TORONTO - Canada Post’s Gateway facility in Mississauga is in trouble. According to a source not authorized to speak for the Corporation, 43 of 759 employees tested between January 19 and 22 have been confirmed positive – 28 of them in shift three.
Since the beginning of January, 190 employees at the Gateway plant have tested positive for the virus. After completing mandatory testing of one entire shift last week, Canada Post issued a letter to all employees on January 22 requiring all personnel on that shift to “leave the workplace tonight and [to] self-isolate for 14 days”.
Canada Post claims it is working closely with Peel Public Health and will continue to conduct mandatory rapid on-site testing of employees on other shifts. This is in addition to the voluntary testing the corporation has been offering to employees throughout the entire facility. Canada Post employs more than 4,500 people at the Gateway site.
Earlier this month, the Ontario government announced it would increase workplace inspections to combat the rise in Covid-19 cases across the Province. Canada Post maintains it have been following the guidance of Public Health throughout the pandemic.
In response to the other recommendations by Public Health, Canada Post states they will “continue to enforce all safety protocols, with increased focus on washrooms, lunchrooms and locker rooms”.
Workplace outbreaks continue to be a source of infection. Since the onset of the pandemic, roughly 60% of all workplace outbreaks in the Region of Peel (204) occurred in manufacturing, distribution centres, food processing and warehouse settings.
At a news conference on January 20, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said, “over 1,500 workers in Peel have contracted Covid-19 through a workplace outbreak”. These cases are known to lead to greater household and community spread.
Essential workers are the “lifeblood” of communities; postal workers are considered essential. They are the ones who show up to work and help move the economy forward. For some it is a difficult decision between showing up for work sick to keep food on the table, or stay home and risk losing income.
Mayor Crombie, together with other GTHA Mayors and labour advocates have been calling on provincial and federal governments to “provide enhanced paid sick leave to address the on-going spread of Covid-19”.
Ironically, Canada Post does offer paid sick leave for its employees. In a letter to members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the President, Qaiser Maroof, assures all those who test positive or who are under quarantine with strict guidelines by Peel Health will face “no loss of wages”.
The source from the Gateway site speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Corriere Canadese that, as a result of an internal investigation launched to “trace” the cause of the infection, at least two employees are facing fines of $5,000 each. Both individuals returned to work, without observing the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, after travelling outside the country.
Operations at the plant were further affected after approximately 100 Canadian Border Service agents, responsible for the inspection of international mail, were pulled from the site late last week. National President of the Customs and Immigration Union, Jean-Pierre Fortin, said members who work closely with Canada Post employees, were asked to stay away from the facility over a dispute with Canada Post regarding how many people at the plant are actually infected with Covid-19.
The Gateway facility is a central hub for the country’s delivery and processing network.