 3/ Social Media: All you need to know to hone your new media skills; spark your public speaking fire; and learn how to mobilize at election time.

Program 4/ Navigating Interpersonal and Group Conflict: Conflict is a part of our lives at work, in the union, and at home. In this workshop we’ll build our conflict skills by looking at belief systems, sources, and developing skills to best respond to challenging dynamics.

Tentative Itinerary:

  • Members should try to arrive by Sunday, June 21st at 3:00 pm.
  • Registration will begin at 4:30 pm on Sunday, June 21st, and a meet and greet will follow later-on in the evening.
  • Workshops will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Thursday and 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

Details will be up on the CUPE National website soon so please ask your locals to stay-tuned.

New College seats for LPNs and PCAs in Newfoundland and Labrador promise an end to mandated overtime

gmcneil Long term care

Troy Turner/CBC

Licensed Practical Nurses and Personal Care Attendants in Newfoundland and Labrador got some good news last week when Government announced it will be expanding training programs at College of the North Atlantic campuses this September.

CUPE has been calling for an improved recruitment strategy to alleviate the extreme workloads that LPNs and PCAs have been carrying at the Bay St. George Long Term Care Centre in Stephenville Crossing for the past few years due to insufficient staffing.

Things got really bad last year according to CUPE 4935 President Theresa Gillam. “Some days there were up to six people per shift being mandated to work overtime,” she says. “Working an additional four to eight hours on the end of a 12-hour shift is exhausting. We are tired and injuries are happening more often.”Read More