2019 novel coronavirus: Safety measures

January 29, 2020
picture of passengers in airport

CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin recently gave an in-depth interview to Radio-Canada (article in French) regarding what the union is expecting from the employer in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

Our members are the first line of defence of the country and the ongoing outbreak is no different, as border services officers interact with potentially ill travellers every day. While the risks of being exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus remain low for the moment, we are encouraging all border services personnel to remain vigilant. We recommend that eyewear, N95 face masks and gloves be worn with any prolonged exposure to potentially ill travellers (such as interviewing or escorting), and it is the union’s position that such protective equipment should be made mandatory at major airports. We also highlighted to the employer that primary inspection kiosks should be disinfected regularly to prevent illnesses from spreading.

Further to ensuring proper access to protective equipment, we also brought up to CBSA the need to put in place additional measures to slow down the flow of travellers arriving from regions where they could have been exposed to the disease. While implementing such measures can present challenges, it would allow our officers and relevant authorities to better identify and assist travellers who show signs of infection.

Ultimately, given their expertise, it would be highly beneficial for government public health officials to be deployed to the country’s main airports (Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver) to assist our officers.

It is worth noting that, so far, the employer has been quite forthcoming with the union regarding the outbreak, and the exchange of information has been well-received.

It is important to bear in mind that, as with any similar public health issue, the situation is evolving quickly, and new directives may be issued by the employer and other authorities in the coming days. We will make sure to keep you informed of any new development. If you have any questions, please reach out to your Branch President or your local Health and Safety representative.