This month, our federation received some sad news. Ed Lavalle, former president of our organization (see footnote), passed away on Friday August 7. Ed is survived by his partner Susan and daughter Michelle.
Former FPSE President George Davison wrote about Ed’s long history as a labour activist and political educator in the piece below.
In Memoriam: Ed Lavalle
Ed’s career as a post-secondary educator and union activist spanned 44 years, from his hiring as a Political Studies instructor at Capilano College in September 1973 to his retirement from Capilano University at the end of April 2017. Ed’s achievements were many, primarily at the local and provincial level, but they also set the stage for our provincial federation to take a prominent place amongst our union and post-secondary allies provincially and nationally.
Ed was involved in just about every round of bargaining at his local since he started – 15 rounds by my count. He was a moving force in the 1970s within the College Faculties Federation, a provincial organization of newly-organized faculty unions that had eight locals, 709 members, a volunteer executive and a budget of $11,000. At Capilano, he set up the Labour Studies Programme, a college-based worker education program developed in cooperation with trade unions. Through this program, Ed led workshops on how arbitrations and strikes could be used to defend collective agreements. In the late 70s, Ed was the driving force to create a provincial union, the College-Institute Educators’ Association, which was established in May 1980.
Ed used to say that bargaining was everything, whether it was with your colleagues, the employer, union allies, or the government. Bargaining was also a continuum: one needs goals to attain and the patience to work towards those goals over time. Ed helped mould CIEA into an effective provincial federation in the 1980s and ‘90s. A provincial defence fund was established in 1986 to support striking locals, and CIEA set up new standing committees for women and non-regulars, our contract academic staff, who had just been organized into what had been full-time faculty unions. Ed was elected Vice-President in 1987, was re-elected in 1988, and became President in 1989. He served as president for 7 terms, from 1989-92, and again from 1995-99.
In the 1990s, Ed oversaw the process to get legislative changes to the Colleges and Institutes Act that resulted in the establishment of Education Councils and constituency (faculty, support staff and students) representatives on institutional Boards of Governors. He was one of the key stakeholders who worked with representatives of institutional presidents, ministry officials, students and the B.C. Government & Service Employees’ Union: in September 1996 they produced Charting A New Course: A Strategic Plan for the Future of British Columbia’s College, Institute and Agency System that involved setting up a number of system agencies to support post-secondary education. These were designed to make post-secondary education better for students, for faculty and staff, for institutions, for the government, and for British Columbians.
Ed’s goal of coordinated bargaining was finally achieved in 1998, when the entire post-secondary system outside the research universities and BCIT came together to bargain. After almost three months of bargaining in the spring, a summer hiatus and strike vote in September, the provincial negotiating committee achieved a tentative agreement hours before a province-wide strike was set for late October. The agreement included clauses on harassment, one-quarter release for union-employer relations, prior learning assessment, copyright and intellectual property, regularization, leaves, benefits and a joint committee on benefits administration, pensions (the first joint-trusteed pension plan amongst public sector plans in BC), early retirement incentives, a provincial salary scale and secondary scale adjustment, and a clause protecting superior benefits in a local agreement.
Ed became Provincial Secretary to the BC NDP from 1999 to 2003. He returned to Capilano College after that, and continued to teach labour studies and political studies. He developed an exchange program with the European Parliament that saw Canadian students travel to the Hague, and European students come to Canada.
Former BC Minister of Education, Skills and Training (and former CIEA president) Paul Ramsay said “"Ed was a force and (for me) a mentor. He did so much to strengthen education, unionism, and government in B.C. Few have done as much. I will deeply miss his intelligence and wit."
In short, Ed was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the collective agreements we all enjoy today, and for building the federation into what it is today: an organization with two full-time officers and 12 staff, 20 locals, 10,000 members, affiliated to the BC Federation of Labour, the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Labour Congress through the National Union of CAUT.
