CUPE community health members in Victoria and Metro Vancouver showed up in big numbers last week for two evening workshops aimed at tackling the growing problem of workload in their sector.

At CUPE’s B.C. regional office last Wednesday, more than 50 members turned out to discuss the results of the union’s recent workload survey and develop solutions for building safer, healthier workplaces. That session followed a similar event in Victoria two nights earlier in which CUPE members filled a meeting room at the Local 1978 office, with two members from Port Alberni joining the proceedings via Skype feed.

The workload strategy sessions followed a series of health sector work site meetings held over several weeks earlier this spring. For those sessions, CUPE staff and local union officers met with members working under the Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) to discuss the results of a CUPE Research survey on workload in the sector. Those discussions lay the groundwork for this week’s meetings.

Wednesday’s strategy session began with CUPE Union Development representative Vanessa Wolff providing a brief overview on workload as it relates to health and safety. CUPE Research representative Sarah St. John followed with a summary of the survey results, noting how excessive workload and understaffing, systemic unpaid overtime, and systemic burnout have had a negative impact on health service delivery and patient care.

Participants then formed breakout groups, based on CBA and HSPBA job classification, to discuss major workload issues in their workplaces and explore some of the causes and contributing factors. After reviewing employer responses to date, if any, each group came up with possible solutions to share with the larger group in the closing plenary. Finally, a point person was identified for each classification, so that CUPE staff and union officers will be able to follow up and recommend further action.

“The members who attended these meetings were completely engaged in the discussion and very proactive about changing their workplaces for the better,” said CUPE Health Coordinator Chris Losito. “This will help us moving forward, as we’re committed to working with the point persons to develop additional strategies.”

Members are encouraged to follow guidance documents for CBA and HSPBA provided at the strategy session, refuse unsafe work where their workloads have become excessive and unsafe, and stay tuned for further updates on the CUPE health website.

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