Dear CUPE Local 5430 member:
Important information: there was some miscommunication/lack of communication between the employer and the unions on the home care workers’ exemption in the public health order. This means that we provided incorrect information on the town hall call Tuesday night.
Here is the clarification we received from the employer yesterday: Home care staff are not exempted from being cohorted if they have a position in a long-term care environment. As such, if they are cohorted to the long-term care home, they will not work in home care. Similarly, if they are assigned to work in home care, they cannot work shifts in long-term care. The exemption for home care was to allow them to go into multiple environments throughout a home care shift as part of their regular daily service requirements. Members can’t work their jobs or shifts in long-term care if they are cohorted to home care, but they can go into facilities or personal care homes to provide service to their home care clients who happen to live in those facilities or homes.
We provided the information that we had and apologize for any confusion that was created.
Questions and Answers on Cohorting and Redeployment
1. What workers are exempted from the cohorting or single site order issued on April 17, 2020?
The order says single site provisions do not apply to dieticians, medical laboratory technologists, medical laboratory assistants, nurse practitioners, home care workers, public health nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, physicians, resident physicians, speech language pathologists, staff who provide podiatry type care, inter-facility transport staff, delivery persons, tradespeople, regular and biochemicxal waste removal people, biomedical engineers, visitors, or any other person or class of person who are exempted by the medical health officer.
One example is clinical engineering – the biomedical techs are exempted from the order.
On April 22, 2020 on our briefing call with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), we raised the concerns from the town hall call about how CLXTs, security services, and people working in integrated facilities are affected. We received no concrete answers, but these concerns will be followed up on by the SHA/MoH.
2. Who decides who is cohorted and to where?
The public health order determined who will be cohorted. Employees will not be permitted to work in both long-term care or personal care homes and other service areas, such as acute care and home care.
Where you will get cohorted to is up to the employer. You have been asked to indicate your choice, and your choice is to be respected. However, there are some restrictions on that. Namely, if you hold two part-time positions, you will likely be cohorted to where you have the most hours. If you indicate a choice, but the other facility where you hold a position would be left short-staffed, you will likely get cohorted to where the need is greater.
3. Many of you have asked about your own situation where you have a position in home care and acute or long-term care. Do I have to choose?
The answer is that you are not able to work in acute or home care and long-term care under the order – you will have to choose and will be assigned to one or the other.
You cannot work at more than one long-term care facility or personal care home (as described under the legislation – we will post a list), so you will have to give preferences, and you will be cohorted (assigned) to one.
We know that the public health order has evolved over the course of the pandemic, and amendments have been made. So, it is important to remember that this is information based on the current order.
4. If they are strapped for staffing, would they be able to call me for a shift at the facility I am not cohorted or assigned to? Can I accept it?
The public health order allows employers to get an exemption to the single site order through a medical health officer only to ensure adequate staffing. We think that this is unlikely. If this happens, you should tell the other facility that you are cohorted to the first facility. It is the employer’s job to get the exemption.
5. If I choose or am assigned to a single site, can they get rid of my other position(s)?
When the public health order is lifted, and cohorting or single site provisions are no longer required, workers will be able to resume the position(s) they held before.
The letter of understanding states that employees who have been cohorted will not be removed from relief lists in facilities or units they are unable to work in during the cohorting period.
6. With cohorting, we pick the facility we want to remain in, but management has stated that they will decide where we will go. Is this correct?
Full-time employees are being told we can pick our place, but ultimately management has the say of where we work.
We are being told that if we hold a position at more than one facility, preference will be given to where we have the most hours. Is this correct?
The process allows workers to state their preferences, but the employer(s) need(s) to ensure that there is adequate staffing across the system. So, you need to fill out the form and state your preferences, but there is not a guarantee that this is where you will go.
Part-time workers will likely be cohorted to the facility where they have the most hours as one of the principles being followed is to cause the least disruption possible.
7. How does cohorting work – the person coming over, are they supernumerary? If a worker comes from another facility and has more seniority, will they be getting the calls before me? How do they get the guaranteed hours if there isn’t enough work?