As one of Ed’s colleagues wrote to me, “it would take a book to document the full history of his contribution. At the level of Cap College/University…[he demonstrated] patience, acumen, knowledge, strategic vision and determination to serve the best interests of the faculty [and] inspired in all of us a cheerful courage to achieve success…[He] always kept his own ego in check, suffered the occasional slings and arrows flung his way with equanimity and without rancour, and soldiered on…[He was] An exemplary comrade-in-arms, a wise and dedicated and selfless leader.”
He will be missed.
 The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC has been re-named multiple times over 50 years, motivated both by changes to post-secondary institutions, as well as the membership of the organization. In 1970, the organization consisted entirely of college faculty associations, thus was created under the name College Faculties Federation (CFF). The CFF was re-constituted as the College and Institute Educators’ Association (CIEA) in 1980, largely in response to the SoCreds introduction of Bill 82, the Colleges and Provincial Institutes Act. Finally, CIEA became the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC in 2004 when the BC Liberals changed the University-College of the Cariboo into Thompson Rivers University.
INVESTING IN PUBLIC POST-SECONDARY: THE FOUNDATION FOR BC'S COVID-19 RECOVERY
A submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE POST-SECONDARY SECTOR
When COVID-19 threatened our society, we united in following public health directives out of deep concern and compassion for our fellow citizens. The public has proven that there is broad and deep support for actions, and spending, to take care of each other. We must maintain this commitment to public spending to support people through the crisis.
The only consensus that exists regarding the province’s economic future is that much is unknown, but given the national and international negative impact, it is expected there will be a recession or depression, and that the recovery will be led by the public sector. While hardly a positive economic outlook, it is helpful to recognize this reality as a starting point in building the budget to bring clarity to the goals of the provincial budget: will it accept additional hardship for those at the bottom, or will it actively seek to reduce inequality by directing public funding towards those measures proved to long-term societal, economic, and individual benefit?
Given that a downturn is expected, spending and services should be aligned to meet the anticipated needs of citizens. History shows that during an economic downturn, people will enter or return to some level of post-secondary education. This is why it will be so important to maintain the capacity of the post-secondary system. A cut by austerity or unchanged public spending is still a cut – with large reliance on private funds expected to evaporate, public spending will be needed to make up the shortfall.
ACCESS FOR STUDENTS
Past funding programs like Institutional Based Training and Capacity Expansion along with their low tuition levels serve as positive examples of increased funding directly correlating with increased access for students. The successes of these initiatives stem from principles that should be used to guide funding for post-secondary institutions in their COVID-19 response:
Continuity | At a minimum, the current program profiles of post-secondary offerings need to be maintained while also supporting new needs. Institutions that are not able to balance their 2020-21 budgets should, with proper planning, rationales, and approvals be allowed to proceed without cuts to balance their budgets. If cuts are deemed necessary, they should be made as far away from the key service area of post-secondary – education and direct education support – as possible.
Accessibility | Adequate faculty and staff levels need to be present across the province – geographic access to quality post-secondary training across the province is just as important now as it was when the college system was created. Emergency remote learning delivery during COVID-19 is justified, but it is by definition tied to our emergency circumstances. When face to face learning can safely resume, students will need access to institutions close to home with educators in their classrooms, and the ability to interact with their classmates. This will not be possible if rural institutions’ educator workforce is devastated by cuts motivated by fewer students.
Accountability | Accountability is best ensured through directed funding ‘envelopes’ with specific requirements, such as maintaining as many educators in the workforce as possible.
Affordability | Widespread loss of individual and family income adds financial barriers to those who most need access to education and skills training. Support BCFS calls for financial assistance for students.
Recommendations for BC Budget 2021
1) That the provincial government join FPSE and employers in establishing a formal tri-partite mechanism to ensure that continual consultation and inclusion are the hallmarks of BC’s approach to the COVID-19 crisis and continue post-crisis.
