Press Release: Kitimat Camp Workers Elated after Reaching Historic Union Contract amidst Pandemic Woes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 12, 2020

Kitimat, BC On Monday night, camp workers at Horizon North Crossroads Lodge overwhelmingly ratified a historic union contract with 97% voting in favour.  The agreement will provide 100 percent employer-paid air travel and health care, pension, housekeeping workload protections, seniority, recall rights, and raises that will increase some workers’ wages by 24 percent.

The new agreement with Horizon North covers staff at the front desk, kitchens, and housekeeping departments who serve camp workers at the LNG Canada project site. In November 2019, 85 workers joined UNITE HERE Local 40. Bargaining began in January and concluded with a deal for the 3-year contract last week. Kitimat’s cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years and compounded with the economic devastation wrought by COVID-19, this new contract is timely and life-changing for many.

“I’m very excited about the housekeeping protections that we’ve won. Now we will have a more manageable workload. My kids are going to afford a good life. With more money in my pocket, life will be tremendously better for my family,” said Ingrid Kujendani, housekeeper at Crossroads Lodge.

For Kathy Wallace, who works as a cook, the new contract means she will pocket thousands of dollars more each year: “Thanks to Horizon North for continuing to bargain through COVID-19. I’m so proud that we were able to win this tremendous contract in the middle of the pandemic. Between the wage increases, travel pay, and pension, this is such a huge step forward for us.”

The contract sets a groundbreaking standard in wages and travel for Kitimat camp workers. Local 40 welcomes Horizon North workers, who will join nearly 200 other members from Civeo. The union now represents approximately 300 camp workers in Kitimat and is currently organizing Sodexo workers at Cedar Valley Lodge. 

 

Media Contact: Stephanie Fung, 604-928-7356, [email protected]

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UNITE HERE Local 40 is the hospitality workers’ union and represents members in the hotel, food service and airport industries throughout British Columbia. Learn more at UniteHereLocal40.org.

Local 40 Hardship Fund now open for Applications

The Local 40 Hardship Fund is now taking applications!

This Fund was established by UNITE HERE Local 40 to assist members who have encountered financial and related difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before applying, please ensure:

  • you are a hospitality worker (you do not need to be a union member to be eligible).
  • you have attempted to get assistance elsewhere, such as governmental assistance, BC Rent Subsidy, food banks, etc.

Your application will be reviewed by the Hardship Fund Committee. The Committee consists of rank and file members from five different Local 40 properties around BC. Limited funds are available and one-time grants will be provided. The hardship fund will aid members during emergency situations such as foreclosure/evictions, utilities being shut off, medical bills in collections, death/funeral expenses, food, diapers, or other critical circumstances. The money will be paid directly to the organization/person and a receipt will need to be issued to the Union.

To apply, download and fill out this form (Microsoft Word doc) and save and email it to [email protected] You can also apply online (note that you may need a Gmail account). All requests will be completely confidential.

Protected: April 29 Membership Meeting

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COVID-19: Government & Community Resources

We will be updating this webpage constantly. Please check back frequently for further resources and supports as the situation changes.

Update (May 4): The provincial state of emergency has been extended until May 12th. View Premier John Horgan’s announcement here.

Local 40 COVID-19 Hotline: Call 1-877-491-2651, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 AM to 4 PM. We can help with questions on EI, CERB, unemployment, rent, and more.


UNITE HERE Local 40:
Quick Links:
Federal Resources:
  • New Benefit Announced: Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB):  CERB is a new benefit providing $2,000/month for up to four months.  ALL EI CLAIMS MADE AFTER MARCH 15 WILL BE REDIRECTED TO CERB.  The new benefit is open to those who have lost their job, those who are sick or quarantined, parents staying home without pay to care for children, and those who have no income due to the COVID-19 slowdown. Anyone who made $5,000 in the last year and has been off for 14 days may apply. It doesn’t matter if you are eligible for EI or not.  The federal government will open applications on April 6.
    • UPDATE (as of April 5): The public can start signing up for CERB as of 6 a.m. ET Monday, but Canadians are being asked to apply based on their birth month to avoid overloading the portal.
      Applicants born in January through March can apply on April 6, the first day the portal opens. Those born April through June can apply April 7, those born in July through September on April 8 and Canadians with birth months October through December can sign up on April 9.
      Trudeau said Canadians can expect to receive payments within three to five days via direct deposit, or within 10 days by mail. APPLY HERE.
    • UPDATE (as of April 15): Eligibility criteria for the CERB has been expanded to include seasonal workers, workers who make less than $1000/month, and workers for whom their EI benefits have recently expired.
  • Employment Insurance (Service Canada):  To apply for EI, click here.
  • Concerns regarding your Record of Employment (ROE): If you are applying for EI and are having difficulty obtaining your ROE, collect as many pay stubs as possible and a T-4 form as an alternative. You can ask EI to create an Interim ROE.
  • Recent Announcements: For Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the Government is:
    • Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
    • Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate (doctor’s note) to access EI sickness benefits.
  • EI Work Sharing Program: The Government is implementing this program which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. This was announced by the Prime Minister on March 11, 2020.

