Staying safely connected through innovative ways

News Blog
President's Desk, Guardian, Winter 2020 issue

A popular buzzword in 2020 is “pivot” – meaning our ability to be flexible when regularly called upon to change our course of action during this global pandemic.

And nowhere is that flexibility more evident than in our health care system. HEU members have had to adapt so frequently, it’s left our heads spinning. But we have always been resilient.

HEU has made some tough decisions – including postponing our biennial convention, cancelling in-person bargaining sessions, moving our education program online, and learning new technology to engage members – such as Zoom, Webex and Simply Voting.

Union business carries on in new ways

We’ve had to change how we conduct labour-management meetings to resolve member grievances. We’ve established new methods to bargain and vote on collective agreements. And we’re finding creative ways to organize new locals. The business of the union hasn’t stopped, it’s just transitioned.

Holding in-person local meetings is not a viable or safe option right now, and we have a responsibility to prevent any opportunity for potential transmission.

Provincial health orders and WorkSafeBC COVID-19 safety plans, which are legally required at every workplace, mean many members are excluded from union participation, which impacts the democracy of local decision-making.

Supporting locals with online tools

That’s why HEU continues to find new ways to ensure all members have access to your union – such as virtual local meetings, communicating through Facebook groups or other social media sites, and offering Zoom training workshops.

HEU’s Pandemic Fund also supports locals to purchase laptops to conduct union business, as I anticipate a hybrid of this new model will be the future of our local meetings.

Transitioning to online has actually made local meetings more inclusive and accessible to members, who find it more convenient to fit union meetings into their work schedules and family commitments. And it solves age-old problems facing geographically challenged locals.

I cannot express how proud I am of our membership. As essential health care workers struggling to keep yourselves and your families safe, you have still stayed connected as union members.

It’s a huge transition for us, but it’s a safe and viable option to support each other until we can break bread together again.

by Barb Nederpel