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Community Health Telephone Town Hall Recap

Last night, UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak and Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson joined Vancouver Island Community Health union representative Ashley Campbell, and Special Guest Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy to call thousands of UFCW 1518 Community Health members for our telephone town. The panel was very excited to connect directly with UFCW 1518 Community Health members and hear their concerns during this challenging time.

Minister Darcy listened to Community Health workers concerns and promised to bring their voices to government. She spoke about her personal experiences representing Community Health professionals, as well as developing close relationships with those who cared for her father during his senior years. She offered Community Health workers “an enormous thank you on behalf of your clients, on behalf of your government, and an enormous thank you on behalf of a very grateful province.”

Minister Darcy also outlined several new mental health supports that are available to Community Health worker, who are facing additional burdens during COVID-19 that can affect their mental health and wellbeing. These supports include:

  • A Mobile Response Team (MRT) composed of front-line care workers supporting other front-line care workers. The MRT is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, exclusively to people working in front-line care, including Community Health.
  • Free virtual counselling with one of 200 volunteer clinical psychologists through the BC Psychologists Association. Anyone who works in health care can access this psychological counselling for free.
  • A new peer-support mental health program featuring UFCW 1518 Community Health members. These health care workers are receiving mental health first aid training tailored for people working in community health, home care support, and long-term care from the Canadian Mental Health Association. This new service will be available in early May.
    For more information on these programs and other mental health supports available to all British Columbians, check out our mental health resources page.

President Kim Novak spoke to members on the call about UFCW 1518’s joint campaign with the BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) to raise Community Health home care workers’ wages and ask for clear guidelines to be established and enforced around the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in home care. UFCW 1518 has been pushing for these changes at the bargaining table since long before COVID-19 came into our lives. The increase in compensation reflects the hard work Community Health workers do today and every day, not just during COVID-19.

To advocate for these changes, UFCW 1518 sent a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix at the beginning of April and created a petition for community members to add their voice to our call. Since launching the petition, 5,000 people have signed on to our letter. If you haven’t signed yet, please do so here and share the petition widely. Every time the petition is signed it sends our letter to Minister Dix and to local MLAs, which puts pressure on the government to recognize the incredible work of Community Health Workers.

President Novak also discussed the additional challenges that Community Health workers are facing during this difficult period and the supports available to them. For these supports, please check out our COVID-19 Resource Page, it has a lot of valuable resources on accessing government support, staying safe at work, helping out your fellow UFCW 1518 members, and accessing mental health supports. Members can also contact your stewards, union representatives, and our office – we are available 7 days a week to offer support.

Community Health members on the call asked a lot of great questions. Here are some highlights:

Question: Will Community Health workers receive a pay rise, and if they do, when will it come into effect?

Answer: While UFCW 1518 continues to pressure government to create pay rises for Community Health Workers, we don’t have an answer yet. We will continue to lobby government for Community Health Workers to receive a pay rise in recognition of their critical work, not just during COVID-19, but at all times. Our campaign is working—you can help us apply pressure on the government by signing our letter, sharing it widely with your friends and family and asking them to share with their networks. Every time someone signs the petition, an email is sent to government officials directly!

Question: Many Community Health workers are concerned that their clients have not been following physical distancing rules.

Answer: That’s why it’s so important that Community Health workers receive clear guidelines around PPE. There is always uncertainty when Community Health workers enter their client’s homes, so precautions must be taken. That’s why we’re pushing government hard to issue and enforce clear PPE guidelines. Additionally, Community Health union representative Ashley Campbell added that Community Health workers should always report concerning conditions to their management team and to case managers.

Question: Should we be wearing a mask at all times? Even if a client is not showing symptoms?

Answer: The BC Centre for Disease Control has advised that anyone going into a home should wear a mask, regardless of whether the client is symptomatic or not.

The panel enjoyed listening to our Community Health workers and hearing their concerns. UFCW 1518 will continue to push for solutions to these issues. In the meantime, the union is here to support members. As COVID-19 has changed the way that unions operate and communicate with their members, we will be doing more telephone town halls and Facebook live events to connect with members, share information about supports, and hear members’ concerns. Stay tuned to your email and make sure to follow us on Facebook to find out when the next telephone town hall event is happening.

Thank you on behalf of your clients, on behalf of your government, and an enormous thank you on behalf of a very grateful province.
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