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PRESS RELEASE: NOVEMBER 20, 2020

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Members and union staff discuss Covid-19 and mandatory masks

On November 19th, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that anyone entering a grocery or retail store must wear a mask if they are medically able to do so.

For many of our members this was a much-anticipated announcement. The same night, we held our quarterly Town Hall Membership meeting, and the majority of the members calling in were asking about the implementation of Dr. Henry’s order.

When the Telephone Town Hall call board was filled with Covid-19 related calls, we made the decision to call those members back individually and engage them on the issue.

Secretary-Treasurer Dan Goodman personally spoke to a number of members and the consistent messages from the members were:

-        we want to go to work;

-        we want to feel safe in our workplace;

-        we want to know what our employers are doing and be more informed on how they deal with Covid-19 issues;

-        we want to know that someone is looking out for us and has our backs.

Members expressed great concern that their employer would be passing the enforcement of Dr. Henry’s mandatory mask order onto them.

We told all the members the same thing: it’s not your job to tell a customer they need to wear a mask. It never has been and it certainly isn’t now.

The union is reaching out to all employers and asking for clarity on their plans for dealing not only with mandatory masks, but the continued issues of customer counts in stores, and proper social distancing.

We need to know the employers will be providing proper security to deal with the public on this contentious issue.

We need to know that there’s a plan to deal with a customer who refuses to wear a mask.

We need to know that they are actively counting the number of customers in their location, and limiting those numbers if need be.

It appears the majority of Covid-19 cases reported are from outside activities such as social gatherings, and not originating in the workplace.

We have seen source and workplace tracing reports, and the union continues to work with the employers to ensure better communication to members on positive reports in their stores.

Despite the recent rise in Covid-19 infection rates, we are much farther ahead in dealing with this pandemic than we were months ago. Most if not all of the Employers have provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to members where necessary. Numerous safety measures have been made in workplaces such as plexiglass enclosures, signage, barriers, and available sanitization products.

Most of these stores see regular visits from the Provincial Health Officers to ensure compliance.

Nevertheless, it’s as important as ever that members continue to do what they can to keep themselves safe, and to know that it is not a member’s responsibility to confront customers not wearing masks.

  • ufcw [at] ufcw247 [dot] com