2) That public investment to public post-secondary institutions be increased to offset reduced revenue from international students and fund the post-secondary educational access BC needs. Current geographic accessibility and course offerings must be maintained or increased. It is important that BC’s post-secondary education system not be degraded by any reduction in international student tuition revenue. FPSE supports calling on the federal government to provide this funding through increased social transfers to BC as part of Canada’s economic recovery plan. Further options to maintain the post-secondary system:
- Allow institutions to run deficits
- Allow institutions to access surplus accounts to ensure continued funding of services, courses, and therefore faculty and staff employment.
- Pause, post-pone or cancel some capital projects so funds can be moved or kept within operational account
- Allow access to institutional surpluses to maintain educator workforce
- Wage and hiring freeze on administrators at all institution, and for those laying off faculty or staff that administrative cuts be at least proportionate (to the educator: administrator ratio).
- During COVID-19 pandemic, instruct institutions to demonstrate preferential consideration for educators laid off or not re-hired by institutions within the BC post-secondary system (using Article 2 of the Common Agreement pertaining to the laid off worker registry).
- Businesses and employers have a role in supporting a strong public post-secondary system as part of BC’s economic recovery. Businesses who need their employees to learn new skills should be encouraged to enter into Contract Training with a public post-secondary institution .
3) That the provincial government call on the federal government to:
- Endorse the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) call to allow public institutions to access the wage replacement subsidy;
- prioritize funding and support for private post-secondary institutions with unionized instructors, as this is the most efficient metric by which to measure fair and equitable treatment of instructors and students; AND
- establish a federal tri-partite committee to determine sector-wide practices regarding international education with compliance with collective agreements mandated at the outset.
The impacts of COVID-19 have been profound and felt across society – although those who were already vulnerable disproportionately suffered the negative economic and social consequences of the pandemic. The economic disruption has decreased government revenue at the same time as there has been increased demand for public services. It is in this context that the 2021 BC Budget is being prepared.
Rather than asking if an economic downturn is inevitable and trying to avoid it through cuts and austerity, FPSE is calling for bold, significant investment in the people of BC and the services they need to weather whatever lies ahead. We need to lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery that will last for generations.
Investment in post-secondary education must be part of this foundation, just as it must be part of the economic recovery. During an economic downturn, the need for post-secondary increases as people look for work or need to upgrade their training. When the education they need is affordable and accessible, the individual, the post-secondary system, and society all benefit from a population that grows healthier, more financially secure, and more democratically engaged, as it becomes more educated.
Investing in post-secondary education gives more people the opportunity to succeed. This is exactly the investment we need at this moment. This is how we can build an economic recovery for working people.
If you would like to read the submission in its entirety, please click on the link below:
This National Indigenous History Month, a BC post-secondary union has partnered with Indigenous radio station Nuxalk Radio to promote Indigenous voices.
As an overdue conversation about systemic racism is taking place in Canada, more Canadians are asking how they can help. For those wondering how to get started, there are now new ways to learn from Indigenous scholars from across the country with the release of an audio version of Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization.
“This handbook is essential reading for settlers in so-called Canada,” says Nuxalk Radio Station Manager Banchi Hanuse. “It is a powerful and beautiful affirmation of what the original caretakers of these lands have always known. Now in audiobook form, this collection of voices serves as a reminder that the more we understand Indigenous Nationhood and Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights to the land, the healthier we and the earth can become in our shared existence.”
Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization provides a variety of Indigenous perspectives on the history of colonialism, current Indigenous activism and resistance, and outlines the path forward to reconciliation. Originally released as a free e-book, the audio version features renowned Indigenous writers Taiaiake Alfred, Glen Coulthard, Russell Diabo, Beverly Jacobs, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Kanahus Manuel, Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour, Pamela Palmater, Shiri Pasternak, Nicole Schabus, Senator Murray Sinclair, and Sharon Venne. The late Arthur Manuel’s writings are read by his grandson, Mahekan Anderson.
