Dear Premier Ford,
UFCW Canada Local 1006A is proud to represent more than 20,000 grocery workers across Ontario, working on the frontlines to serve residents and families during this pandemic.
Grocery workers play an essential role in our province’s response to COVID-19. They should not only be recognized for their efforts but further protected.
On behalf of our membership, and workers across the province, we urge you to take strong measures to ensure the health and safety of these front-line workers. While performing their valued service, many of our members are in contact with the public. As grocery workers perform an important function in our society, they do not have the option of working remotely. Protecting the health of the frontline workers has a ripple effect, as it ensures their families and the public are also safe.
It is critical that workers at grocery stores are provided with the proper protection to do their jobs. This includes protective measures, like masks, sanitizers, gloves and paper towels as requested and needed. It’s vital that workers have access to these products so they can assist customers ensuring both worker and public safety.
While we strongly support using reusable bags, the staying power of the virus on various surfaces puts our cashiers at a greater risk to exposure and potential transmission. For now, we recommend exclusively using single-use grocery bags.
Overcrowding or large groups of people also put workers and the public at risk. Ensuring proper social distancing guidelines means limiting the number of shoppers at any given time. It is vital to take appropriate measures to ensure everyone, from the workers to the customers are protected. Allowing for more frequent breaks for handwashing will also reduce the opportunity for spread.
The public must be reminded that if they are sick, to self isolate and get help from a family member or a friend with shopping needs. Putting grocery workers at risk puts their families and the larger public at risk.
We also urge you to address the important issue of childcare for these frontline workers. Ensuring funding and easy access for paid childcare will enable them to perform their jobs during this pandemic.
It has been a time of great stress and anxiety for all. Grocery workers are an important part of our collective response to this crisis. Our ability to flatten the curve of COVID-19 will only be as effective as our commitment to the health and safety of these and all workers. When workers on the frontlines are healthy and safe, we ensure the larger public is also protected.
Wayne E. Hanley, President
UFCW Canada Local 1006A
COVID-19: FAQ For Grocery Workers
What is the union doing to protect our health and safety at the stores?
Your health and safety is our highest priority. You deserve to be safe. Our union representatives are working hard to respond to concerns and issues you are facing. Since the beginning, your union has been in discussions with senior company officials and government leaders urging urgent action to protect the health and safety of grocery workers on the frontlines. Companies are listening.
Through the union’s continuous persistence and pressure in constant conversations, the company continues to update its health and safety measures. See our letter to Premier Ford here.
I am experiencing symptoms and concerned I have contracted COVID-19 – is my job protected?
Yes, if you are experiencing symptoms or have contracted COVID-19, your job is protected. If you are sick or experiencing any symptoms, all health authorities across Canada advise you to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 and its ability to rapidly spread, these health authorities have issued specific advice and legislation to protect workers and the public.
Officials do not want you to go to work in if you are symptomatic and may potentially spread COVID-19. Under emergency legislation passed, there is job-protected leave for those in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19. Please call your manager and inform them as soon as you start experiencing symptoms.
You do not require a sick note for government benefits. However, if you are applying for the company’s Pay Protection Program, ensure you have a screenshot of your phone call to Telehealth or whatever documentation you can provide.
I am concerned customers are not observing the 2-metre distance guideline?
Social distancing is very important to help reduce the spread. We have spoken to the employer about the importance of setting limits on the number of customers in the store. The company has agreed, and are setting limits at all their stores and is installing plexiglass at the frontend of all locations. Tape markers will be around the store and front-end for social distancing, and hand wash stations will also installed at the front of the stores. If your management is not observing limits and your store is full of too many customers, who may be bumping into you or crowding into you, please contact your union rep.
I have noticed customers still bringing reusable bags – is this safe?
If customers bring reusable bags, you do not have to bag their groceries for them. They will have to bag their groceries themselves. At this time, reusable bags pose an unnecessary risk. The staying power of the virus on various surfaces means a greater risk to exposure and potential transmission.
For now, we recommend exclusively using single-use grocery bags which the customer can use for free.
I have noticed customers are coming into the store sick and I am concerned about my safety?
Your union is advocating for firm implementation of social distancing and encouraging all customers who are sick, to stay home and ask a friend, neighbour or family member to do their shopping for them. Please maintain a distance from them and if you are uncomfortable, please inform your supervisor.
What is the number one thing I can do to stay safe?
The health authorities are consistently asking us to wash our hands regularly and not touch our faces at all. Also practice good social distancing (2 metres (6 feet) away from everyone else) whenever you can.
What do I do if I notice a co-worker has symptoms and is not self-isolating or returned from traveling and is not self-isolating?
Please alert your manager right away and if the situation is not resolved, your union rep. All workers have a right to be healthy and safe in the workplace. It is for the benefit of all members in the store if anyone, who is sick, self-isolates.
Should you have any issues or concerns contact your union representative. We are here to help.
I have returned from abroad, should I return to work right away?
Currently, the Government of Canada is imposing a mandatory quarantine of 14 days on anyone returning from abroad, including the US. Please inform your manager as soon as you can and self-isolate for 14 days.
I want to protect my health and safety by wearing a mask – am I allowed?
We are advocating for masks for our members. After several discussions, the company had indicated they are willing to supply masks but they are in short-supply. They are working to get more protective masks for our members particularly for pharmacists and cashiers. If you want to bring your own mask in, you are allowed. It just has to be neutral in colour with no lettering. If you have concerns about this issue, please contact your union rep.
I want to wear gloves, have access to sanitizers and paper towel – will I be provided with these materials?
We continue to push the company to ensure you are protected with gloves, sanitizers and paper towels as requested and needed. Recently, the company announced measures to provide gloves and store-made sanitizers to our members. If you are not provided with these protections at your store, please contact your union rep.