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Canada Post needs more measures to limit COVID-19 spread, Edmonton union says

Union for Canadian postal workers expresses COVID-19 safety concerns
More than 2,300 postal workers in Edmonton have given Canada Post an ultimatum: take steps to increase the safety of staff or they could refuse work. Sarah Ryan has the details.

The local president of Edmonton chapter of Canadian Union of Postal Workers has penned a letter to Canada Post’s Edmonton-area management team to call for improved safety precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Roland Schmidt told Global News on Thursday that when he and other union officials have voiced concerns, management has been receptive but that any action then taken is slow to be implemented at workplaces.

“Our members are really frustrated and scared about the crisis everyone’s facing,” he said. “We’re in a unique position because we’ve been deemed an essential service by the federal government and as postal workers, we take that responsibility very seriously.

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“Unless this is corrected quickly, it will mean that our situation will go from being an essential service… [to] posing a threat to the Canadian public. Because contamination could spread through the post office quite easily and it would undo all the good work being done by the government… to have people do the right thing and to self-isolate and then to have postal workers unknowingly carry a contamination into these self-isolated homes.”

Schmidt said at least two postal workers in Newfoundland have tested positive for COVID-19. While processing and delivery at that workplace were suspended, he fears the novel coronavirus could have spread by contaminating the facility, mail and parcels.

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Jon Hamilton, a spokesperson for Canada Post, confirmed Friday an employee tested positive for COVID-19 in Calgary a week and half ago. Hamilton said the case was travel-related.

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“The facility was deep-cleaned and we worked closely with Alberta Public Health, not just on our steps within the facility but on our general heightened approach to cleaning and safety and they approved of our approach,” Hamilton said in statement.

“We also talk with our employees and local union members.

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“We take any cases very seriously, and work closely with public health authorities.”

Among the measures CUPW is calling on Canada Post to implement by Sunday are to stagger shifts at facilities to better enable social distancing at work, to suspend the delivery of non-essential mail like advertising, to provide daily safety reminders to staff and to reinforce the importance of social distancing, to have staff attendance taken by supervisors as opposed to using machines to swipe log-ins, increased sanitation and for employees to have increased access to personal protective equipment.

Jon Hamilton, a spokesperson for Canada Post, told Global News that management has been engaging unions to “identify gaps and issues” and then to resolve them.

“Everything we’re doing is with their safety in mind,” he said. “[This situation] is changing at lightning speed.

“Every decision we make is following the advice and the guidance of the experts, in this case it’s largely been the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

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READ MORE: Canada Post reduces office hours, sets aside time for seniors amid coronavirus pandemic

Hamilton said Canada Post facilities have been outfitted with hand-sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers are being put in where necessary, safety equipment is being provided to staff as much as possible and that cleaning at all Canada Post facilities has increased.

He noted that postal workers have adopted a “knock, drop and go” approach to delivering packages and are being provided with gloves. He said Canada Post is working on securing more hand sanitizer for employees, but that it’s been a difficult product to acquire in recent weeks.

“We’re empathetic that this is a time of high concern…that’s why we’re out there talking to our employees, sharing the changes that we’re making…[and] we’ll continue to work through these issues,” he said.

Hamilton added that the Public Health Agency of Canada has said that continuing to deliver mail during the pandemic is safe.

“Canada Post is saying a lot of the right words,” Schmidt said, reiterating that when managers say changes are going to be made, he feels they’re implemented too slowly.

“Every hour that we don’t have these proper procedures in place is an hour where we’re needlessly putting our co-workers and Canadians at risk.”

–With files from Global News’ Sarah Ryan

Watch below: Some videos of Dr. Deena Hinshaw at a news conference in Edmonton on Thursday where she spoke about Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

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