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Workers' actions forced safety measures at Canada Post

By: 
Pam Johnson

March 3, 2021

 

After a postal worker who worked at the Gateway sorting plant in Mississauga died from Covid-19 that he contracted at his workplace, Canada post immediately went into damage control mode. They announced new protocols and new safety measures for the workers. But it wasn’t some new streak of benevolence from the Canada Post bosses that forced the changes - it was the workers themselves. 

 

Following the workers death, Canada Post also revealed that 250 workers had tested positive in the same plant since January 1. The corporation then sent home 350 workers to be isolated for 14 days. The Gateway plant where the deceased worker was employed has 4,500 employees working in three shifts around the clock. 

 

But what forced Canada Post’s new measures was a workplace revolt. According to workers in the plant, it was only after 24 clerks on the night shift, the same shift that the deceased worker was on, exercised their right to refuse to work because of a health risk that Canada Post decided to take measures to increase worker safety, including mandatory testing of its employees and provision of medical grade masks.

 

The question is why did it take a workplace death and worker action to get Canada Post to provide basic Covid safety. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is demanding answers: “When will the government ensure that our members are treated like frontline workers? When will our health and safety will be treated with high importance?” said Quaser Maroof, president of CUPW Toronto local.

Worker safety will need to remain a top priority for the union and it’s members as the government inspections announced by the Doug Ford do not apply to Canada Post sites. Because it is a national corporation they are not being inspected. When pressed on this both the provincial and federal government blamed each other for the lack of clarity. 

Jan Simpson, president of CUPW said, "The virus doesn't distinguish between provincial and federal workplaces and neither should inspections”. Her concerns are shared by doctors. Ryerson University epidemiology professor, Tim Sly told the Canadian Press that the process, “Confuses everybody. The city says one thing, the province says something else, the feds say something else, and the public is going around in circles saying that nobody knows what they're doing."

The union is focussing on educating the workers about their right to refuse unsafe work under their collective agreement and under Canadian law. Once again, incompetence from the bosses and governments have forced rank and file workers to take measures into their own hands to ensure their safety. 

 

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