COVID-19 FAQ for CUPW Members at Canada Post

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Questions about COVID-19?

Contact our COVID-19 National Response HQ

COVID-19@cupw-sttp.org

IMPORTANT: Please provide your name, local, job type and workplace location. Only questions about COVID-19 will be answered. Please contact your local for other issues.

CDC : Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 FAQ for CUPW Members at Canada Post

Last updated: May 26, 2020

High Risk Workers, Periods of Quarantine and the April 10 Deadline

As of April 6, this is no longer the case. High-risk members who used personal days since the start of the crisis will have those days credited back to them. This is valid for employees over age 70, who have immunodeficiency, who are pregnant, or who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk.

The April 10th date is only relevant for members who are experiencing child-care issues. For members in the high-risk category, they should be on quarantine leave for the duration of the crisis or until the government says it is safe to go back to work.

Canada Post has been following the guidelines from the Treasury Board of Canada concerning the date we could expect schools and/or child-care facilities to remain closed. On April 8th, CPC advised CUPW that special leave for child-care issues will be approved going forward “until further notice."

We are pushing Canada Post Corporation: it is important to us that members who are sick or quarantined be on 100% pay. CPC currently puts them on STDP – 70% of pay. We can’t accept the risk of members being under financial pressure to work when they’re sick; it would endanger all of us.

People Age 70 and Over

CUPW and CPC are working with an age of 70. Some recommendations from different entities may say 65.

Canada Post’s health care provider, Canada Life, can now approve special leave for quarantine. If talking to Canada Life does not get you what you need, please let us know.

Medical Questions

We can’t give you medical advice.

Your family doctor or clinic is the best place to get advice that suits your own situation. If you are advised by your doctor to quarantine of self-isolate, you can apply for the appropriate type of leave. The World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 and the Public Health Agency of Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html are good resources for up-to-date information in between doctor visits.

Leave, even without pay, needs to be approved by Canada Post.

If you’re worried about bringing the virus home from work, you’re not alone. We’re still pressing Canada Post to improve cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and to enable our members to maintain physical distancing at work. These things are working better in some workplaces than others.

If you don’t qualify for special leave (mandatory quarantine, mandatory self-isolation, child or elder care) and you don’t feel safe at work, talk to a steward or local representative about how to address your concerns. Your co-workers probably share your concerns. You may have to work collectively to get management to address them.

This is a troubling situation. Some of us who haven’t experienced anxiety before are feeling it for the first time. Some of us have anxiety disorders that are triggered or aggravated by the pandemic, and the infodemic. If you’re experiencing anxiety that affects your ability to perform your job, or care for your family, or if you’re having panic attacks or suicidal thoughts, those are important signs. You should seek medical help for that. Once you have a doctor’s advice, you can approach Canada Post for the appropriate type of accommodation or leave so that you can get well and stay well.

Your Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

Article 128 is the provision of the Canada Labor Code that permits you to refuse dangerous work (Members of the Urban Postal Operations have a negotiated process under Clause 33.13 of the collective agreement, the process differs slightly – see https://www.cupw.ca/en/your-right-refuse for details.)

When advised of your refusal, the Employer will conduct an investigation and try to resolve the situation, if this is not satisfactory to you, the matter will be escalated to the Local Health and Safety comity or the health and Safety Representative. Ultimately, if the situation is not resolved, an Officer from Employment and Social Development (ESDC) will investigate and ESDC will issue a decision in writing. We recommend that you include your Union Representative in all discussions with the Employer or ESDC.

The definition of "danger" of the Canada Labor Code will apply when ESDC assesses your refusal. Your personal situation will be taken into consideration in making their decision. Considerations may be given to your medical situation or the level of exposure in your particular assignment, for example.

You will find more details and the complete process on our website and encourage you to discuss this issue with your local Union if you feel you need more information or if you want to raise an issue.

Health and Safety and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

With suggestions from our members, we’re pushing Canada Post and our other employers to do more.

  • We have convinced Canada Post to modify certain processes, such as the elimination of signatures at the door, reducing the requirements for swiping in plants, and different hours of operation in retail to allow for better cleaning.
  • We are also monitoring very closely the procurement and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment, like hand sanitizer and Plexiglas barriers at retail outlets. We spoke to the government and asked them to help our workers have access to these important supplies.
  • You might have seen our position on workers over 70 years of age or with compromised immune systems. Paid quarantine leave is available upon request.
  • We have also seen different and very effective local solutions on minimizing contact with the public and adjusting scheduling to allow for social distancing at work.
  • We’ve seen progress too, at the National level, on the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment, and the installation of plexiglass shields in retail counters.

We’re doing our best to keep members informed of all this, on our website at https://www.cupw.ca/en/member-resources/coronavirus-covid-19, on twitter at @cupw, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cupwsttp/

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that a mask may be useful to help prevent the virus’ spread. We have requested that CPC provide non-medical masks to all employees upon request. You could possibly be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, and in that case you would be able to spread the virus through respiratory droplets. Canada Post has agreed to supply masks. CPC has procured 190,000 re-usable masks and began distribution of the first 60,000 on May 4. The masks are to be distributed to workers in plants first, where physical distancing is most difficult.

