Page 1


SPRING 2021 • VOL. 39 • NO. 1

STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT HEU shop stewards share the challenges and satisfactions of their vital role in the union


RETURN TO The Guardian 5000 North Fraser Way Burnaby, B.C. V5J 5M3 Josh Berson PHOTO




Power on the shop floor


Facing challenges with heart HEU locals have showed resilience adapting to change

HEU stewards tell us what keeps them standing strong for workers’ rights | 7


The other public health crisis Frontline workers see opioid crisis and pandemic measures collide | 3

Reuniting the healthcare team Josh Berson PHOTO

Union campaign aims to bring privatized members back in-house | 5

Checkout time B.C. labour leaders declare hotel boycott in support of fired workers | 10

7 3 COLUMNS Viewpoint

Unions give workers the strength of many, to speak out and make change | 6

President’s Desk

In crosshairs of a crisis, healthcare workers show bravery and resilience | 6

On The Job

How a close-knit Indigenous community balances isolation and connection | 13

A SENSE OF RELIEF | When a vaccination centre for health care workers opened near Vancouver General Hospital last December, HEU care aide Ailyn Ponce seized the opportunity.

THROUGH this pandemic, we have experienced hope and loss, cheered progress and confronted setbacks, and navigated a dizzying amount of change in every area of our lives. Our union has quickly adapted to changing circumstances – challenging anti-worker practices, pushing for creative solutions and standing strong to protect members’ rights and safety. HEU locals are the heart of our union, and they have been critical to our response to COVID-19. And it’s been hard when we haven’t been able to meet in-person, because there’s a power and spark in members gathering face-to-face that nothing can replace. But working together we’ve found ways to stay connected in the face of public health restrictions. In less than a year, we’ve shifted from ballot boxes in the break room to online votes for local elections and contract ratifications. Local meetings have changed from aftershift gatherings with pizza, to virtual Zoom calls. And we’ve taken much of our union education online. Locals are the cornerstone of our democratic union, so it’s important that they are functioning well as we prepare for a very busy summer and fall. That includes an intense round of bargaining for more than 4,500 contract support services workers – and an active campaign to bring their

work back in-house. More than two dozen new or renewed independent collective agreements in seniors’ care are also up for negotiation. And all our Facilities, Community Social Services and Community Health agreements expire in March, 2022 – so planning is underway for bargaining conferences for locals in these sectors. The government’s restart plan raises the possibility that in-person meetings can happen this fall, though it’s not yet clear how this will impact large events like HEU’s convention. So flexibility will be key as we plan for these events.

Acting on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Earlier this year, HEU’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) working group resumed its pre-pandemic schedule of member consultations on the question of the representation of equity groups on the union’s Provincial Executive. The DEI working group’s mandate was established at the union’s 2018 convention, and their report to convention delegates this fall will include recommendations for constitutional and policy changes. A second phase of the union’s DEI work will review governance issues beyond the Provincial Executive. This is an important moment for HEU, an opportunity to make sure all of our members can see themselves reflected in this union.

New secretarybusiness manager appointed HEU’s Provincial Executive has appointed Meena Brisard as the new secretary-business manager. In this position, she will lead collective bargaining, act as HEU’s spokesperson, and manage union operations and programs. For the past 20 years, Brisard has been on staff with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. She replaces Jennifer Whiteside, who was elected to the provincial legislature last fall. “I have deep respect for the commitment HEU members bring to the care and support of patients and elders,” says Brisard. “I am excited to join HEU members in their fight for safer workplaces, an end to privatization and more support for those on health care’s front lines.” Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 1

COMMENT Mike Old | Secretary-Business Manager (interim) Let’s work hard to make B.C.’s restart plan a reality — but let’s also make sure that our post-pandemic reality includes stronger health care and equitable treatment for our health care heroes.

Pre-pandemic status quo is not an option


AS THE Guardian goes to press, B.C. government officials have announced a restart plan that could see an easing of COVID-19 restrictions that have so profoundly impacted our families, our union and our work. These plans will be driven by data – like increasing vaccination rates and lowering COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization numbers – but hopefully we can return to some of our normal pre-pandemic activities by the fall. But of course, the past year has demonstrated that some things should never return to normal. Our long-term care and assisted living homes, for example, were shown to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. Care home residents represent the majority of B.C.’s nearly 1,700 COVID-19-related deaths. One in five health care workers infected by the virus were care aides – the most of any occupation including nurses. While the single-site order and wage levelling prevented even higher rates of transmission and an exodus of workers from low-wage sites, we still have a major staffing shortage and huge inequities in benefits like paid sick leave, pensions, and extended health benefits. Establishing common standards across the sector – a key election commitment from the NDP government – will be a major focus of our union going into the fall. The pre-pandemic status quo is not an option for our elders or for HEU members who care for and support them.

Nor is the inequitable treatment of contracted support service workers in many of our hospitals and extended care facilities. Employed by multinational corporations for nearly 20 years, these “health care heroes” earn less today than during the SARS epidemic of 2003. That injustice must not survive this pandemic. Over the last year, we’ve also seen a resurgence of anti-Asian racism, an investigation of anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination in health care and a global movement to act against anti-Black violence. These are grim reminders that for many, including for many HEU members, racism and discrimination is a daily reality, and that we must express our solidarity by being actively anti-racist. So yes, let’s work hard to make B.C.’s restart plan a reality so that we can get back to those activities and relationships that we’ve put on hold. But let’s also make sure that our post-pandemic reality includes stronger health care, equitable treatment for our health care heroes, and a commitment to do the work to make our communities, workplaces and our union safe and inclusive. On a final note, I want to welcome Meena Brisard to our HEU family. Sister Brisard has been appointed HEU’s secretary-business manager and will take on these new responsibilities later this summer. It’s been a great privilege to represent HEU members as SecretaryBusiness Manager during this recruitment process.