“There is a long history of racism and violence against Indigenous people in this province or country,” said FPSE President Terri Van Steinburg. “But most Canadians continue to think of this as something that has happened in the past, despite the ongoing discrimination towards Indigenous people by the state, corporations, and members of the general public. You only need to think back to January of this year when Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter were arrested for trying to open a bank account to know that racism against Indigenous people exists and continues to this day. Words cannot demonstrate the commitment of Canadians to end systemic racism, only actions can. I hope that people will use the book or audio resource as a beginning for their anti-racism journey.”
You can hear authors read their contributions in Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization on Nuxalk Radio (NuxalkRadio.com & 91.1 FM Bella Coola) on Sunday June 21st. Beginning June 22nd, they will also be available through the FPSE website (fpse.ca/decolonization-manual) and through Apple Podcasts and Google Play.
Banchi Hanuse | email@example.com
Nicole Seguin | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is horrified by the ongoing appalling violence against the Black community in the United States. The images are difficult to take in, but they clearly show what millions of people experience everyday: the fear of, or direct experience, of violent racism, discrimination and abuse. FPSE joins in sorrow with those who are grieving, but we understand that this is not enough -we must demonstrate our solidarity on an ongoing basis.
Canada is not immune from the racism we see in the United States. It is important to recognize that the foundations of our country and province were built on white supremacy. This was not limited to the Black community – Indigenous Peoples, and other racialized persons have also been systemically persecuted, oppressed, and killed by the state. We must also recognize that the racism of our institutions and society is not the past, but the present, as shown by the list of people killed by police in Canada compiled by journalist Desmond Cole.
This is a difficult truth, but is necessary for us to know and understand in order to truly hear and support the people we must be listening to in order for things to change. The community members who have been experiencing this violence have been working to end racism since it began. We need to listen to these leaders and unite in solidarity to support the changes they have identified.
One of the main principles of solidarity is that “an injury to one is an injury to all”. Our coworkers, friends and neighbours are being injured, and they are dying. It is incumbent on all of us to do more to listen, learn and act to bring an end to the violence.
For immediate release:
The closure of inlingua Vancouver effective May 29 adds 20 more job losses to a sector already hard-hit by COVID-19. Coupled with job losses or layoffs from other unionized institutions, the Education and Training Employees' Association, the union representing the workers, estimates that its membership has been reduced by half.
Among the workers affected is Graeme Cheadle, teacher at inlingua and First Vice President of ETEA.
“I’m disappointed and saddened about the closure of inlingua Vancouver,” said Cheadle. “Private English language schools are an important part of the BC economy, and the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating. Governments can and must also do more to help the workers in our sector – otherwise this may just be among the first of many schools to decide it’s easier to close than to keep employing people.”
The ESL industry employs more than 1,800 people, attracts nearly 50,000 students to the area, and contributes approximately $500-million/year to the economy, according to Languages Canada, the industry employer association. The ‘high season’ for enrollment is typically the summer, between June-August.
ETEA President Kevin Drager says layoffs and the closure of institutions pose long term problems beyond job losses.
“This will likely be the toughest challenge to have hit private post-secondary institutions and educators– and the end is nowhere in sight,” said Drager. “Low enrollment is putting a lot of pressure on school budgets. Obviously, we’re concerned that this could translate into further job losses.
We’re calling on employers to apply for COVID-19 financial support to avoid further losses, and financial supports like the rent subsidy extended for those who are working now, but might not be in July or August. We’d like to take a bit of stress away from those who are worried about paying their bills a month down the road.”
“On top of this, a lot of us are worried about what’s next in the industry when students eventually return,” Drager continued. “There are only a handful of institutions with unionized employees in Canada – and we’ve been successful in achieving higher wages and benefits for workers, while still allowing a profit margin for the institution. Job security also gives teachers the confidence to speak out about reports from students about misbehaviour from education agents or other problems. These improvements don’t just benefit our members, they put upward pressure on other institutions to provide these benefits as well. I worry that if enough of these institutions close, the improvements made over decades for workers and students will all be undone.”
