Things with COVID-19 are changing constantly. The Mayor addresses the community daily, giving updates on new COVID-19 measures that HRM is undertaking. Most of the new measures do not involve CUPE Local 108 members. I know many of you are feeling ignored. I can assure you that the conversations I’ve had with you are being taken to your managers.
Many 108 members are concerned about infection at workplaces. Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Strang, said today that all cases of COVID-19 are travel related or those in close proximity of travel related cases. He said that it is time to observe social distancing, it’s no longer an option. We must all try to limit physical interaction. He also said that social distancing does not mean we have to stay home. He said we can still go to the grocery store, walk our dogs and be out and about. We can do this while practicing social or physical distances (2m or 6’). He also stressed that self-isolation does not necessarily mean that we stay inside our home, but we need to stay away from other people with no physical contact. Dr. Strang asked that any worker that can work remotely, do so. These are protocols that will slow the spread of the virus, and allows us to remain at work, earning a pay. There is no directive to send all workers home.
HRM is taking their leads from health care professionals and Premier McNeil. These professionals have advised HRM to take steps to protect the community. The next steps included the closing of all in-person Customer Service Centres and the Youth Live Enviro Depot in the south end of Halifax. The Premier has closed facilities where social distancing is hard to control. Preventative measures to reduce the spread will continue on a daily basis. HRM will follow their advice when announcing additional closures.
REMEMBER: If you are sick DO NOT COME TO WORK. IF you feel that everything is too much, you can request vacation or toil. If you, or a direct family member, are experiencing increased worry or anxiety, you can reach out to Homewood Health’s Employee and Family Assistance Program. They are available 24/7, the access numbers are 902.466.3327 or 1.800.663.1142. Please use this resource so that you stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy. These are unprecedented times, you need to look after yourself.
Some CUPE members are concerned that fellow employees traveled outside Canada and did not self-isolate but have since been tested. These people followed the province’s directives on traveling. Provincial guidelines did not require self-isolate until March 13th, 2020 when this was made mandatory, by the government.
Some members have called me about rumors. The biggest rumor is about HRM withholding cleaning supplies such as Purell. It is my understanding that Purell has been requested by health professionals. Many cleaning products come from China and other countries. China has been in isolation for weeks. This means that many products, including cleaning products, have not been shipped and will be in short supply soon. As you can imagine Purell is in short supply all over the world, not just Halifax.
With the reduced shipments to Canadian distributors, small buyers, such as HRM’s Stores dept. have not received their orders. That is one reason why supervisors have asked employees to source cleaning supplies within HRM. Stores like Superstore, Sobeys and Canadian Tire have months’ worth of supplies in their warehouses. HRM does not usually stockpile supplies like grocery stores do.
I have been asked what CUPE is doing for us. CUPE National has been in contact with the Federal Government to lobby for paid sick-time for all employees during this period. They called for a robust stimulus package. The Prime Minister release that package today. I have not read yet but I expect it will address your questions about pay, eligibility for EI benefits etc. during mandatory isolation if and when it happens. I will look over the stimulus package and ask management your questions about income during this period. Please email/text me any questions you have. I’ll add them to my list.
Some members have concerns about keeping social distance. Once again Dr. Strang says we must practice social distancing. ROC and Parks have enough vehicles for everyone to adhere to social distancing. These may not be half-ton trucks, but it will be a vehicle.
Facilities have changed how they are cleaning work depots. I know my workplace was cleaned last night because I had a conversation with the cleaner as he arrived at 3 pm. I recognize the concerns for cleaning so I contacted a facilities manager. I asked that cleaning protocol be stepped up during the daytime. This is when we are at work and most work traffic occurs. He is going to look at what he can do and may relocate a cleaner to depots where most members are located.
I know everyone is anxious. We all have our personal concerns during this time of uncertainty. Since we cannot have a union meeting please feel free to call me or an executive member with your concerns. The executive will be communicating through conference calls when we need to conduct union business. Please reach out to an executive member with issues and concerns you feel we need to know about. We will discuss them and I will take them to management and get answers.
This situation is evolving and we will attempt to keep all of you up-to-date with changes as they happen. Please join our CUPE-108 Facebook page or look on our webpage (www.108.cupe.ca) for regular updates under the COVID19 tab. We are working as a team and we want everyone to feel safe.
CUPE Local 108