STRIKE EXPOSED PAY OUTRAGE IN LONG-TERM CARE Forty years ago, an HEU strike exposed a shocking two-tier, race-based wage system at a Vancouver long-term care facility. Windermere Lodge, privately owned but operated with public money, paid employees half the going rate, and white workers earned more than non-white workers. The 100 HEU members, many new Canadians from the Philippines, Fiji, China and Portugal, spent 21

2 GUARDIAN | Spring 2021

months negotiating a first collective agreement before taking job action. After four months on a picket line, the strike ended with significant gains – ending race-based wage disparity, almost doubling wages, bringing in benefits for the first time, and increasing vacation beyond the provincial minimum.


Your union. Your paper.

The second public health crisis MANY HEU members are on the front lines of a second public health crisis – the opioid crisis. Working in shelters, clinics, emergency rooms, and social service and mental health agencies, they see first-hand how the pandemic has made conditions even harder for people living with addictions – and for healthcare workers trying to support them. HEU members Halina Faqirdaza and Kim Walton work at Powell Place, an emergency shelter for women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “A lot of people down here lost their friends. Everything has gotten worse,” Halina says. As a housing support specialist, she works to get residents into stable, supported transitional housing. Under Covid-19 safety protocols, many programs and supports have been unavailable. “There is no dedicated space for people trying to be clean right now. I worked with a woman who went to treatment for seven days and came back to a room with someone who is using heavily. It’s just a setup for failure,” she says. In 2020, 2,716 British Columbians died of illicit-drug toxicity — a 74 per cent increase since 2019. And numbers this year show no sign of decreasing. Kim Walton is a shelter support worker. She serves residents meals,

Caelie Frampton PHOTO

HEU members see double impact on healthcare front lines

“EVERYTHING HAS GOTTEN WORSE.” | Emergency shelter worker Halina Faqirdaza says better resources are needed for vulnerable residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

helps them apply for services and benefits, and does health and safety checks. Covid-19 protocols have created challenges. Staff can no longer enter rooms, and people can’t congregate. During the pandemic, a cook was hired to provide meals for residents who weren’t allowed to use their shared kitchen. “It’s not very empowering when you want to make yourself a cup of tea or piece of toast and can’t. When you don’t live in a place of your own, those things aren’t that small,” explains Kim. “People don’t have the option to isolate at home if you’re sleeping outside or in a shelter. It’s almost like a

domino effect, when one person gets sick, then there are four cases, and then more,” Halina says, recalling an outbreak at Powell Place. And while safety during Covid-19 involves social distancing and selfisolation, harm reduction for drug users means using at safe-injection sites or with a friend – and never using alone. The Downtown Eastside was prioritized for vaccinations early this year, because of residents’ difficulty in isolating, and the high level of underlying health and risk conditions. Measures to tackle the opioid crisis, however, still seem out of reach. The BC NDP has announced its

intent to decriminalized personal possession of opioids. They’re hoping this will reduce stigma and isolation, factors which increase the risk of using and dying alone. Government also plans to further expand overdose prevention services and access to treatment and recovery. Drug user advocacy groups say this isn’t enough, and have called for a legal, regulated “safe supply” of opioids to address the immediate danger presented by toxic illicit drugs. As frontline workers, Halina and Kim are clear that more services, resources and urgent action is needed. “A day on hold, in the Downtown Eastside, is like a lifetime,” Kim says.

YOUR UNION Remembering Brother Todd McAdam HEU is grieving the unexpected loss of our Vancouver Island Regional Director Todd McAdam on April 7. Brother Todd was a cook and a union activist at the Columbus Residence in South Vancouver, and was recruited as an HEU servicing representative in 1999. As an advocate for members, Todd was compassionate and effective. He took the time to build relationships with members, employers and arbitrators. A big-hearted man with a boom-

ing voice and easy manner, Todd helped mentor a generation of shop stewards and union reps, and he took much pride in their successes. He worked for 10 years with members in the Fraser Health Authority region, servicing almost every local. He was promoted to Vancouver Island Regional Director in 2017. Todd loved to fish, and hosted many salmon BBQs for co-workers. He took a genuine interest in everyone he met. We extend our condolences and solidarity to Todd’s family, co-workers, friends, and to all HEU

Welome new members

HEU staff rep, advocate and activist Todd McAdam passed away in April. members who are grieving the loss of this humble, generous and committed union brother.

Health care workers continue to make HEU their union of choice as our organizers find ways to safely mobilize non-unionized employees during the pandemic. We welcome 89 members working for SimpeQ Care Inc. at Glenwood Seniors Community, an assisted living and long-term care facility in Agassiz. And we extend warm greetings to 105 new members at Fraserview Intermediate Care Lodge, a longterm care site in Richmond. They are employed by Pro Vita (79 members) and WestCana (26 members).

Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 3


COVID claims need clear evidence AS OF MARCH 26, WorkSafeBC reported 4,391 COVID-19 related illness claims, of which 70 per cent were filed by workers in health care and social services. About 63 per cent of claims have been approved. WorkSafeBC accepts claims when there’s sufficient evidence that the worker has COVID-19, and the workplace risk was significantly higher than the ordinary exposure risk. Eighty-two per cent of those claimants return to work within two to four weeks. However, there are currently 30 workers, who have been on wage loss for more than 90 days, likely because they’re developing secondary conditions or experiencing severe cases of COVID-19. COVID-19 related claims are typically denied when there’s insufficient evidence to prove the worker has COVID-19 (based on tests or symptom cluster), and/or the worker went off work strictly as preventative. Most denied claims are “exposure only” – meaning the worker was potentially exposed, tested, and/or required to self-isolate, but did not actually develop the illness, as confirmed by a negative test result, or absence of symptoms. WorkSafeBC also recognizes the mental health impact of COVID-19. To date, there have been 298 claims filed for COVID-19 related mental disorders, of which only 81 claims (42 per cent) have been accepted. On average, 60 per cent of workers, who have accepted claims for COVID-19 related mental disorder, return to work after 40 days. Workers can file a WorkSafeBC claim, if they’re taking time off work due to COVID-19. Employers cannot legally discourage workers from filing a claim. HEU members, who need help appealing a WorkSafeBC decision on a COVID-19 related illness or mental disorder claim, can contact the union’s WCB/LTD appeals department for more information: 604-438-5000 or 1-800-663-5813.