The Education and Training Employees’ Association (ETEA) has represented over 200 private ESL and post-secondary teachers in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria for 25 years. ETEA is Local 21 in the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE). https://eteaunion.org/
604-831-6684 | email@example.com
The private post-secondary sector was disrupted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a dramatic drop in international student enrollment. Today, inlingua Vancouver is closing down, affecting the 20 teachers and staff who are members of our private sector union, ETEA. It’s a sad day for our federation to see so many of our fellow union members, friends and colleagues lose their jobs.
The workers at inlingua didn’t just welcome and teach students from across the world; they organized to form a union, join ETEA and support each other in improving their working conditions. Because of the incredible union activists who organized inlingua, workers achieved higher pay, better benefits, and a better working relationship with the inlingua owner and management. I wanted to share something said by ETEA President Kevin Drager about the closure:
I feel so honoured to have met and worked with the teachers at inlingua. They were strong participants within the ETEA and will be sorely missed. They helped our union grow stronger and provided a welcome voice. I wish all the teachers the best in their future endeavors and hope to see them working again in a union environment.
Union members at inlingua have been a huge part of our federation. They’ve participated on FPSE committees, added their unique perspective to our Private Sector Policy Committee, and joined federation-led projects. Our federation is stronger because of their activism and advocacy.
I want to give special recognition to Graeme Cheadle, inlingua educator and Vice President of ETEA. Graeme has sat on our Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee, Private Sector Policy Committee, and Contract Administration and Review Committee. He has always brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to discussions on any topic and fought to extend rights and protections for those with least. Graeme, you’ve made a tremendous and lasting contribution to our federation – thank you.
While this loss hurts, this is not the end of ETEA, or our collective fight for all educators at all institutions to have the dignity and respect of fair working conditions. This morning we called on institutions to use government financial assistance to keep workers employed, and for the government to extend financial assistance for people to help those who have reduced hours or lost their job altogether. This is a hard time. Let’s do everything we can to help each other through it.
Terri Van Steinburg
Hundreds of BC private post-secondary workers are among those included in Statistics Canada’s unemployment numbers released Thursday, April 9. Already, some private post-secondary institutions have said that they can no longer operate given the significant decline of international students attributed to COVID-19. Inlingua Vancouver, whose employees are unionized, will be closed effective May 29, 2020.
In response, FPSE Local 21 (Education and Training Employees’ Association – ETEA) and FPSE President Terri Van Steinburg are supporting these workers during this difficult time.
FPSE Local 21 – ETEA immediately met with private sector employers to ensure workers’ rights were protected. At every ETEA worksite, the union either achieved commitment from the employer to follow the collective agreement, or a variance was negotiated as a Letter of Understanding. The union has held regular meetings to keep members informed of developments.
FPSE has provided labour relations support and advice to ETEA and all FPSE locals as they engage employers in COVID-19 emergency work adjustments.
FPSE is calling on the federal government to protect workers now and in the future during this disruption to the private post-secondary sector.
The recommendations from FPSE to the federal government regarding support for unionized post-secondary institutions, are:
1. Prioritize funding and support for private post-secondary institutions with unionized instructors, as this is the most efficient metric by which to measure fair and equitable treatment of instructors and students.
2. Establish a federal tri-partite committee to determine sector-wide practices regarding international education with compliance with collective agreements mandated at the outset.
FPSE President, Terri Van Steinburg:
FPSE is working with our private sector union, ETEA, to do everything we can to protect these workers and the rights they have won over the past decades. This is an extraordinarily difficult situation, but I credit ETEA leadership and members for taking immediate action when the crisis hit. ETEA is working to ensure teachers are being treated fairly.
“I, like other leaders, am looking at what these short term indicators can mean for this sector in the future. Workers fought for decades to unionize, and then achieve higher wages and benefits. It does not bode well for workers or students if these gains are lost when this crisis comes to an end. I’m calling on the federal government to take action now to prevent this worst-case outcome later.”
