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B.C. front-line health workers to receive pandemic pay top-up

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Health and social service workers delivering in-person, front-line care in B.C. will receive temporary COVID-19 pandemic pay.

More than 250,000 workers are eligible for the lump-sum payment, which works out to $4 per hour for a 16-week period, dating back to March 15.

“From care aids to domestic violence workers, to people working in corrections and others delivering essential addictions and mental health supports, our front-line workers are providing vital support to people who are most vulnerable,” Finance Minister Carole James said in a release.

READ MORE: Wage boosts for essential workers should last beyond COVID-19 pandemic: union leaders

Eligible workers will receive the payment directly through their employer and do not need to apply.

The bonus could add as much as $2,240 to a worker’s paycheque.

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The program, funded by both the provincial and federal government, will come from B.C.’s $5-billion COVID-19 stimulus plan.

If all workers are entitled to the full pandemic bonus then the program will cost $560 million, with the bulk of it coming from Ottawa.

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To be eligible, employees must have worked straight-time hours anytime during the 16-week period starting March 15.

The top-up does not apply to excluded management staff, fee-for-service providers or employees on leave.

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The B.C. Government and Services Employees’ Union, however, thinks the benefit should go further.

Thousands of BCGEU members are left out, including those in government liquor and cannabis stores and warehouses.

“The BCGEU pushed hard for this program to cover the broadest possible range of essential works and, as a result, B.C.’s program is significantly more inclusive than those in other provinces,” president Stephanie Smith said.

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“We’re happy that some of our lowest-wage members doing some of the highest-risk frontline jobs will be eligible. But the bottom line for us is that all frontline essential workers are shouldering an incredible burden in terms of increased cost, stress and inconvenience as well as increased risks to their emotional and physical health.”

Eligible workplaces include:

  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care and assisted-living facilities
  • Provincial mental health facilities
  • Provincially funded home and community care services
  • Public health units
  • Primary care clinics
  • Diagnostic facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Diagnostic and treatment centres
  • Community living: residential services and intervenor residential sites
  • Indigenous services: delegated Aboriginal agencies, friendship centres providing critical services, and healing and wellness facilities and shelters
  • Harm reduction: shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, directly operated residential facilities, adult-justice residential facilities, safe injection sites, emergency outreach harm reduction workers, emergency shelters, supportive housing facilities, respite and drop-in centres, temporary shelter facilities, and hotels and motels used for self-isolation or shelter overflow
  • Youth services: high-risk youth services, youth justice residential facilities, licensed children’s residential sites
  • Immigrant services: high-risk support services for immigrants and refugees, high-risk immigrant youth services and settlement services
  • Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR) income assistance and disability reduction offices
  • SDPR/Service BC integrated offices
  • SDPR contact centre offices
  • Ministry of Child and Family Development Service Delivery Division
  • Service BC offices
  • BC Housing main location and other offices
  • Community Living BC head office and other local offices and Provincial Assessment Centre
  • Adult correctional facilities and youth justice facilities
  • Community corrections offices
  • Sheriff Services Division.