Applying for COVID leave Leave can’t be denied if you are eligible UNDER the Employment Standards Act, you are eligible to take a COVID-19 related leave if you: • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 • are required to quarantine or self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19 • have been directed by your employer not to work because your employer is concerned about your exposure to others • are providing care to your child because of school or day care closure • or are outside of the province and cannot return to B.C. because of travel or border restrictions. You can take COVID-19 related leave for as long as you need it, and your employer must grant your leave request. Your employer can ask you to provide reasonably sufficient proof that you’re eligible to take the leave. For example, if your child’s day care is closed due to COVID-19, you should submit the notice of day care closure to your employer. However, if you need to take a leave because you have COVID-19, your employ-

er cannot ask you to provide a doctor’s note – although you may still need to provide reasonable proof as soon as you are able. Your job is protected while you are on a COVID-19 related leave. Your employer cannot terminate your employment or change the conditions of your employment. They must also continue to make payments to your pension, medical and other benefits plan (note: you will have to pay for your share of the cost, if it’s normally required of you). You are entitled to any increases in wages and benefits you would have received had you not taken the leave. Your service is also deemed continuous for calculating annual vacation entitlements. As soon as your leave ends, your employer must place you back in your former position or a comparable one. If you have questions, speak to your shop steward first. Your collective agreement may provide for additional entitlements. You can also call the COVID-19 HEU Hotline at 1-800-909-4994.

YOUR UNION Pension changes to boost equity and fairness

Changes to the Municipal Pension Plan will boost benefits for most HEU members.

4 GUARDIAN | Spring Fall/Winter 2021 2018

The Municipal Pension Plan (MPP), covering 36,500 HEU members, is adopting new rules as of January 1, 2022. The changes will address longstanding unfairness in the plan, and will significantly boost retirement benefits for most HEU members. Any pension benefits earned before the date of the change will remain intact. After January 1, 2022, members will receive an improved lifetime pension on service under the

new rules. A lifetime pension is the guaranteed amount received throughout retirement. To help members understand how the changes affect their own pension, the MPP website <mpp. pensionsbc.ca> has updated its pension estimator, which can be found under My Account. The estimator includes time and pension amounts earned under the old rules (up to January 1, 2022), and will calculate amounts to be earned under the new rules. HEU encourages members to learn about the changes and how they impact their retirement plans. The union will be hosting webi-

nars in May and June to give members an overview of the changes. Visit <heu.org> to register. As the first major MPP redesign in 50 years, these changes are the result of years of negotiations and an extensive member consultation process. During the consultation period, HEU’s pension team engaged with more than 27,000 members by email, social media, Zoom and phone. Members with questions about the changes can send an email to <plandesign@heu.org> or leave a message at 1-877-476-7184, and one of our pension experts will get back to you.


Pushing to reunite health care team Union campaign aims to bring more than 4,500 privatized members back in-house

IN 2002, Bill 29 was passed by the former B.C. Liberal government. That law resulted in the firing of thousands of hospital and extended care home dietary and cleaning staff, a highly racialized group of workers who were more than 85 per cent female. Those workers were offered their jobs back by multinational corporations at half the wages and with substandard benefits. They’ve been trying to catch up ever since. But these housekeeping and dietary workers still earn less today than during the SARS epidemic of 2003 – the direct result of privatization policies. The provincial NDP government repealed Bill 29 in November 2018. It was seen as a signal to the most marginalized workers in the health care system that they would finally see justice. Since then, HEU and health employers have established a framework for the transition of privatized housekeepers and dietary workers back to the public sector. And in last year’s provincial election, the BC NDP committed to bringing contracted hospital housekeeping and dietary workers back under B.C.’s public health authorities’ control.

Sunshine Coast, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island are up for renewal. And all of the collective agreements have expired. HEU’s Make It Public campaign calls on our provincial government to act on their commitment to reunite the health care team. The campaign includes member-to-member calling; endorsements from district labour councils; lobbying; emails; posters; bus, radio, web and social media ads, and multiple media stories, including op-eds. These efforts have generated more than 6,000 letters sent to pro-

vincial politicians calling for the reunification of the health care team, and an end to the involvement of multinationals in hospital cleaning and food services.

There is hope

Late last year, 150 cleaning staff at two North Island hospitals transitioned employers from Compass (a private contractor) to the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA). Marlene DuManoir, a housekeeping supervisor at one of the hospitals, shares what it was like to rejoin the health care team. “It is exciting to be paid what we are worth after years of being underpaid and taken for granted,” says DuManoir. “Morale has

improved. My co-workers and I are smiling and finally feeling like we are appreciated.” DuManoir says working directly for VIHA – who employs the other HEU members at the hospital – makes a big difference. “Now we’re on the same team, we have the same collective agreement, and we’re getting the support we need,” she says. “I tell my co-workers this is the way it’s supposed to be. Going to work shouldn’t feel like a punishment.” Show your support by sending a letter at MakeItPublic.ca and sharing the campaign with your friends and family. SARA ROZELL

FACES OF CHANGE | HEU members from our contracted support services workers sector were featured in the union’s Make It Public campaign that got the message out on social media, radio ads and bus shelters.

It’s time to act

Currently, the multiple contracts covering more than 4,500 hospital housekeeping and dietary staff across the Lower Mainland,

Important diversity, equity and inclusion work continues




HEU’s groundbreaking DEI initiative aims to improve representation on the union’s Provincial Executive.

In March 2020, HEU was about to embark on a monumental initiative – consulting with members province-wide about representation of equity-seeking groups on our union’s Provincial Executive. This formed part of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Project, an initiative mandated by HEU members at the 2018 convention. After three successful sessions on Vancouver Island, the DEI consultation meetings had to be sus-

pended to comply with Provincial Health Orders around large gatherings during the pandemic. In late 2020, the DEI working group, comprised of HEU members, re-committed to the importance of continuing this work, especially in the aftermath of antiAsian backlash, the global reckoning around violence against Black and Indigenous lives, and the surfacing of anti-Indigenous racism in B.C.’s health care system. Consultations resumed online this spring and included a survey for all members, and equity caucus meetings designed to create spaces for members

of each equity-seeking group (Indigenous, women, people of colour, LGBTQ2S+, people with disabilities, and young workers) to share common experiences and concerns. Hundreds of members have participated in the virtual consultation meetings and taken part in the survey. The working group gathered feedback from these extensive consultations, which will inform our union’s next steps. HEU members can learn more about the DEI project, and watch videos featuring DEI working group members, at: <www.heu.org/DEI>.