FPSE Local 21 - ETEA President, Kevin Drager:
“This will likely be the toughest challenge to have hit private post-secondary institutions and educators since they’ve been in operation. The reality is that most of my coworkers are losing their jobs, including myself – and I know this is true for many people these days. Global events like this affect all of us, whether we’re unionized or not. That being said, in tough times it is especially helpful to have someone on your side. I’m proud that ETEA is 100% committed to looking out for workers the same way workers look out for their students.
Unionization ensures that employers must consult with our teachers when determining how to respond in a crisis like this. Employers and unions were able to quickly reach a fair agreement about how to respond to the crisis in a way that respects workers’ rights. Educators were paid for their time when they moved classes online. The layoff process means that when and if people are re-hired it will be at the same pay rate. None of that is true for non-unionized workers, so they’ll be hurt now and potentially suffer again in the future. That’s why we support FPSE’s private post-secondary system recommendations to the federal government.”
On Tuesday April 28, working people across the country will mark the Day of Mourning. This is a day to remember those workers who have been injured or killed on the job, and to renew our efforts to prevent these tragedies from happening. In short, it is a day to mourn for those who have lost their lives and fight for the living.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores that proper workplace health and safety can make the difference between life and death. The 140 workers who died in 2019 from workplace injury or disease demonstrate that we need to improve work environments in every sector. Every working person deserves to return home safe at the end of the day.
Employers need to provide the proper workplace equipment, training, and appropriate staffing levels to maintain worker safety in every sector, period. We know now that resources are available to ensure workplaces are safe and healthy and it needs to be spent. This crisis has clearly shown what has always been true: when corners are cut, workers are hurt – often with life-altering consequences.
Post-secondary institution employers are not exempt from their responsibility for faculty and staff safety. Our federation has supported our member unions in successfully bargaining for Joint Occupational Safety and Health committees. These committees bring the employer and workers together to raise safety concerns in order to prevent workplace injuries before they happen. In addition, two of FPSE’s 12 standing committees are devoted to workplace safety and worker rehabilitation, the Workplace Health, Safety & Environment Committee and the Disability Management & Rehabilitation Committee.
These are just a few of the ways we fight for the living. As COVID-19 has shown, vulnerable workers – those who are precarious, underpaid, and lack full healthcare benefits – fare much worse during a crisis, both financially and physically. That’s why we work to improve working conditions and address inequalities in every round of bargaining. It’s why we call for enough public funding to properly pay and protect the educators working at our colleges, teaching universities and institutes. It’s why we recognize that racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and bigotry exist and why we look for solutions that specifically address pre-existent inequalities. Just as we are sadly all not treated equally in our workplaces, we are not suffering equally during this pandemic.
This is something I’ll be thinking about tomorrow. I invite you to join me in marking this year’s Day of Mourning by joining virtual actions and an online ceremony to honour our lost or hurt coworkers, and to commit ourselves to eliminating workplace death and injury in the future.
Day of Mourning BC | https://www.dayofmourning.bc.ca/
Join us here in a moment of silence on April 28 at 10:30 am to remember the 140 B.C. workers who died last year from a workplace injury or disease. We will be posting messages from our partners and a video to recognize the day, and those we lost.
Other ways to observe the day:
- Make a dedication to those who have died or been injured at work
- Observe a moment of silence
- Download and display a poster or decal in your workplace (see above)
Our work must continue beyond the Day of Mourning, and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis motivated support for workers that has been necessary for years. Provincial and federal government responses have rightly focused on providing immediate help. However, long term decisions will soon be made that will either return us to the inequalities of the past or start to eliminate the hardships too many have experienced for far too long. We all have a role to play in determining what this future looks like. Labour unions and federations are demanding that all employers provide workers with sick leave coverage in order to prevent illness and death. This is just one of the many opportunities we have to address the health, safety, and wellbeing of all workers.
This is how we will honour the spirit of the Day of Mourning: by remembering those we have lost and using what we have learned from this crisis to fight for the living. We owe our coworkers past, present, and future nothing less.
