Update from CEIU NATIONAL
Dear members of CEIU,
First and foremost, we want to thank you, the members of CEIU, for your continued and valued work serving Canadians during these unprecedented times; and to our union activists during these unprecedented times, there are not enough thank-yous we can give you in the name of all members of CEIU.
We are writing our members to provide a short update from the CEIU National Office regarding the progress we have made in advocating on your behalf with our employer in all three departments
IRCC NVP, Paul Croes, continues to advocate at the NPHSC meetings, and we are having conference calls between regional and national CEIU leadership with regional and national IRCC management. All staff have been advised to work from home where feasible as of March 16, 2020, while ensuring mission critical services continue. Senior IRCC management explained to the union this week that measures have been taken in order for a maximum of employees to be working from home since March 16. The call center employees are only working with email to insure that critical services are maintained to populations like victims of human trafficking or other vulnerable workers. Laptops have been distributed. Some critical service employees are still going into the offices to accomplish their duties. Domestic offices have shifted to email, telephone, or online intake and telephone interviews. Domestic offices and case processing centres are operating at limited capacity with a focus on delivering critical services. The Client Support Centre, which provides telephone and email support to clients in Canada, has shifted to e-mail only enquiries until April 2nd. Settlement Service Provider Organizations are delivering essential services only, including refugee resettlement services and case management for vulnerable clients. In-person landings appointments in domestic offices across Canada have been cancelled until April 13. Asylum claimants appointments are cancelled until April 13. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada has introduced interim procedures to intake in-Canada claims for refugee protection via email. Citizenship tests, hearings, ceremonies, and itinerant services are cancelled until April 13.
Following a recent proposal by national CEIU union leadership, the department advised that the Deputy Minister is open to accepting our proposal to install AEDs in IRCC offices and have requested that a working group be created in order to iron out details concerning this. This is an enormous victory for CEIU as IRCC joins the IRB in accepting the union’s proposal on this – we look forward to a victory with Service Canada next!
A suggestion was made by CEIU at the national level, that while the buildings are empty or almost empty, it would be efficient and timely to make sure that building problems, for example issues with mold or bed bugs, could be tackled much more efficiently when there are few or no employees present in the buildings. Facilities should be made aware of this. The employer is working with us on this suggestion. Finally, regarding grievances, the union asked for and received an agreement to be put in abeyance while the COVID-19 pandemic is underway.
Regionally, CEIU NVPs are meeting with the employer on a sometimes daily, sometimes bi-weekly basis with the ADMs. Nationally, the National President and National Executive Vice-President are meeting almost daily with national Service Canada management, as well as meetings with the Service Canada Minister and his staff.
Service Canada grievances the union asked for and received the ok to put our grievances in abeyance while the COVID-19 pandemic is underway.
The primary focus over the past week with the employer had been on the safety and security of our members working in client facing environments. While we were quickly able to advocate for integrity officers, or other staff going out into the communities to be pulled back into their offices, we were at first unsuccessful in working with the employer to implement, in a timely or cohesive way, increased safety measures in Service Canada Centres. While the employer was slow to action changes, situations of violence in the front end became increasingly dangerous for our members and several offices and individual staff were left with no other option but to invoke their right to refuse dangerous work under the Canada Labour Code. The National President and NEVP turned to Members of Parliament and the media after being unsuccessful in reaching the Deputy Minister, and following a meeting with the Minister for Service Canada, where again, their request for actions to protect staff went unanswered. Finally, the employer made the decision Thursday evening to close its doors to all drop-in clients. This is an unprecedented action on the part of the employer, and the union is thankful that necessary measures are now being put in place to protect our members.
The union is working hard now with national management to ensure clients with accessibility challenges will continue to get served. We are also increasing our advocacy for our call center and other members as we consider how people are getting to and from work, the reasonableness of staff numbers in the offices, sanitization, and other areas that require our attention.
The CEIU National Office