Cohorting limits the workers moving between facilities, but it will not be bringing new workers in. Workers are choosing between facilities in which they already own positions. Workers continue to get paid for all their guaranteed hours even if the employer doesn’t have work for them. However, we don’t anticipate that there will be a lack of work.
8. Due to the cohorting, staff are being redeployed to different units and used as regular staff. Do they have to have orientation? Can they schedule orientation shifts even if they don’t hold a position there? Are we not considered extra staff to help where able?
Orientation will not be the same as before the pandemic but should still be provided. You will be part of the regular staffing complement if redeployed or cohorted; you are not “extra” or supernumerary.
If you are concerned that the orientation you receive is insufficient, and you don’t feel safe doing your job, please let your manager know. Unresolved concerns around orientation could then be taken to your regional union office.
9. Home care workers have TBA days. This means that when they don’t have clients, and someone calls in sick, they are assigned that person’s clients. If there are no clients in home care, in order to get paid, they come into long-term care to put in their hours. With the cohorting they are told they can’t. Would home care have to pay them for those hours?
Yes, you will have to paid for all your guaranteed hours regardless of availability of actual work.
10. I am a relief worker. How is all this going to affect me?
Any relief shifts in the posted and confirmed period that have been assigned and/or accepted at the time of cohorting are guaranteed.
You will be temporarily removed off the relief lists of the facilities you are not cohorted to but will be able to pick up additional shifts at the facility you are cohorted to.
Also, the letter of understanding allows relief workers who wish to work additional hours to be redeployed through the labour pool. Relief employees who volunteer for the labour pool must provide a new call-in/relief availability form, which includes a commitment from the employee to be assigned a specified number of hours or shifts per week.
11. Can you please elaborate on the labour pool: what kind of work this entails and to whom will this labour pool apply?
Workers may be moved to the labour pool if their regular work area is experiencing a shutdown, slowdown, or curtailing of services. In addition, workers may volunteer to be put in the labour pool. Managers will identify workers who are available for the labour pool, and they should be notifying employees when they’ve been added to the labour pool.
Redeployment from the labour pool could involve work in any classification; however, employees will only be redeployed into jobs they are qualified, trained, and licensed for. Workers who are redeployed to classifications which are lower paid than the job they own will be paid at the rate of the job they own. Workers redeployed into a higher paid job will be subject to collective agreement provisions.
12. I have a second job. Will I be allowed to continue working there?
I work in a group home as well in health care. Do I have to stop working there?
There is nothing in the public health order that prevents you from working a second job if it is outside of acute care, long-term care, or a personal care home. We have heard that some employers are going beyond the order and suggesting or requesting that health care workers quit their outside employment. This is not required, and if you are having specific issues around this, please contact your regional office for assistance with the manager’s interpretation of the order.
13. I read that if they cohort staff and change their regular schedule, overtime rates apply. Would this be the same if they changed your schedule during a different deployment to another unit but same facility?
Changes to the posted and confirmed schedules (the time of your shifts or schedule) would be paid at 2X the regular rate for the first seven shifts in a posted and confirmed period. If the shifts remain the same (days, afternoons, nights) then there is no premium paid if you are moved to another unit in the same facility.
14. Can managers change our schedules outside of the posted and confirmed? Can they expand our hours? Would we be paid overtime rates for this change?
Outside the posted and confirmed period changes can be made (they could be made before the pandemic too), and no premium would be paid. The letter of understanding and the cohorting documents state that all efforts will be made to maintain your schedule.
You will be scheduled for all your guaranteed hours; additional hours can be offered or assigned as per the collective agreement.
15. Can I work at a testing or an assessment site and another facility? What if the other facility isn’t long-term care?
No, people working at testing or assessment sites will be cohorted to those.
16. As a casual worker, will there be compensation for the hours that I have pre-booked for the facility that I won't be cohorted to?
Yes, the hours you were already pre-booked for will be honoured.
17. Will relief and casual proformas still be honoured if they are cohorted?
They should be.
18. How will our wages be topped off? When I have two part-time jobs working up to full-time, how would that be topped off?
Guaranteed hours will be respected. Your schedule at the cohorted facility will include your total guaranteed hours from both positions.
19. If I own a casual long-term position, as well as being a trainer of TLR, LAUNCH, and PART in multiple facilities, can both be done, or does there have to be a choice of one?