Regarding your right to refuse, aspects of your personal condition would be taken into consideration such as your age, or your state of health. Your personal level of exposure and the level of risk would also be taken into consideration. In light of those criteria, it is difficult for CUPW to assess whether or not an individual right to refuse would have any success with CPC or Labor Canada (ESDC). What you need to know is that you have the right to refuse dangerous work if you believe that your health and safety is at risk. All you need to be careful about is not to exercise that right frivolously. We suggest that you involve your Shop Steward or Local Executive in all discussions with the Employer about this as they can offer you some guidance on the subject. Whatever the outcome of your right to refuse, this may be a way to have a serious discussion with management and alleviate concerns or make changes to processes or work methods.

The thickness of the barrier doesn’t make a difference to its effectiveness against transmission of the virus, but its position and size do. If the placement or size of the barrier is not adequate, or if customers are standing to the side of the barrier and circumventing its protection, please work with your local health and safety representatives and local management to get it installed correctly. We have requested that more adequate barriers be implemented as soon as they become available.

Members can request an extra set of these clear PVC barriers to local management to ensure proper protection of the environment. For specific challenges relating to a particular work station, we encourage you to have a discussion with your local executive or a member of the Local Joint Health and Safety committee or your Health and Safety representative to try and find a solution. If you cannot resolve the situation locally, please escalate the issue to your regional office. Local Management have the capability to order supplementary barriers to deal with local realities.

Permanent Relief Employees are only entitled to the minimum compensation while on quarantine leave. Unfortunately, despite relentless efforts to persuade them otherwise, Canada Post has not wavered from this position. CUPW continues to address this with the employer.

This is complicated. As you’ve seen, many workers are getting bonuses during this crisis. We have made representations to the Government and asked them to clarify the financial relief offered to workers and asked them to help postal workers have access to such relief. We have also been working very hard on having as many of you as possible stay home on paid leave, either on quarantine leave or special leave for childcare issues. Our first priority is health and safety, and we haven’t resolved that yet to our satisfaction, but we will keep working everyday and with your help, we will get through this.

Good cleaning is one of the primary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Many other members share your concerns about the cleaning of facilities and equipment. Canada Post says they have stepped up cleaning efforts. Although we are getting conflicting reports from members like you, we are starting to receive reports that the situation has improved in some areas. Your feedback is very valuable to us, as it allows us to intervene in specific areas and make sure management follows through on their obligation to clean and disinfect your workplace.

Postal Operations

This crisis just goes to show that the work we do is as vital as ever, and we’re on the front line of helping flatten the curve. The economy would not function well without the work we’re doing. So we can see why you and many others use the term essential.

On the other hand, the term “Essential Service” is a special designation. Workers in Essential Services have severe limits on their right to job action. Many of the benefits and conditions we have, including things like maternity leave, we gained because of a strike, or our preparedness to strike. If Canada Post had been deemed an essential service, we wouldn’t have had that leverage. We wouldn’t be where we are today, and we’d have an even harder time protecting our health and safety in this crisis. Provincial legislation speaks rather of “Essential Workplaces.”

CUPW members and representatives at all levels have been pushing for an adapted delivery method for admail.

Canada Post Corporation has now authorized local management to make alternate delivery arrangements for admail. Workers in Group 2 and RSMCs will be able to alter their delivery of unaddressed admail [neighbourhood mail], limiting the exposure they have with the public and with various surfaces, based on discussions locally with their supervisors.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Employment Insurance (EI)

More information on the CERB can be found here or on the Canada Revenue Agency CERB page.

Canada Post will issue a Record of Employment to members who have had no work for seven consecutive days, or who are unable to work because of the pandemic (Quarantine, Child Care, Illness, High-Risk Group) and have no form of paid leave available. You can request your ROE from AccessHR, but you should consult a health and safety representative or a steward first to find out if you have better options.

The CERB’s elibibility is currently only for people whose income has been reduced to less than $1000 per four weeks (from all sources, including any employment income or benefits) because of the pandemic.

If you’ve been laid off because of a shortage of work during the pandemic, you can apply for EI. If your income has been reduced to less than $1000 per four weeks (from all income sources, employment or self-employment) because of the pandemic – but not if you quit or if you are eligible for EI – you can apply for the CERB, either through Service Canada or Canada Revenue Agency.

Keep an eye on your payments. Payments will be issued before your eligibility is fully assessed, and because the payments are being issued with urgency, there have been instances of double payments and other glitches. The government may end up recouping overpayments.

The Federal government has made some changes to the program because of the impact of COVID-19, waiving the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits and making some changes to the claim procedure. They’ve received a huge influx of new claims. Before applying for EI, we recommend that members rely first on our collective agreement provisions for quarantine leave and special leave – one or the other of those options will work for the majority of members who are sick or caring for others. If you’ve exhausted those options, please see your steward or contact your local before applying for EI.

Negotiations with Canada Post

We’re all frustrated from living so long under Bill C-89, the back-to-work legislation from 2018. Our right to strike is still violated. The arbitration imposed by that law continues, and we did not let the COVID-19 crisis delay it. Hearings with the arbitrator took place online, and this was effective. The parties have now finished presenting final arguments. The bargaining committee has been working long hours and these final arguments were presented to the arbitrator at the beginning of May 2020. We expect that the arbitrator will then be rendering her decision at the end of June 2020. It’s been a long process, but we now have a better idea of when we can expect the results.

You can get the latest updates on that at https://www.cupw.ca/en/collective-agreements/urban-and-rsmc-negotiations-2017-2018

Disclaimer

We are sharing the best available information we can find and updating it whenever possible, and without delay. Thus, while we are disseminating this information, please be aware that not everything we’re sharing here has been thoroughly vetted by the union, nor does it necessarily represent CUPW’s beliefs or positions.