The local president of Edmonton chapter of Canadian Union of Postal Workers has penned a letter to Canada Post’s Edmonton-area management team to call for improved safety precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Roland Schmidt told Global News on Thursday that when he and other union officials have voiced concerns, management has been receptive but that any action then taken is slow to be implemented at workplaces.
“Our members are really frustrated and scared about the crisis everyone’s facing,” he said. “We’re in a unique position because we’ve been deemed an essential service by the federal government and as postal workers, we take that responsibility very seriously.
“Unless this is corrected quickly, it will mean that our situation will go from being an essential service… [to] posing a threat to the Canadian public. Because contamination could spread through the post office quite easily and it would undo all the good work being done by the government… to have people do the right thing and to self-isolate and then to have postal workers unknowingly carry a contamination into these self-isolated homes.”
Schmidt said at least two postal workers in Newfoundland have tested positive for COVID-19. While processing and delivery at that workplace were suspended, he fears the novel coronavirus could have spread by contaminating the facility, mail and parcels.
Among the measures CUPW is calling on Canada Post to implement by Sunday are to stagger shifts at facilities to better enable social distancing at work, to suspend the delivery of non-essential mail like advertising, to provide daily safety reminders to staff and to reinforce the importance of social distancing, to have staff attendance taken by supervisors as opposed to using machines to swipe log-ins, increased sanitation and for employees to have increased access to personal protective equipment.
Jon Hamilton, a spokesperson for Canada Post, told Global News that management has been engaging unions to “identify gaps and issues” and then to resolve them.
“Everything we’re doing is with their safety in mind,” he said. “[This situation] is changing at lightning speed.
“Every decision we make is following the advice and the guidance of the experts, in this case it’s largely been the Public Health Agency of Canada.”
Hamilton said Canada Post facilities have been outfitted with hand-sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers are being put in where necessary, safety equipment is being provided to staff as much as possible and that cleaning at all Canada Post facilities has increased.
He noted that postal workers have adopted a “knock, drop and go” approach to delivering packages and are being provided with gloves. He said Canada Post is working on securing more hand sanitizer for employees, but that it’s been a difficult product to acquire in recent weeks.
“We’re empathetic that this is a time of high concern…that’s why we’re out there talking to our employees, sharing the changes that we’re making…[and] we’ll continue to work through these issues,” he said.
Hamilton added that the Public Health Agency of Canada has said that continuing to deliver mail during the pandemic is safe.
“Canada Post is saying a lot of the right words,” Schmidt said, reiterating that when managers say changes are going to be made, he feels they’re implemented too slowly.
“Every hour that we don’t have these proper procedures in place is an hour where we’re needlessly putting our co-workers and Canadians at risk.”
Watch below: Some videos of Dr. Deena Hinshaw at a news conference in Edmonton on Thursday where she spoke about Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
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