This question was put to the employer on the April 22, 2020 MoH/SHA update call, and we are awaiting an answer.
20. I hold a position that is an 8-hour rotation. Are we supposed to be working 12 hours if we are cohorted to somewhere with 12s or just keep working our 8s?
The employer has committed to respecting schedules where possible. If they change your schedule, they will have to pay overtime rates for the first seven shifts in a single posted and confirmed period. We can’t promise they will honour your schedule, but they are obligated to try.
21. I work at Tategwa as a CCA and Weyburn Group Home Society and don't know if I can work at both.
Yes, you can work in both.
22. Why are some health care workers still allowed to work in public stores?
The medical health officer and the Ministry of Health decide what is required. At present their orders do not include restricting health care workers from working in other unrelated jobs.
23. I work in home care as CCA (casual) and in a youth care home (full-time) outside the health region. Can I keep working in both?
At present you can continue to work in both.
24. I hold one temporary part-time and some relief positions all in long-term care. How can hours be made up to full-time in one facility?
The hours of your temporary position are guaranteed. It is likely you will get cohorted to the facility where you hold that position, and that is the only facility where you will be able to work. You will be able to pick up relief shifts in that facility. If other relief staff from your facility are cohorted to different facilities, it is possible there will be an increase in available shifts.
25. At integrated care centres where there are acute and long-term care, are they going to have staff working both sides still?
It is unlikely that the decision will be made to have workers working both long-term care and acute in integrated care centres. This question has been posed to the employer and ministry repeatedly. We are awaiting a response.
26. I work in one facility as part-time and casual in a different department. Both are long-term care in the same facility, just two different departments. Can I work in both departments?
The way we understand the cohorting process is that you are limited to one facility and not one department. Your manager or the employer will need to make the final determination.
27. I am permanent part-time in primary health care and permanent part-time in long-term care. I have to choose one, correct? I’m not sure about the form to fill out. If we didn’t fill it out, then what?
You will have to choose. Please contact your manager to get your form completed.
28. I have a casual position at Regina Pioneer Village, which changed to mental health. They said something about a paper being signed, and I was on vacation. Can I still choose my facility? I’m not sure.
You should contact your manager and let them know if you were travelling, and let them know your preference as well.
29. Do full-time workers in home care stay in home care, or do they have to go somewhere else?
You would stay in home care unless your work has slowed down, which could subject you to redeployment.
30. I work as a scheduler, and we haven’t been kept in the loop about the changes. We are really worried about keeping up.
Cohorting is in its early stages. We raised this concern on the April 22, 2020 debriefing call, so they are aware. If we get more information, we will share it with you.
31. I work in security, and we work at six to eight sites. Is security included in the cohorting?
We raised this issue on the April 22, 2020 briefing call. The employer’s response was that they were working on whether or not this will be an exemption. They have applied for an exemption to the order.
Quarantined or Prevented from Working
1. I have been asking my manager about a policy for workers who are immune compromised or have other health issues. Do you know anything about this?
My child is considered high risk. I work in a facility that is a designated COVID-19 facility. What can be done to protect our high risk loved ones who need our care? Is there a type of leave that can be in place for people who need to take care of high risk family members?
If you’re immune compromised, and your doctor writes a note saying you should not be working in the hospital during the pandemic, do your mangers need to follow these guidelines?
Members who can’t wear masks in the workplace – I’m told that I can’t be redeployed and an accommodation is a maybe. I’m told by management and human resources to take an unpaid leave or vacation.
These are issues on which we are working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. The employer and the union, together with the affected employee, need to work through any medical or family accommodations. This could include working in a different area, working remotely, a leave of absence, or a number of other options. Each case is different.
2. If I show up to work and have been told that I have to go home because of fever or a symptom of some sort, am I required to use sick time?
If I am symptomatic but then tested for COVID-19 and deemed negative but told I still have to stay home for a certain length of time although I feel fine, do I have to use sick leave?
Individuals who travelled internationally and were forced to self-isolate for 14 days prior to return to work, do they have to use sick time?