Fall/Winter Spring 2018 2021 | GUARDIAN 5


SOME OF THE MOST important work of our union is getting information into members’ hands. Cathy, Donna and John, the mailroom staff at HEU’s Provincial Office, are at the centre of it. Although many HEU employees have been working remotely, our mailroom staff have been in the office every day. Mailing documents to locals and members, distributing bargaining information and sending materials to staff working remotely are just a few of their essential tasks.

Elaine Littmann PHOTO


Betty Valenzuela | Financial Secretary


If workers want something from their employer, we are strong when we go to the employer together. That’s the value of a union.

THE WORLD IS a rainbow made up of different colours. It’s like a bouquet of flowers. The litmus test of a person is how well we treat all people. It’s in my heart and soul to treat everybody equally. In my job at the union, it’s not about Betty. It’s about service. I think serving people is a noble cause. As my parents always said to me, ‘If you have extra blessings or a little more than others, you share.’ That principle carries into trade unionism. Activists serve our membership, and it’s very rewarding work. Unions are the voice of workers

If workers want something from their employer, we are strong when we go to the employer together. That’s the value of a union. This is how we’ve achieved job security, better wages, safer working conditions, hours of work, freedom to speak without fear, our medical system, human and environmental rights. My journey to becoming HEU’s financial secretary in 2018 was a long one. I’ve been a union activist since 1994. At the time, most shop stewards were white men and I didn’t think I fit in, but they actually encouraged me. During my years at Vancouver General Hospital, I served as a shop steward, trustee, assistant secretary-treasurer, and finally secretarytreasurer for 11 years. As the local secretary-treasurer, I was also very busy as a shop steward handling grievances, including attendance management, contract violations, bullying by supervisors, unfair treatment, overtime, job classifications and union leaves. Working with representatives from the Provincial Office, who had far better experience than I had at the local office, helped me progress and improve as a shop steward. We attended hearings and labourmanagement together and that enriched what I already knew.

A single voice can grow to change the world

If you want change, go to the union, not politicians. The strength of the union is our ability to lobby and convince politicians that this is the right thing to do. When other unions join us, that’s our capacity to work together in solidarity for change. On the global justice committee, our motto is ‘you think globally, but you act locally’ because you mobilize locally, then it becomes communities, then it becomes provincial, and it keeps growing. I’m only one person, but my voice can make a difference.

6 GUARDIAN | Spring 2021

Barb Nederpel | President

PRESIDENT’S DESK It’s a huge learning curve as we stretch our comfort zones. But rebuilding our locals is a fundamental cornerstone of our democratic union.

I DON’T KNOW about you, but as we

enter into the second year of the pandemic, I really miss human contact. I miss gathering in groups. I miss having in-person meetings. As trade unionists and activists, we are used to attending big rallies and protests, conferences and conventions. It’s part of who we are and what we do. And it’s part of the democracy of our union. But as we all do our part to help bend the curve and get back to some sense of “normal” in our lives, the sacrifices we are making, and have been making, will be worth it. As president of B.C.’s largest health care union, I’m incredibly proud of the work you’ve all been doing to keep British Columbians safe, provide quality care, and ensure our health care system is accessible to those in need of services – especially during this global health crisis.

Looking back on an unbelievable year

The 7 p.m. pot-banging and cheers may have subsided, but that doesn’t mean our frontline health care workers are forgotten or not appreciated. Like most of the world, I spend a lot of hours each day on Zoom, attending virtual meetings and hosting online workshops. And I’m constantly moved by stories from our members about what this past year has meant to you – as health care workers, as human beings. We all have personal lives outside of our jobs. And this past year has been an incredible time of reflection, re-evaluating our priorities, determining what’s important, and adapting to how we live our lives during this pandemic.

A chance to invest in new tools for locals

Our HEU locals have really stepped up to the challenge of moving most union work online. It hasn’t been easy. For those unfamiliar with technology, it’s a huge learning curve as we stretch our comfort zones. But rebuilding our locals is a fundamental cornerstone of our democratic union. Investing in new ways for member engagement is an opportunity for the modernization of our locals, even post-pandemic. At press time, we’re trying to determine if an in-person, HEU convention is possible this fall. Wouldn’t that be a cause for great celebrations? In the meantime, please continue to stay safe, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you do each and every shift.


HEU shop stewards find creative ways to resolve conflict and support members in the workplace

Shop stewards form the first line of protection for union members. They are problem-solvers, peacemakers, warriors, advocates and educators. Some stepped into the role to fix a problem. Others want to learn about their collective agreement. Some are “naturals,” the ones you always go to for help. And many recall a moment when they saw an incident in their workplace and said to themselves, “That’s not fair!” That was the spark that inspired. We spoke to three of our hundreds of HEU stewards about what inspired them to seize the challenge, and what keeps them carrying on.

Kim Manhas and other stewards can raise safety concerns with management, and rally their teams through long and gruelling shifts.

more.. Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 7

Becoming a steward has helped Kim Manhas grow as a leader and a mentor.

FOR CARE AIDE KIM MANHAS becoming a shop steward was a way to fight back against a bully.



