As the situation around COVID-19 (commonly referred to as ‘Coronavirus’) continues to develop, so too does the information that comes with it and our response.
On Wednesday, May 6, the Provincial Government announced BC's (Careful) Restart Plan. We are currently in Phase 2 of the plan, with more businesses reopening that have the capacity to ensure safety and personal distancing.
You can review the plan by visiting BC's Restart Plan webpage here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/bc-restart-plan
The provincial government released a long list of COVID-19 Essential Services that it defines as those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning. That is to say, the services British Columbians come to rely on in their daily lives. Many IBEW 213 members fall under this Essential Services designation. Unsafe work is still unsafe work. Even if you are deemed Essential you still have the right to refuse unsafe work. Review the list here: COVID-19 Essential Services
Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers
If you are on the COVID-19 Essential Services list, you are eligible for emergency child care for children five years old and younger. ( Child care services for school aged children (5-12 years old) can be obtained through their school directly.) For more information and to request assistance visit: Emergency Child Care for Essential Workers
Guidelines for Industrial Camps
The BC Centre for Disease Control published a booklet of guildelines for industrial camps. It is worth reviewing for all our members who are still on the job and have been designated "Essential" by the provincial government. The booklet is in PDF here: COVID-19 Guidelines for Industrial Camps
Worksite Safety Report
If worksite isn't safe, clean, and following COVID-19 Health & Safety guidelines, report it here.
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.
The hotline is 1-888-COVID19 or 1-888-268-4319, and it will be staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Information is available in more than 110 languages.
From the BC Centre for Disease Control website, these are the guideline for self-monotoring that everyone should be following at this time.
Self-monitoring means looking for new symptoms or signs of coronavirus infection such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, etc.
Take and record temperature daily and avoid the use of fever reducing medications (e.g., acetaminophen, ibuprofen) as much possible. These medications could mask an early symptom of COVID-19; if these medications must be taken, client should advise their healthcare provider.
If you develop symptoms, use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19 (see below).
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 Symptoms
The non-medical hotline listed above was created to alleviate pressure on the province's existing health line, 811. This is still where British Columbians should call to reach health professionals and if they are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 and have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. See the BC Centre for Disease Control website for more information.
Are you self-isolating and need help, or do you know somebody who needs assistance? Are you able to volunteer providing assistance in your neighbourhood? Contact the United Way by visiting uwlm.ca/mobilizing-local-love
IBEW 213 Offices Closed to Members & Public
We have made the decision to close the offices to members and the public in the interest of keeping our staff safe and isolated while they continue to work servicing our members. You can still contact the offices during regular business hours by calling the switchboard 604.571.6500 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
As well, your Assistant Business Manager remains available to assist you. The switchboard can direct your call during regular business hours. ABMs are also available by email. Visit the Structure & Bios webpage to look up your ABM's email address.
Dues payments should be remitted by calling 604.571.6500 with a credit card, or through online banking using your member number or your SIN as your account number. Call the office during normal business hours and we will assist.
Government Safe Construction Site Guidelines
On Sunday, March 22 the provincial government released its bare minimum requirements for a safe worksite. 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 handwashing 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 worksite please report them here.
Inside Wire Members Dispatch & Book In
Our position is that all lay offs that occur on or after March 17, 2020 are temporary lay off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect that when normal work resumes members will be recalled by their respective employers. As such, members laid off on or after March 17 should not book in unemployed with the Dispatch Office. Remaining dispatched to your employer will ensure work may resume as quickly as possible when sites reopen.
With offices closed to the public, we will do our best to accommodate inquiries to the Dispatch Office by telephone 604.571.6533 or email email@example.com. We appreciate your patience as we anticipate a large volume of calls and emails at this time.
Meetings & Training Cancelled
Along with the closure of the office to members and the public, unit and committee meetings, and trainig sessions for the remainder of March have been cancelled. Check the IBEW 213 Calendar webpage for the current status of your meeting.
Employment Insurance & Federal Emergency Care Benefit
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.
At this time, if a job is cancelled or suspended because of COVID-19, then those 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 govermnment 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, there is Emergency Care Benefit to provide income support to workers, including self-employed workers. Application for the Benefit will be available in April. For more information visit: COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
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 relevent information and support services. For more information visit: COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information
Local 213 Welfare Plan Benefits Claims
The benefits office will accept claims by email or fax for dental, optical and hearing aids to avoid unnecessary interactions. Please keep your original receipts in case we ask to see them. For instructions on how to submit claims by email or fax please visit the 213 Benefits Plan webpage.
Other Government Support
A few other changes announced by the federal government that may provide relief to members include:
- 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
- Effective March 30, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments until September 30 (see https://www.csnpe-nslsc.canada.ca/en/home)
For more information visit: COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
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.
Wearing Masks & Employers Providing Masks
UPDATED - The question whether or not to wear a mask has come up a lot. For the answer we refer everyone directly to webpage on masks on BC Centre for Disease Control website: bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/prevention-risks/masks
The webpage now includes guidelines for wearing masks to protect yourself, including the following information on homemade masks:
The use of a homemade mask should only be considered by members of the public who are symptomatic or caring for someone who is symptomatic as an interim measure if commercial masks are not available.
If you are making a mask under these circumstances, here is some information to improve the effectiveness of homemade masks:
- Some materials are better than others. Use clean and stretchy 100% cotton t-shirts or pillowcases.
- Ensure the mask fits tightly around the nose and mouth; material that allows droplets to pass through will not work.
- The mask should be comfortable, or you won’t want to wear it consistently.
- If the mask makes it a lot harder to breathe, then the seal will not be as good, and the mask will be less effective.
- Clean or change the mask often.
One point that has not changed: if you are wearing a mask because you are sick, you should not be working! If you are sick you should not be working!
Safe Work Procedure for Telecommunications Installer / Technician Members
Due to the nature of most telecommunications work, following government recommendations of staying or working from home is not possible. Therefore, Installer / Technician Field Members must follow these safe-work procedures:
Before Entering Customer Premises:
- Ask the customer if they or anyone at the premises are under self-isolation, and ask if they or anyone at the premises are currently feeling ill.
- If the answer is yes to any of those questions please contact your Employer representative for directions.
- If you are not satisfied with the solution offered by your Employer representative, please contact your Union representative for advice.
- Ask the customer if you can use their sink to wash your hands before you begin and after you finish.
Working at Customer Premises:
- Wash your hands when you enter the premises – “Wash In.” *
- Complete your work inside the customer premises.
- Do not touch your face (mouth, eyes, or nose) while working.
- Keep a safe distance from the customer and others at all times (minimum six feet or two arms’ lengths).
- If you sneeze or cough do it into your sleeve and rewash your hands. Confirm with the customer that it’s OK to proceed.
- Wash your hands when you have finish and are ready to leave the premises – “Wash Out.” *
- Ask the customer to open any doors as you’re leaving to prevent having to touch any door handles
*Approved hand sanitizer (if available) may be substituted in place of hand washing, however hand washing is strongly encouraged anyways even if you do use hand sanitizer.
CSCU Interest Free Line of Credit
Community Savings Credit Union are offering a Line of Credit up to $2,500 interest free for the fist six months. You need to be a CSCU member, but membership is easy and open to everyone. For more information visit: CSCU Helping Hands