Halifax contact centre employee calls for temporary closure after COVID-19 diagnosis at workplace

The CIBC contact centre in Halifax, seen on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Reynold Gregor/Global News

An employee at a Halifax call centre where a case of COVID-19 has been identified said not enough is being done to protect workers from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The employee, who requested anonymity to protect their employment, told Global News that management at the CIBC contact centre informed employees on Monday that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Everyone just seems like they’re stressed, and rightfully so,” the employee said. “After the weekend, we don’t know who brought what home.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia declares state of emergency, announces 7 new cases of COVID-19

The call centre is located at the corner of Cogswell and Barrington streets. According to the employee, more than 100 staff members generally work on the same floor, but accommodations have been made to account for social-distancing orders.

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The employee doesn’t know which colleague contracted the virus or when but said that uncertainty only adds to the worry.

“There’s two bathrooms there. Who knows if I used the same sink or pushed the same door?” the employee said, adding that the entrance to the building is a revolving door.

“You have to push on it to get in. It’s not like you can kick it. You have to push with your hand.”

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As of Wednesday, there are 68 cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. The province is not providing details on specific cases but says all are related to travel.

In a statement to Global News, CIBC spokesperson Tom Wallis confirmed that a team member at the Halifax contact centre had tested positive for COVID-19 and that employees have been advised.

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“Any team member who feels unwell is instructed to stay home, and those unable to attend work for COVID-19-related reasons have a range of supports available to them,” Wallis stated.

Those supports include moving team members around to achieve proper social distancing and enhanced cleaning throughout the day, Wallis said.

“As part of our ongoing effort to address Covid-19, we have enhanced cleaning in place every evening and also have a cleaning porter on duty throughout the day,” Wallis said.

“In addition, out of an abundance of caution, once we were notified of the confirmed case we completed a deep cleaning at the very earliest opportunity.”

Wallis added that team members across CIBC are eligible for up to 10 additional paid days off to help manage the impact of COVID-19, including being there for family members and taking care of themselves

READ MORE: Nova Scotia can now conduct 400 COVID-19 tests in one day — Strang

CIBC said a deep clean was completed after it became aware of the confirmed case. That, however, is providing little comfort to the employee, who said they are more concerned about how long the person may have been in the workplace without a diagnosis.

The call centre is also offering full- and part-time team members a $50-per-day per diem for every day they are required to work on site, as well as free parking. But the employee believes that’s just putting more people at risk.

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“They’re trying to buy their way for people to come into work,” the employee said. “It’s a slap in the face. It’s not fixing the problem. It’s not making it safer.

“For people that might need money, that wouldn’t otherwise come in, [it] might incentivize more people to come in, and now you have more people that suffer.”

The employee is calling for a one- to two-week shutdown of the call centre to ensure all employees aren’t unknowingly carrying the virus.

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