8 GUARDIAN | Spring 2021

Kim, who has worked at Capilano LongTerm Care for 32 years, became a shop steward about five years ago. She’s one of hundreds of HEU shop stewards who dedicate hours of their lives to making a difference in their workplaces. “We had a particular manager who was a bully, and when I witnessed some of the things that she was doing… the only way to sort of get her back was to become a shop steward and try to fight back,” she says. The manager picked on one of Kim’s colleagues so intensely that the worker almost lost the will to live, and she later felt complicit for having not intervened in the bullying. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, if we just stand by, then we may as well just have a hand in what she [the manager] is doing.’” Amid the turmoil, Kim and several others stepped up as shop stewards. Through HEU’s steward trainings, they learned how to better assert their rights, and the manager was eventually fired. “We learned what she can and cannot do to us, and where to draw the line,” recalls Kim. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit workers in care homes and hospitals particularly hard, has highlighted the need for shop stewards. Kim and other stewards, who work on the front lines, can raise safety concerns with management, and also rally their teams through long and gruelling shifts. During a COVID-19 outbreak, when a significant number of staff at Kim’s work site tested positive for the coronavirus, Kim helped implement 12-hour shifts, which helped ease the shortage. “We had run out of staff,” she said, and

those still able to work were suffering without proper back-up. “I was able to get everybody to sign up for it and we were able to reach an agreement with the employer very quickly. Being a shop steward, I was able to do that.” she said. Although being a shop steward involves a lot of giving, stewards say the work fuels them and helps them grow both personally and professionally. For Kim, it’s helped her grow as a leader and mentor. “Everybody knows they can come to you. Even in little things, even things not to do with the union, it’s nice to be able to help. Being in the union made me take on that leadership role, otherwise I wouldn’t have. I was just the type to mind my business and do my own thing,” she says.

SHOP STEWARD ANGELA SHARF also knows the importance of taking a stand for others. A sterile supply worker in Prince George, there was a time when she didn’t know her workplace rights. Several years ago before she became a steward, an ongoing disagreement about job duties between herself and a colleague left her feeling deflated. “I didn’t really know what I was entitled to do,” she says. So, she turned to her shop steward who helped her find a path forward. “It became important to me to help other people know their rights,” she says. “I really enjoy helping people, and that is the bottom line. The situation that I experienced, nobody should have to feel that way.” Now, four years into her time as a steward, Angela does everything from showing her


Angela Sharf says the skills she learns as a steward pay off in her personal life too.


co-workers how to keep records of potential instances of workplace bullying, to sitting beside them in disciplinary meetings and helping resolve conflicts. “I’m one person removed from the situation. I don’t carry the same heat that management does or that the member does. I’m kind of able to come in and interject a calmer way, or I’m able to see it with a different lens,” she says. The position comes with challenges too,

If something is bothering her, she speaks up, says Dorothy Doe, making her a good fit for shop steward.

Angela says. Accepting the limits to which she can help her co-workers hasn’t been easy, and it’s difficult when a member is in the wrong and refuses to take any responsibility. “I want to help a member as much as I can, so it pains me to see when they’re not recognizing that portion ... there’s sometimes only so much you can do.” On the flipside, when Angela is able to help someone solve a workplace problem,

or simply walk beside them, she feels their gratitude. “When you help somebody through something, the gratitude shows on their face,” she says. “The thing I hear the most is ‘Thanks for being there,’… sometimes it’s just about being there for support.” The shop steward training has also had an impact on her personal life. Conflict resolution workshops have helped in parenting, and her husband has noticed when Angela starts modelling new communication skills within their family.


and food service worker at UBC Hospital, says she became a steward because her colleagues recognized how outspoken she was, and since she was part of the initial union drive, the role was a natural fit. “From the beginning, nobody wanted to step up, and I’m a person who likes to speak up. If something is bothering me, I speak up,” she said. The pandemic, she says, has required that she speak up. “People are coming to you all the time [with questions about COVID-19 protocols], and you don’t have the answers,” she said. As a trusted intermediary, she’s been able to help her colleagues get much-needed information on COVID-19 safety protocols from management. Like Angela, Dorothy says her shop steward training has had a positive impact on her relationships with her kids. “I have the confidence and I know, when I say something, these kids are going to listen to me,” she says. Dorothy says she has no regrets about becoming a steward, and really enjoys HEU’s in-person conventions. “You get to participate, you learn so much… It makes you a better person, you know how to talk to others, respect others,” she says.

Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 9


News from here and around the world


Labour federation calls for hotel boycott THE B.C. Federation of Labour is calling for a boycott of two Lower Mainland hotels in the wake of widespread layoffs, firings and wage and benefit rollbacks across the sector. The union representing the workers calls it an attempt at union busting, saying hotels “want to roll back economics, take away benefits, and turn these into non-living wage jobs.” The hotel and hospitality sectors have taken a huge hit from COVID-19 travel restrictions. In B.C., it’s been devastating for women workers, especially racialized women, who have been fired or laid off from their jobs. UNITE HERE Local 40 estimates 50,000 workers – mostly women and people of colour – have been impacted. But when restrictions eased and the hospitality industry began to reopen, many of those workers were not recalled.

“The Hilton is one hotel that doesn’t want a union in there. Their goal is to gut the contract and take workers back to minimum wage.” That’s why the union launched its Unequal Women Campaign. “We want to focus on the

impact the hotel firings are having on women because women make up the majority of workers in the hotel industry, particularly immigrant women and visible minorities,” says research director Michelle Travis of UNITE HERE Local 40. “We’re focusing on the hotels where we represent workers whose employers are refusing to extend recall protections, and are still actively firing workers. “I would say 70 per cent of workers are yet to be recalled to their jobs. It’s huge. Most workers are concentrated in big urban markets, like Victoria and Vancouver. That’s where people are still unemployed in the hotel sector.” Some hotels include the Hilton Metrotown, Pacific Gateway, Coast hotels, Pan Pacific, the Downtown Vancouver’s Days Inn and Holiday Inn, Blue Horizon, and Harrison Hot Springs Hotel. Travis calls this attack on workers an attempt at union busting. “The Hilton is one hotel that doesn’t want a union in there. So, their goal – whether they want to bust the union – is definitely to gut the contract and take workers back to minimum wage. They want to cut medical benefits during a pandemic, and get rid of the pension.”

Photo courtesy Unite Here Local 40

Racialized women and immigrants hit hardest by firings, union says

SPEAKING UP FOR UNEQUAL WOMEN | Pardeep Thandi worked for 27 years at a Richmond hotel, until she was laid off last spring. She spoke at a union rally in March 2021, urging labour allies to support her union’s campaign to protect hotel workers’ jobs.

