British Columbia’s minister of health says the provincial government’s long-promised temporary pandemic pay is on the way to eligible healthcare workers who haven’t received it.
During Monday’s COVID-19 update, Adrian Dix, the province’s health minister, apologized for the lengthy delay and assured workers they would be getting the money.
“I can assure them that they will get the pay that they are promised,” said Dix. “This process of pandemic pay has been quite complicated. I think the ministry of finance and B.C. has done a good job of administering it but nevertheless, it feels like it has taken too long.”
“I agree. It has taken too long and we all accept that. People are working through it very diligently but everyone who is eligible for pandemic pay will receive it without question,” he added.
Over the weekend, CHEK News reported that thousands of frontline healthcare workers on Vancouver Island, mainly those who are housekeepers and care aids, had not yet received any pandemic pay.
B.C. Premier John Horgan promised in May to provide 250,000 eligible front-line workers with a one-time temporary pandemic pay — a lump-sum payment of about $4 per hour covering a 16-week period from March 15 to July 4.
Following months of delays, pandemic pay began flowing to eligible workers in early October and employers had until Oct. 31 to submit claims to the province’s temporary pandemic pay program.
According to the Hospital Employees Union, around 80,000 healthcare workers in hospitals and long-term care homes across B.C. are still waiting for their COVID-19 top-up.
“That’s a real injustice,” said Mike Old, spokesperson for the Hospital Employees Union. “Especially considering that some of the workers that have not received their pandemic pay yet are among the lowest-paid workers in the healthcare system and that’s just not fair.”
Many of those who have not been paid are workers who are employed not directly by Island Health, but by companies contracted out by the health authority.
The union says those jobs were contracted out and the companies responsible for applying for the pandemic pay were slow, despite workers’ appeals for them to get on it quickly.
“For workers on the frontline, it’s hard,” said Old. “It’s hard to know they won’t be getting this money before the holidays.”
Dix, however, said on Monday that he completely understands the frustration workers’ are feeling and stressed that the money is coming — although he didn’t offer a timeline.
“I totally agree with their frustration, we feel it as well,” he said. “But, they are all going to get their pandemic pay.”
“Direct employees, for example, of health authorities have generally already received while others who are contracted providers providing healthcare services who are eligible for pandemic pay . . . in a significant number of cases have not
Meanwhile, in a statement to CHEK, Island Health said its role is to validate the contracted service providers’ temporary pandemic pay submissions, allowing the province to make the payments, and that money is indeed on the way to those eligible workers.
“This process is underway and we understand the contracted service providers should receive their temporary pandemic pay soon,” Island Health said.
With files from Skye Ryan