We believe that if you are asymptomatic and would be able to work if not for the employer asking you to stay away, or you are instructed to self-isolate by a medical health officer, Healthline 811, completing the self-assessment or screening, or another applicable government source, you would be covered under Article 15.13 of the collective agreement and not sick leave. If you are having issues, please contact the union office right away so a resolve can be found or a grievance initiated.
3. I am presently on DIP due to COVID-19. Payroll has told me that I am not eligible for increments due to COVID.
The pandemic should have no impact on your disability claim. However, each situation is different, so we would ask that you contact your local office so your representative can gather all the necessary information and give you an answer that is appropriate for your situation.
Personal Protective Equipment
1. Are there any other masks that staff can wear when working? I have allergies, and after a shift my eyes are swollen and itchy. I had only worn it an hour or so as I am in the kitchen.
The public health order requires continuous masking while in patient areas. We don’t know what masks are available in your facility. We suggest that you contact your manager to discuss this and see if there are other options.
On the April 22, 2020 call with the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority, a question was raised about workers wearing their own masks as well as handmade ear protectors. We are waiting for a decision.
2. When is the SHA going to be held accountable for the apparent dichotomy we are in? Concerns are PPE related.
We are doing our best to gather the best possible information regarding appropriate PPE for the various situations our members will have to work in. While we continue to advocate, we also have little control over what the chief medical officer and Ministry of Health determine.
3. Working at the Regina General Hospital, continuous masking should be all staff, not just those in direct patient care, and patients should be wearing masks too when in public areas. Also, we have a collective agreement, and it is not being observed because of an agreement.
The union does not have the ability to order people or groups of people to mask. We continue to advocate for safe practices; however, the employer, the medical health officer, and the Ministry of Health make the final determinations.
The letter of understanding regarding cohorting and labour pools is not strictly compliant with our collective agreement. However, we are living under a state of emergency, which gives the government broad powers. If we had not negotiated that letter of understanding, the government would possibly have passed legislation stripping our collective agreement rights. Had that happened, we would have lost all control over the situation. Under those circumstances we felt that maintaining as much control as possible and securing the best possible protections for our members was the best course of action.
1. How long will testing continue (two to three months), or will this be a permanent thing? Do we need to be tested before each shift? How long before hospitals return to full capacity, and I can pick up shifts?
The testing will continue until the public health order directing it is lifted. You will be tested before each shift. We don’t control this. Unfortunately, we do not know how long it will be until things return to normal.
2. We have received a lot of questions around additional pay, hazard pay, and value placed on health care workers during this pandemic time.
The concept of hazard pay during the pandemic is telling the employer that we will accept the increased risk as long as we get paid a little extra. Our position is that working during a pandemic should be no more hazardous than working at any other time. There should never be an incentive for our members to take on dangerous work.
We believe the work members are doing during this pandemic time is valuable and that you shouldn’t be incurring extra expenses. The employer should be supporting you in every way and ensuring that you are safe at work. The pandemic has magnified the existence of problems in health care, including understaffing, and it has heightened the public’s awareness of the critical need and value of publicly funded health care. We also believe that the value placed on the work you do should be permanent and not temporary.
3. We have a collective agreement – does it not state with departments like security getting money for washing our uniforms?
Article 37.05 states that:
The Employer(s) will furnish and maintain (launder and repair) without charge such uniforms which the Employer(s) requires the Employees to wear. These remain the property of the Employer(s) and shall not be worn other than on duty. The nature, colour and style of uniforms and the requirements of each group of Employees in respect thereto shall be determined by the Employer(s) and the Local of the Union.
If this is not happening, please contact your local office so it can be dealt with.
4. I’m a conditional hire. I was near the end of my two years, but I wasn’t able to finish my courses because of the pandemic shutdown. Will I lose my position?
The employer agreed to a six-month extension for conditional hires.
5. Is the employer going to cancel confirmed holidays?
They may, but provisions of the collective agreement would have to be followed.
6. I am wondering if I’ve booked holiday time, but the event I have booked it for gets cancelled because of COVID, will I’ll be able to take my holiday time back?
You can put in a request to cancel your vacation, and the employer will grant the requests on a case by case basis.
If you have questions, please call us.
• Main office: 306-546-2185