(Mis)managing mail delivery through the Covid-19 crisis

TORONTO – The investigation is ongoing into the active outbreak at Canada post. Customers should expect shipping delays.

The Gateway facility in Mississauga continues to struggle with containing the virus. Since January 1, 273 employees have tested positive for the virus.

On Friday, according to a source from the Gateway site, speaking on condition of anonymity, members of shift one exercised their right to refuse work. Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) claim that Canada Post failed to abide by Covid-19 protocols. Further, they say, it did not accurately contact trace for an employee who tested positive during the Gateway rapid testing exercise.

Operations at the facility resumed following an investigation into the allegations. Going forward, Canada Post has committed to addressing all concerns and to working with assistance from Health and Safety Officers and Management.

The issues are grave. Last week, an employee died after testing positive for Covid-19. The victim, in his sixties, from shift one, was self-isolating after his positive test result.

The exact cause of death is still unknown. However, it emphasizes the urgency in keeping essential workers safe while on the job. It also highlights for CUPW the importance of ensuring proper protocols be in place to protect those workers.

At a minimum, the Unions insists that rapid testing, for one, aids in identifying potential cases. Also, increased workplace inspections help ensure application of, and compliance with, infection prevention and control guidelines. Together, these measures help stop the spread of the virus.

Not all people can stay home. Some choose to go to work because they cannot afford to stay home. They need to provide for their families and cannot risk losing a paycheck.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Peel Region has reported 218 workplace outbreaks. The majority of outbreaks occur in warehouse settings, manufacturing, distribution and the food processing sector. Peel Public Health (PPH) conducted a research study of such cases and the results revealed some “stark data”.

PPH investigated close to 2,000 symptomatic cases between August 2020 and January 2021. According to the region’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, the raw data shows about one in four employees – 25% – reported going into work with symptoms of sickness.

That translates to 1,993 workers out of 7,784 who chose to go to work while feeling unwell. Eighty of those individuals knowingly went into work after testing positive for the virus. Who knows how many they infected as a result.

This poses a great concern for mayors and chairs of eleven of the largest municipalities in the GTHA. Together, they have renewed calls for the federal and provincial government to guarantee paid sick leave for all workers for the duration of the pandemic.

Canada Post employees already enjoy this benefit. Why then has the outbreak become so bad at the Gateway facility? The outbreak has required about 350 employees on shift three to self-isolate for fourteen days.

Last week, Canada Post started mandatory testing of shift two. In a letter to all team leaders at the Gateway facility, Canada Post said that it will begin the mandatory testing of the entire facility (where 4,500 people work) no later than February 2, 2021 – weeks after the outbreak was declared.

In its defense, Canada Post says it continues to follow all Public Health recommendations and will begin active screening of employees on February 2, before they enter the facility.

Better late than never.

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