Terri Van Steinburg
This post is a summary of the benefits available to people through the Canadian and BC Governments, including Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, and others.
Laid off Employees
Members who have been laid off can apply for EI. Application must be done online at this time. The one week waiting period has been eliminated at this time.
If an employee does not have access to paid sick leave and is off sick for any reason or is in quarantine due to COVID-19, the employee can apply for EI sick benefits. At this time, you do not need to provide a medical certificate if your sick leave is related to COVID-19, including if you are self-quarantining. If you develop symptoms while in quarantine, you may need to restart your sick leave EI clock, as the quarantine EI only covers 14 days of quarantine.
Qualifying for EI
If you are applying for regular EI due to layoff, you will need between 420 and 700 hours of insurable employment during the appropriate qualifying period for your region. These amounts are found at: https://srv129.services.gc.ca/ei_regions/eng/postalcode_search.aspx. For sick leave, you must have at least 600 insurable hours in the previous 52 weeks.
EI weekly benefits are based on 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings up to a maximum of $573 per week (based on a maximum annual salary of $54,200). These amounts are taxable. Sick leave EI is payable for up to 15 weeks. Regular EI is payable for a period based on the number of insurable hours you have for the previous 52 weeks, and the economic region you live. It can be for a maximum of 45 weeks.
Working while on EI
You may work while receiving regular EI benefits. You will be able to keep 50 cents of your EI benefits for every dollar you earn at work, up to 90% of the weekly insurable earnings used to calculate your EI amount. Beyond that threshold, your EI benefit will be deducted dollar for dollar from what you earn.
If you make an EI application, regardless of the reason, it will automatically trigger a CERB application.
Don’t try to figure out if you qualify for EI before applying. Submit your application. EI will determine if you qualify and what your benefit level will be.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit is a taxable benefit of $2,000 per month. It will be available for up to 16 weeks, between March 15 and October 3.
Apply here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html. Note that they request you apply on certain days depending on your month of birth.
The following categories of workers qualify for the benefit:
- workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
- workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
- working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
- workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
- wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.
- In order to qualify, you must have not received any income for 14 days, be at least 15 years old, and must have earned at least $5,000 in the last year.
If you have already applied for EI, but are not yet receiving EI, your EI claim will be automatically moved over to the CERB program and you will be paid from that program first. You can then apply for regular EI once the 16 weeks of CERB benefits end. If you are already receiving EI, you can apply for the CERB if your EI claim expires before October 3.
B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers
If you receive either EI benefits or the CERB due to COVID-19, you are eligible for a one-time $1,000 payment from the BC Government. For more info, check https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/covid-19-financial-supports/emergency-benefit-workers
- As of March 30, 2020, student loan payments are automatically frozen for six months
- Contact BC Hydro and ICBC directly regarding their deferment programs.
- BC will provide grants of up to $500 per month to subsidise rental payments. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/covid-19-support?bcgovtm=20200319_GCPE_AM_COVID_4_NOTIFICATION_BCGOV_BCGOV_EN_BC__NOTIFICATION
- Your financial institution may offer mortgage and loan deferral programs as well.
FPSE is acting on a number of fronts to operationalize the guidance and direction from public health authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FPSE Member Locals have all received a memo outlining advice for responding to the pandemic at the local level.
The plans for our May AGM are currently under review and are guided by the direction and advice from our public health authorities, including the BC Centre for Disease Control. Once made, those decisions will be shared.
The health and safety of our members, and acting responsibly during this pandemic will remain our paramount priority for all of our operations.
As the federal and provincial health authorities are urging us, we must do everything we can to #FlattenTheCurve. We are hard at work on this in our office, and ask for your assistance and cooperation in doing this at the individual, workplace and local union level as well.
I know that together we can take action to prevent and limit the transmission of COVID-19.
Our traditional sign-off feels more appropriate now than ever:
Terri Van Steinburg
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish)
& səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories | she/her/hers