Travis says the union is negotiating with the same lawyer and employer representative – Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR) – bargaining on behalf of about three dozen hotels across the province. She is seeing the same concessions demanded across the board. Unionized hotels like the Hilton have been popular event venues with the labour movement, including HEU. Joining the call for a boycott earlier this year, HEU financial secretary Betty Valenzuela told hotel representatives: “I want to be very clear that we will not patronize this hotel

in the face of unjust treatment of these workers. We urge you to reach an agreement with Local 40 that provides respect, dignity and employment for hotel workers who have been so important to building your business.” Local 40 is ramping up its campaign with car caravans, demonstrations, and a strike at Richmond Pacific Gateway, currently being used as a quarantine hotel. For more information about the union’s campaign, visit unequalwomen.org. BRENDA WHITEHALL


Double burden for women during crisis WOMEN have been both frontlined and sidelined by the pandemic – in their roles as primary caregivers in their families and communities, and as care workers in the public and private sectors. The pandemic has revealed the ways Canada’s economy and care work are fundamentally connected. Investments in women’s employment – and especially in caring services – have largely been an afterthought, exposing the systematic undervaluing of women’s paid and unpaid work. Policy decisions assume that women are available to step in to pick up the slack, to take up an even larger share of responsibilities themselves, or to purchase needed supports such as child care and food preparation from other, more economically precarious, women. Provincial and federal programs continue to 10 GUARDIAN | Spring Fall/Winter 2021 2018

Policy decisions assume women are available to pick up the slack.

respond poorly to the barriers that women face. And for women confronting intersecting forms of discrimination, they miss the mark altogether. Significant investments in quality public services will not only lift women workers, but have a cascading positive impact across the economy, environment and communities. An inclusive economy also stands on a foundation of strong employment standards and protections, and effective income security programs to reduce wage disparities. The goal is to ensure that wealth, work and care responsibilities are more fairly distributed, and that everyone can engage in the economy on equitable and just terms, in ways that generate shared prosperity and well-being for all. KATHERINE SCOTT is author of Women, work and COVID-19: Priorities for supporting women and the economy


WHILE India battles soaring COVID-19 infections, on the outskirts of New Delhi thousands of farmers still occupy camps where they are keeping up a protest against government legislation. India’s hard right-wing government, led by Narendra Modi, passed new farming laws in September 2020 that would deregulate the country’s farming industry. Over the past six months, hundreds of thousands of farmers across India have stood up to their government in protest. They say these laws, which remove long-standing price and market protections, will allow global corporations to drive down prices, will devastate their livelihoods, and will cripple Punjab and Haryana’s local agricultural industry. Farming is the primary livelihood for about 58 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion residents, and farmers are the biggest voter bloc in the country, making farming a major political issue. In November 2020, a nationwide general strike took place to support the farmers’ unions, and more than 200,000 demonstrators marched on the capital region of Delhi. Tens of thousands continue to protest by living in tents at sprawling camps pitched on highways outside the capital. With negotiations between the government and the farmers’ unions at a standstill, there is no end in sight for the protests.

Jesse Sunner PHOTOS

Canadian labour supports farmers’ protests

STANDING IN SOLIDARITY | Thousands turned out for car rallies in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland to support India’s farmers’ unions.

MAKING CONNECTIONS | HEU staff lawyer Jesse Sunner says she wants to bring global attention to this human rights issue.

In December and January, thousands from the Lower Mainland took part in two car rallies, trav-

elling from Surrey to the Indian consulate in downtown Vancouver. Jesse Sunner, an HEU staff lawyer and part of the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora, came to show her support. “I want to help bring global attention to this human rights issue,” said Sunner. “These farmers are being exploited and taken advantage of, and we want to show that we support them and the farmers’ union in India.” The B.C. Federation of Labour says the worker protests “have grown to be the largest in history, with hundreds of millions of people participating. This is an unprecedented exertion of work-

er power and solidarity. The B.C. Federation of Labour has connections to workers across the globe. And we are all connected in our desire for respect and dignity for workers. “These protests have been met with unacceptable violence and use of force by police. We support the right to peacefully protest and condemn the use of force to silence workers’ voices.” The Hospital Employees’ Union stands in solidarity with farmers and urges the Indian government to protect its agricultural sector from corporate occupation. CAELIE FRAMPTON

NEWSBITES Health care workers face rise in violence

Staffing levels, training and social supports all factors in violence in health care settings,

A March 15 shooting at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria has renewed concerns about violence in health care. A man – wielding a weapon in the hospital’s emergency department – was arrested after being Tasered and shot by police. His injuries are non-life threatening. The suspect had previously been evaluated for substance use and mental health issues, and had pleaded guilty to assaulting a nurse, causing bodily harm.

HEU represents security guards at Royal Jubilee, who spoke about the steady rise in violent incidents and weaponry, since the pandemic and the growing opioid and housing crises. “Our members are calling for more training and better staffing to handle the critical issue of workplace violence in health care,” says Mike Old, HEU’s interim secretary-business manager. “We also need more supports and services to address homelessness, mental health and addictions, which is at the root of this increased violence.”

Pharmacare bill fails The Trudeau Liberals voted down a recent bill that endorsed a national pharmacare plan – even though the government’s own advisory council recommended supporting the program. In 2018, the Liberals formed an independent council to explore a universal pharmacare system. Input from more than 32,000 individuals and organizations showed a majority of Canadians in favour. In a report released June 2019, the council recommended that “the federal government work in Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 11

ANNETTE ALEXANDER has been a care aide for more than 20 years in Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. She was born in a lighthouse off Vancouver Island and comes from Driftpile Cree Nation near Lesser Slave Lake in Northern Alberta. She is chair and chief shop steward at the HEU Fort St. John local.