Other Federal Assistance:

  • Child Care Benefit: For families who require additional support, the Government is proposing to increase the maximum Child Care Benefit by $300 per child this year only.
  • Doubling the GST Tax Credit for modest income families: $400 for single adults; $600 for couples
  • Student debt: Placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for all individuals currently in the process of repaying these loans.
  • Tax filing: For individuals, the federal tax return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020.  However, the Agency encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit not to delay the filing of their return to ensure their entitlements for the 2020-21 benefit year are properly determined.
  • Home Mortgage: The Government, through CMHC, is providing increased flexibility for homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately. Other special payment arrangements may be available.
  • Emergency supports for people on income assistance, disability assistance and low-income seniors: For those not receiving federal EI or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, these supports include an automatic $300 supplement on your cheques issued in April, May, and June. More details here.
Provincial Resources:
  • B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers: A one time $1,000 payment for those who have lost income because of COVID-19. This is for B.C. residents who receive E.I. or the new federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Applications for the one-time payment will open soon.  The payment will be paid in May 2020. Apply here.
  • Temporary Emergency Childcare for Essential Workers: To support parents who are essential service workers during COVID-19, the Province will match parents who have children up to five years of age, with childcare in their communities. Fill out a new “parent” form to identify your need for urgent childcare by calling 1 888 338-6622 and selecting Option 4, or online: www.gov.bc.ca/essential-service-child-care.
  • Temporary Rental Supplement: The Province will help households by offering a rent rebate towards their rent. The program will provide $300 per month for eligible households with no dependents and $500 per month for eligible households with dependents. Eligible roommates will each be able to apply for the supplement. The rent will be paid directly to landlords on the tenant’s behalf. The supplement will be available to those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis but who do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs.  Apply here.
  • Halting Evictions: a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. However, in exceptional cases where it may be needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the property, landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing.
  • Halting Enforcement of Evictions: Halts eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch, except in extreme cases.
  • Freeze on Annual Rent Increase: Effective as of April 1.
  • Freeze on B.C. Student Loans: Starting March 30, 2020, B.C. student loan payments are automatically frozen for six months until September 30, 2020.
  • Transit: BC Transit Fares & Passes are not required.
  • ICBC: Customers on a monthly plan facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer payment up to 90 days with no penalty. See: https://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/contact-us/Pages/covid-19.aspx
  • BC Hydro introduced a COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program for customers e xperiencing hardship during the coronavirus outbreak which provides customers the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty. Customers are encouraged to call BC Hydro at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) to discuss bill payment options. Customers facing temporary financial hardship and possible disconnection of their service due to job loss, illness, or loss of a family member may also be eligible for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills.
  • Free and Low-Cost Virtual Mental Health Services: Access to free and low-cost virtual mental health services has been expanded across BC for adults, seniors, and youth. Front-line health care workers experiencing distress and mental health concerns in response to COVID-19 now also have access to increased mental health services. Full list of available services here.
Local/Municipal Resources:
  • Property tax payments delayed: The City of Vancouver has announced that property tax payments will be deferred for 60 days.
  • Free bus transit and hospital parking: All BC Transit and Translink bus services are currently free, and parking at all health authority sites is also free.
  • Richmond Homeless/ Community Connect Working Group Relief Fund: The purpose of this limited fund is to provide emergency relief for low-income residents of Richmond for unique requests that cannot be filled by other emergency services. Funds will be used to help as many people as possible throughout the year. Email [email protected] for more details about the fund and to apply.
Community Resources:
  • 6 Month Interest-Free Line of Credit: Community Savings Credit Union is offering a line of credit up to $2,500 to Union Members who have been laid off or facing reduced hours due to COVID-19.  This is being offered to members and non-members of the credit union.  Non-members will be asked to join the credit union to obtain the credit line.  For more information, go to https://www.comsavings.com/Personal/AboutUs/Helping%20Hands/
  • Covid-19 Rent Crisis Resource Toolkit from Vancouver Tenants Union

Metro Vancouver hospitality workers union fighting for those laid off to maintain medical benefits

Press Coverage by Marcus Fitzgerald from News 1130.

VANCOUVER (News 1130) — A workforce already hit hard by layoffs in light of COVID-19 is fighting to keep medical benefits.

The union that represents those in the hospitality industry is leaning on employers at hotels, restaurants, and airports to make sure workers won’t have to worry about health costs.

Michelle Travis of Unite Here Local 40 says close to 95 per cent of those who go to work in hotels and restaurants have been laid off.

“For thousands of hospitality workers across the province, their medical coverage will start to run out in April. Our concern is that while employers may be getting relief or some other assistance, we don’t want to see workers lose their health coverage at a time when they need it the most.”

Travis says the union is asking employers to extend coverage during the pandemic, and they’re also asking the provincial government to make sure that employers don’t drop them at a time when they need their benefits.

“We want the province to send a strong message to employers that extending coverage is an obligation that they need to continue during this difficult time that we’re in.”

Travis points out that a small number of employers have stepped up to extend coverage, but it’s not universal.

“Some of our larger employers in the province have not agreed to do that yet, and we think at a time when we have a major global health crisis, we don’t want to see people lose their coverage right now.” Travis says. .

She adds it’s going to be sometime before all those laid-off workers will be able to get back to their jobs and get back to normal.

“(The workers) really need the income supports, and they also need to ensure their medical coverage can continue while they’re riding through this storm.”