It’s now been two weeks since the province declared a public health emergency. In that time, nurses and other health-care workers have mobilized like no other time in recent history.
I want to thank all of our members for the sacrifices you are making as we prepare to face the COVID-19 pandemic head on. Watching you rise to the challenge, I have never been prouder to be a nurse or to have the privilege of leading this union of health-care professionals.
The provincial government and health officer have also recognized the importance of nurses’ skills and your compassion at this critical time. They are listening to your concerns and we need to thank them for that.
But I know the emotional and physical load you are bearing at this time is greater than others can ever imagine. That’s why we must ensure that decision makers continue to respond to nurses’ urgent needs, whether at work, at home or in our communities.
BCNU is doing everything it can to support our members under such challenging circumstances, and keeping you and your families safe and cared for is our number one goal. We continue to advocate daily for an adequate supply of personal protective equipment and work to ensure that health-care workers’ occupational health and safety is never jeopardized by our response to the pandemic.
It’s important to note that key Nurses’ Bargaining Association contract provisions have come into effect this month. Members covered by the provincial collective agreement will receive a two percent wage increase starting the first pay period after April 1.
A working short premium, as laid out in the collective agreement, will also now be paid to all nurses providing direct patient care. This compensation is part of the new direct patient care staffing language we negotiated to address the staffing challenges nurses face daily.
The premium is part of the patient care needs assessment process the union and health employers have been developing over the past year. But the COVID-19 crisis has put a hold on major education and change management initiatives that are part of this process. In the interim, the premium will be paid without the need to fill out any kind of form or assessment tool and this temporary measure will be assessed monthly starting in late April.
The working short premium and its April 1 implementation date were negotiated long before the COVID-19 outbreak emerged, and any additional compensation nurses receive is in no way “COVID-19 pay.” However, the current public health emergency does serve to magnify the chronic challenges facing our health-care system and the burdens that nurses and other health-care workers bear.
The premier and the health minister have acknowledged the value of nurses and have expressed their gratitude. But the ask that government has made of nurses cannot be overstated. Many of us are making huge sacrifices and stepping up in our time of collective need. So, I will say it again: you are an inspiration and you are valued. Nurses have risen to the challenge and we have done our part in pulling together to address the crisis.
Out of necessity, much of the regular business of the union has been curtailed during this outbreak. We have now implemented a 24/7 COVID-19 only servicing model and responded to thousands of member calls since we closed our Burnaby offices on March 12.
We remain ready to respond to any nurse with occupational health and safety concerns. Do not hesitate to call BCNU at 604-433-2268 (or toll free 1-800-663-9991) and press 1. This phone line is available to all nurses who require urgent assistance 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
In the meantime, I and all of your elected council and regional executives will continue working tirelessly to make sure nurses’ needs remain a top priority for decision makers. Whether it’s working to secure personal protective equipment, arrange childcare support, find alternate housing, or make sure hospital parking is free, BCNU will continue to engage with all levels of government so that nurses’ voices are heard.
I want to thank all of you again as we work together to address this unprecedented public health emergency.
Christine SorensenPresident, BC Nurses' Union
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