British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan says in a statement that while the majority of people are following rules to stop the spread of COVID-19, a small number are ignoring orders. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Premier’s office ‘confident’ temporary pandemic pay coming in October

B.C. Government Employees’ Union say workers have been waiting long enough to receive it

The B.C. government says temporary pandemic pay that was promised to essential workers in mid-May should be coming in October.

The stipend was promised to about 250,000 frontline workers for work done between March and July and some workers say they’re frustrated it still hasn’t arrived.

The premier’s office said Thursday ministries and funding agencies are implementing an invoicing and payment system for all employers so that they can receive and distribute the pay to their employees.

“The province recognizes the urgent need for these funds as well as the length of time it has taken to construct a payment system to distribute these funds,” the premier’s office said in a statement Thursday.

“We are confident that the funding will begin flowing through employers to employees in October.”

In announcing the pay as the pandemic took hold, Finance Minister Carole James said the stipend, which is cost-shared with the federal government, would recognize what workers were doing to help keep people healthy and communities running.

Front-line workers in health, social services and corrections are eligible for the $4-an-hour lump-sum payment for straight-hours worked between March 15 and July 4.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Government Employees’ Union said workers had been waiting long enough to receive it.

“Delays send the wrong message,” union president Stephanie Smith said in a statement.

While workers in every province have experienced some delay in getting the money, B.C. workers appear to be the only ones still waiting, Smith said.

Karen Dalton, a receptionist and former care aide at an assisted living facility in Nanaimo, said it was scary when the pandemic hit.

Staff feared for the residents and their families, and they were tired from working overtime, she said.

“We worked really, really hard to keep our residents safe. So, when we heard the pandemic pay was coming, it was a wonderful thing to be acknowledged for your hard work,” she said in an interview on Thursday.

Some workers had their pay slashed because new rules meant they could no longer take jobs at multiple sites, only one. So, the announcement of an additional $2,000 or so each was welcome.

“It was just a little relief that, oh my god I’m going to pay my MasterCard bill off, I’m going to be able to pay my rent,” Dalton said.

Dalton said staff have been questioning whether it will ever come.

Paul Finch, the union’s treasurer, said Thursday it would prefer to see the pay sooner and it wants to see eligibility expanded to the lowest-paid essential workers at liquor and cannabis stores, as well as those working in child-care.

“Throughout this entire crisis they’ve been on the frontlines at high risk and high exposure,” Finch said.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement that given the limited funding parameters of the cost-shared program, the province did its best to maximize the benefit to the most employees possible. B.C.’s approach closely matches what Ontario, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have done, it added.

Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees’ Union, said earlier this week that the union was among those that advocated in April for an extra allowance recognizing the costs frontline workers were taking on.

Some workers lost access to public transit, for example, or had to spend more on work clothing as they couldn’t use laundry facilities and changed clothes more often to prevent transmission of the virus.

“It was a really, really challenging period,” she said.

Some staff working to set up the new payment system are also union members and Whiteside said she understands it’s a complicated process.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting, are among the provincial leaders in getting in their votes early, with some 20 per cent (10,174) of eligible voters have already cast their ballots. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

The M’akola Housing Society is looking to build two new residences in Sooke to help provide affordable accommodation for local Indigenous people. The projects were granted nearly $1.1 million toward their construction through the Regional Housing Trust Fund. (Photo courtesy M’Akola Housing Society)
Regional Housing First Program strikes another chord in Greater Victoria

Affordable housing partnership grants will help house over 100 people on income assistance

Plastic Ocean by Oak Bay resident Gabriela Hirt is in the Federation of Canadian Artist’s “Crisis” exhibition on now in Vancouver. (Gabriela Hirt/cropped to fit)
Oak Bay artist wins juried show in Vancouver

Pair of Oak Bay artists part of ‘Crisis’ exhibition

Online reservation service, First Table, allows Victoria diners to have dinner at half-price if they’re willing to be flexible about when they go. (Black Press Media file photo)
New reservation service allows Victoria residents to dine out at half price

First Table gives Victoria diners 50 per cent off when they book tables during off-peak hours

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights

Supporters call on government to recognize Indigenous treaty rights

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Parksville’s Jared Huggan won $75,000 playing BC/49. (BCLC/Photo submitted)
Vancouver Island man $75K richer after purchasing winning lottery ticket at Nanaimo Walmart

Parksville’s Huggan plans to purchase electric bike for partner

Most Read