Connections critical for Indigenous communities

RAECHELLE WILSON has cared for her community in the Gitxsan Territories of northwestern B.C. for 15 years. About halfway between Smithers and Terrace, north of the highway that winds to the coast, lie the villages of Sik-E-Dakh (Glen Vowell) and Anspayawx (Kispiox), where Raechelle works. As a home and community care licensed practical nurse, much of her time is devoted to home care. On a typical pre-pandemic shift, she’d drive from village to village, see clients at the two health stations, visit schools, and plan community events. As a Gitanmaax band member, community leader and nurse, Raechelle is passionate about the importance of health care in her community. “Since COVID, I’ve had to change my role. I’ve done a lot of teaching. And I’ve done a lot of stepping up to make sure the community is protected.” Raechelle and her team work with band administrators to monitor case numbers, ensure a safety plan is in place, and determine who needs extra support. “We’re trying to ensure people are getting contact tracing, that they’re self-quarantining, and if they need groceries, who is going to get those groceries, navigating through all the needs.” In these tight-knit Indigenous communities, lockdowns and quarantine make it hard to care for each

other in traditional ways, Raechelle explains. “Our connections are very strong. We take care of people who have disabilities, the elderly, and young children. That’s embedded in our culture. But now, it’s hard to check on people who live alone. “It’s so hard not to rush in, as a nurse or a family member, to help someone. But you have to protect them, and yourself.” Raechelle’s community received vaccine supplies at the end of March, and almost 1,000 people were vaccinated over three days. “Everybody pitched in. Nurses from First Nations Health Authority came to help, and doctors from Northern Health. Our care aides helped Elders get to and from the centres, clerical staff made appointments, and the LPNs kept the flow going.” It’s a huge relief, she says, “but we still need to be very vigilant.” Although most community members got the vaccine, she says, some are afraid. “It’s so important to keep having that discussion, keep telling them it’s here if they change their mind.” Raechelle manages her own stress by trying to stay healthy and grounded. “I’m a dancer and a singer in a traditional drum group. Even if I’m sitting by myself, I’ll take out my drum. But I don’t think I would be able to get through this without meditation and prayer. “So many people are grieving;

COMMUNITY CARE | LPN Raechelle Wilson lives and works in the Gitxsan Territories in northwestern B.C.

GETTING IT DONE | The vaccination team at Gitxsan Health included (back row) HEU members LPN Sheri Weget and care aides Jodene Jones and Annalee Fowler, along with (front row) RNs Ashley Marshall and Jessie Marshall, and HEU LPN Raechelle Wilson.

it’s such a deep level of grief. And there’s such a deep level of trying to fathom what we’re dealing with.” One light that has emerged, she says, is that her community hasn’t lost its sense of caring. Even though people can’t visit or hug, they bridge the distance in other ways.

“Before, people wouldn’t say, ‘I love you.’ They’d say, ‘Thank you.’ But now, it’s ‘Thank you, I love you, be safe.’ And it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s a normal thing to say that now.’”

assessing awards for permanent workplace injuries. Loss of Function “estimates a worker’s impairment of earning capacity based on the nature and degree of the injury,” while Loss of Earnings (LOE) “compares the worker’s pre-injury average earnings with either the worker’s actual post-injury earnings or the worker’s potential post-injury earnings.” Previously, the LOE method was only applied in exceptional circumstances. Now, WorkSafeBC will calculate the award based on which method grants the highest compensation.

Decisions on the end dates for permanent disability payments can now be deferred until the worker’s 63rd birthday, taking into consideration the worker’s post-injury retirement plans, and increasing the likelihood of benefits being extended beyond 65. Another policy change is that WorkSafeBC can no longer deny claims for injuries caused by overexertion performing “accustomed work.” More than 40 per cent of HEU members’ claims are overexertion injuries, and many were disallowed because the injury occurred doing “accustomed work.”


NEWSBITES partnership with provincial and territorial governments to establish a universal, single-payer public system of prescription drug coverage in Canada to ensure everyone has access to the drugs they need to maintain their physical and mental health.” The federal NDP supported the report’s findings and introduced Bill C-213 – the Canada Pharmacare Act. But in February, the bill was defeated in parliament. Canada is the only country that provides universal health care but not universal pharmacare.

WorkSafeBC changes HEU welcomes improvements to the Workers Compensation Act that will make a significant difference for injured HEU members. The union facilitated these amendments through years of advocacy, recommendations, and presentations at public hearings. Highlights include: increasing the annual wage earning cap to $100,000, so that higher-income earners receive benefits closer to their pre-injury earnings; extending compensation benefits beyond age 65; and improvements to

Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 13


Spot the difference! How many differences can you find in all three of these pictures? Send us your answer and we’ll send you back some HEU swag.

Tabor Home is a long-term care facility in Abbotsford. This site had two outbreaks during the pandemic. More than 150 people contracted COVID-19, including more than 60 workers.

Care aide Allison Yeomans is chief shop steward, OHS steward and secretary-treasurer at her local. “As much as we went through at Tabor Home, we have phenomenal staff. I’m just so happy to work here.”

HEU MEMBERS: Send us your answer! We’ll mail you a prize! Go to heu.org/coffeebreak and submit your answer online by August 1, 2021. 14 GUARDIAN | Spring Fall/Winter 2021 2018

Josh Berson PHOTOS

Maria Dreyfus is a care aide. In February, she spoke as a witness in front of a House of Commons federal standing committee hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of women. “It’s difficult to describe how very scary it has been for all of us in long-term care during the pandemic… We needed better communication about the virus, about the PPE required to protect us to the fullest. We should all apply for workers’ compensation benefits, and not worry about having enough paid sick leave available to us.”

Erlinda Mendoza Franz is a food service worker. She says, “I love the residents! That’s why I’ve been here for 21 years.”

