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City of Hamilton, waste collectors find common ground

The City of Hamilton and CUPE Local 5167 have resolved concerns that prompted a work refusal by waste collectors.
The City of Hamilton and CUPE Local 5167 have resolved concerns that prompted a work refusal by waste collectors. Ken Mann

While more and more people practise social distancing, garbage trucks are back out on the streets of Hamilton, Ont.

The city and the outside workers unit of CUPE 5167 have resolved the health and safety concerns that prompted waste collectors to participate in a one-day work refusal on Monday.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Waste collection workers in Hamilton demand better COVID-19 protection

CUPE’s Barry Conway says access to wipes, sanitizer and other personal protective equipment has been assured, as well as access to washrooms in road’s department work yards along their routes.

Conway says that washroom access had become an issue due to the growing number of businesses forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city has also suspended leaf and yard waste collection until further notice, and is urging residents to put tissues in the garbage instead of the green bin, which will limit exposures for the workers.

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Conway notes that one of their concerns was “what do we have to be doing, why are we out there longer, why are we interacting with more folks or touching more things” during a period of social distancing. He adds that suspending leaf and yard waste will also help the city with “consistent scheduling, with putting workers together” in light of potential staffing shortages.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Hamilton reporting 5 new COVID-19 cases, 2 in Halton

Conway also stresses that the workers take “great pride in being out there in the community,” but simply want assurances they can do it safely.

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Paul Johnson, director of Hamilton’s emergency operations, says he’s “really, really thankful for the work that our waste collectors are putting in, our transit operators, our first responders”, adding that “everybody is doing what they need to do.”

He adds that the city will be “catching up with the stuff that didn’t get collected yesterday (Monday) while obviously doing the Tuesday work.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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