April 2, 2020
Sent to: Hon. Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair, Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
OPEN LETTER RE: SAFETY FOR CANADA POST EMPLOYEES IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Dear Ministers Anand and Freeland,
I write to bring to your attention concerns from constituents who are postal workers and have written to share their requests regarding Canada Post’s response in the COVID-19 pandemic. During this pandemic, federal public health officials have urged that all employees and workplaces take measures that protect workers from risk of infectious disease and “flatten the curve” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, numerous constituents have been in touch with me to advise of their worries that Canada Post Corporation is not taking sufficient actions to ensure the safety and protections for workers who are performing tasks that continue to be deemed as an essential service in this pandemic.
Workers have brought forward these concerns as they worry that, without immediate implementation of protective and preventative measures, they could be unnecessarily exposed to heightened risk of COVID-19 infection, as well as become at heightened risk of transmitting the disease within their family, their household, and their wider community or to the general public. These concerns cover a range of topics, from communication to employees by Canada Post Corporation, to implementation of appropriate basic safety measures; to the need for personal protective equipment and enhanced cleaning protocols, to concerns about current scheduling practices and the risk exposure that could follow from this.
I copy for you below some of the specific concerns as these workers have described them to me. One worker wrote to say,
“While I am proud to serve my fellow Canadians, I am also very concerned about Canada Post's response to this pandemic. I drive a truck for Canada Post, which I share with other drivers on a daily basis. The surfaces in the cab of the truck are potential transfer points that could infect the next driver of the truck. Presently, Canada Post has not provided employees with any methods to sanitize our work spaces. In fact, the only response to this pandemic by Canada Post has been to put four little bottles of hand sanitizer in the lobby of our facility, which has 200-500 employees in it at any given time. There are no extra precautions taken within the building, and absolutely no precautions whatsoever for us employees who drive trucks, or deliver mail and parcels, and are in contact with the general public in the course of our duties. This lack of protection for employees is negligent, and in my opinion, criminal.
I am imploring you and your government to step in and force Canada Post to protect its employees, and indeed, protect all Canadians by ensuring that Canada Post employees on the front lines do not spread COVID-19, nor contract it themselves.”
Another individual wrote to urge action, and said:
“I work in a postal depot with at least 200 people, then deliver mail in an urban environment coming into contact with countless others. Every day I come home and we wonder if or when I will contract the virus, putting [my wife] and the rest of our family at risk….Staggering start times might work but it does nothing to minimize outside contact, and since the virus can linger we’re sharing the same air and equipment in the depots regardless. I propose, if we must continue, we work every second day instead to reduce risk of exposure. You can take the night shift at the plants and put them on the second or third day or whatever.
People are upset and scared, though some are behaving as though we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic at all, which increases risk.”
I was contacted by a third constituent who wrote to say,
“Canada Post employees deliver essential services, but the lack of communication and implementation of safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 on the work floor and to the general public is severely lacking. We, as employees of Canada Post Corp., are asking you to implement these basic safety measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19:
We implore you to put an immediate halt on the collation & delivery of flyers and other non-essential mail items. We know from infectious disease experts that social distancing is critical to curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the absence of widespread testing. In order to follow the experts’ advice, the least amount of time spent in work areas where employees are in close contact with each other (ie. processing plants, delivery depots), would be paramount to help curb the spread of COVID-19. This includes cutting any unnecessary time spent in the plants or depots by employees (ie. flyer collation, sortation & delivery of any non-essential mailings).
We ask you to implement staggered start times of employees in the depots and processing plants, in order to adhere to Health Canada’s recommendation of distancing 2 meters between persons.
Sanitary supplies like gloves, sanitizer spray, and face masks should be made available to all employees at all stations, and training on best safety practices should be provided at all work stations.
If these simple safety precautions and procedures are not implemented by the corporation immediately, employees on the work floor and/or who are in contact with the public, can no longer work in good conscience while putting our own and the public’s safety/lives at risk. If you are not able to put safety precautions in place in a timely manner, we ask that you suspend operations until you do, with full pay to all affected employees.
Public health officials have made it clear that everyone should stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible. By continuing to work as normal, postal employees are put at great risk of contracting the virus and/or spreading it to customers. If Canada Post fails to act swiftly and boldly, many employees and customers alike may become severely ill or die as a result. The gravity of this can hardly be overstated.”
Given the very serious nature of these concerns, it is essential that urgent action be taken to ensure the health and safety of all workers at Canada Post Corporation in the face of this pandemic. Could you please advise what action will you take to immediately address the pressing concerns raised by my constituents so that all necessary measures are taken, and the working conditions and work environment for all operations within Canada Post Corporation is safe for all workers?
Thank you in advance for your attention to these urgent concerns and I look forward to your response.
Jenny Kwan MP, Vancouver East
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos (Vice-Chair)
The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. William Francis Morneau
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
The Hon. Kirsty Duncan
Mr. Doug Ettinger, CEO, Canada Post Corporation