HEU PEOPLE RETIREMENTS In January, laundry worker Sharon Bernier retired from Lillooet Hospital and Mountain View Lodge, where she had previously worked in dietary and housekeeping. A 32-year HEU veteran, Sharon was active in her local as a warden and trustee. She was also on the Good and Welfare Committee and the Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Outside of work, Sharon volunteered at Mountain View Lodge and the Guiding Church. Sharon says, “I am very grateful for my job these many years, and would like to thank my co-workers and friends. I loved working alongside all the people in a small-town hospital. I will miss you all.” In retirement, Sharon plans to “get rid of the clutter.” Once COVID-19 restrictions are eased, her priorities will be camping and spending time with grandkids. Recently retired, Denise Grantham worked as a lab assistant at Ashcroft & District General Hospital. Denise was an active union supporter and attended all the local meetings. “She went above and beyond for her site during COVID,” a co-worker says. “She will be dearly missed.” “I enjoyed helping people and learning new and interesting medical knowledge,” says Denise. “I will miss my clients and co-workers, who I laughed and cried with on a daily basis.” In retirement, Denise plans to keep busy, spending more time with her grandchildren, expanding her painting skills, and playing some of the musical instruments that have fallen by the wayside. Denise also plans to start a YouTube channel focused on art tutorials, and an online store for her artwork. Retired last September, Lola Moore started her career at Queen’s Park Hospital 40 years ago as a nurse’s aide. Active in the union, Lola was the local chair and vicechair for many years, while working at the SSF Warehouse. She also attended HEU conventions. In more recent years, Lola was a supervisor for “in-hospital replenishment” and worked in shipping and receiving at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. “I felt useful and needed,” says Lola. “I will miss helping and making sure the supplies were there when patients needed them.” Retirement plans include moving to the Okanagan, and once travel is allowed, becoming a “snowbird” and spending winters in a warmer climate. Last August, Gail Peake retired from Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). She spent the last 20 years as an activity worker at various facilities. Gail was very active in her

50,000 members in 296 locals

local, always attending meetings with a smile on her face. A true union sister, she was an advocate and ally. A proud supporter of Vancouver Pride, Gail has attended many LGBTQ2S+ events and has marched with HEU. Her dedication to older adult patients, and her support for mental health awareness earned her the VCH Award of Excellence – Exceptional Care. The VGH local would like to commend Gail for her activism and support. Retirement plans include enjoying her free time, gardening, cruises and island hopping, and attending Pride events. Gail would like to “embrace more of life”, hoping to travel to Bermuda when the pandemic is over. After 32 years, Robert Webber retired in January from Royal Columbian Hospital. In 1988, he started in nutrition, and then held many other jobs, including housekeeping, stores, and laundry. Robert retired as a porter, which he says was his favourite position. He was also an HEU shop steward at his local. “I have made a lot of friends over the years, and will miss them,” says Robert. “I loved working with the patients. It could be very emotional, but it felt good when I could help lighten their day.” During retirement, Robert plans to focus on his health, ride his bike, and find more time for exercise. He also wants to spend more time with his grandsons and family, and do some volunteering in his community, including at the Gay and Lesbian Crisis Centre.


Long-time HEU activist Casey O’Hern passed away in late February. He worked in the stores department at various locations for Vancouver Coastal and later Fraser Health. In his early years, Casey worked at St. Mary’s Hospital. He was the local chairperson and took part in the coalition to stop the facility’s closure. A strong union advocate, Casey was always ready to help and mentored many shop stewards. He also served on the HEU Provincial Executive. Casey loved motorcycles, especially his Harley Davidson. He liked music, played the guitar, and raised koi. Leaving behind eight grandchildren, Casey will be missed by his family, friends and co-workers.

Equity matters

Did you know that HEU has five equity standing committees? Working with HEU’s equity officers, they provide outreach and advocacy to HEU members, and work in solidarity with other social justice groups. To learn more, call 1.800.663.5813 to speak with Equity Officers Sharryn Modder and Jennifer Efting. Ethnic Diversity • Indigenous Peoples Pink Triangle • People with Disabilities • Women


“In humble dedication to all those who toil to live.” EDITOR Caelie Frampton MANAGING EDITOR Elaine Littmann ASSOCIATE EDITOR Brenda Whitehall GRAPHIC DESIGNER Elaine Happer PRINTING Mitchell Press The Guardian is published on behalf of HEU’s Provincial Exec­utive, under the direction of the editorial committee: Barb Nederpel, Mike Old, Betty Valenzuela, Ken Robinson, Bill McMullan, Talitha Dekker

LOUELLA VINCENT Regional Vice-President Vancouver Coastal KAREN MCVEIGH Regional Vice-President Vancouver Coastal LISA CREMA Regional Vice-President North TERRESSA JAMERSON Regional Vice-President North CATHY BLACK Regional Vice-President Vancouver Island CHARLOTTE MILLINGTON Regional Vice-President Vancouver Island

HEU is a member of the Canadian Association of Labour Media

BARBARA RIGGS First Alternate Provincial Executive




PROVINCIAL OFFICE 5000 North Fraser Way Burnaby V5J 5M3 604-438-5000 1-800-663-5813 EMAIL heu@heu.org WEB www.heu.org

MIKE OLD Secretary-Business Manager (Interim) BETTY VALENZUELA Financial Secretary KEN ROBINSON 1st Vice-President BILL MCMULLAN 2nd Vice-President CHRIS BATTING 3rd Vice-President TALITHA DEKKER Senior Trustee KEN BENNETT Trustee STEPHEN ARISS Trustee JOANNE WALKER Regional Vice-President Fraser DAVID JOHNS Regional Vice-President Fraser SCOTT McKAY Regional Vice-President Fraser RHONDA BRUCE Regional Vice-President Interior

MOVED? Please notify us of your change of address online: heu.org/change-contact-information

EDNA RIVERA Regional Vice-President Vancouver Coastal

SHELLEY BRIDGE Regional Vice-President Interior MONICA THIESSEN Regional Vice-President Interior


Vancouver Island VICTORIA 201-780 Tolmie Avenue Victoria V8X 3W4 250-480-0533 1-800-742-8001 COMOX 6-204 North Island Highway Courtenay, V9N 3P1 250-331-0368 1-800-624-9940

Interior region KELOWNA 100-160 Dougall Rd. S. Kelowna V1X 3J4 250-765-8838 1-800-219-9699 NELSON 745 Baker St. Nelson V1L 4J5 250-354-4466 1-800-437-9877 NORTHERN 1197 Third Ave. Prince George V2L 3E4 250-564-2102 1-800-663-6539

Spring 2021 | GUARDIAN 15


SPRING 2021 • VOL. 39 • NO. 1

STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT HEU shop stewards share the challenges and satisfactions of their vital role in the union


RETURN TO The Guardian 5000 North Fraser Way Burnaby, B.C. V5J 5M3 Josh Berson PHOTO


Profile for Hospital Employees' Union

HEU Guardian: Spring 2021  

HEU Guardian: Spring 2021  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded