Over the last 36 hours the situation with COVID-19 has developed at lightning speed and CUPE 503 has been receiving an influx of contact with our members. With 10,000 members delivering public services across all of Eastern Ontario, many of whom are on the front-lines with public contact we expect that many members will be seeking guidance from their union. We have been working to provide advice to our members in this rapidly-changing environment.
Ottawa Public Health and other Regional Health Authorities for our members outside of the City of Ottawa boundaries are the experts when it comes to public health prevention programs and providing advice and guidance on how to proceed through COVID-19. Through their provincial network there are updates multiple times per day on their websites and we encourage all of our members to use Ottawa Public Health as a resource.
We understand that as this situation evolves Ottawa Public Health is providing ongoing, up to date recommendations to employers across the region. This advice can range from protocols when dealing with employees who are returning from international travel, service protocols for the public, reducing exposure threats and maintaining a clean, safe work environment for staff. We will be finalizing our contact with each of the employers where 503 members work for them to provide the union with their current protocols as well as establishing a process to receive regular updates of any changes in workplaces.
Even with a pandemic being declared yesterday, our Collective Agreements with each employer and Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act remain in effect. If you have been impacted by exposure or international travel we encourage you to contact public health for advice on next steps.
If you believe your health and safety is at risk in the workplace the first step is to report the hazard or process to your supervisor as per the Occupational Health & Safety Act. We encourage members to document any conversation they have had with their supervisor, and to discuss a response time to the concern for follow-up. CUPE 503 members also have Joint Health & Safety Committees in their workplaces. Issues of Health & Safety should also be brought forward to your worker representatives. The Joint Health & Safety Committee can convene a meeting to discuss the concerns in the workplace and make recommendations to management. This is a protected process under the Occupational Health & Safety Act and should be used by members as the tool to bring about changes in the workplace to address the presenting issues. Our shop stewards can also be a resource in your workplaces to bring forward issues as they arise.
Update: 13 March 2020:
As you are aware, public health authorities are continuing to assess the COVID-19 situation and the overall health risk to Canadians. The directives and responses to the outbreak have been sometimes changing on an hourly basis. This situation is unique and the Local is in discussions with the Employer to confirm the protocols that are to be followed.
If your Employer asks you if you have traveled internationally in the last few weeks, or if you have upcoming plans to travel, you should disclose what country(ies) you visited, and the dates of your travel to the Employer. Similarly, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, we ask that you follow the directives set out from Ottawa Public Health (https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/novel-coronavirus.aspx) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html).
The CUPE 503 office hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 12 noon and 1:00pm to 4:30. We will do our very best to respond to questions and concerns as they arise in the workplace, and as any new information comes forward we update the membership through our email system. Please ensure we have your Personal Email by providing it to firstname.lastname@example.org