Tag Archives: COVID-19

CIU urges federal government to review travel exceptions

Airplane seen from above.

With the COVID-19 pandemic not showing signs of slowing down, CIU is calling upon the federal government to review current travel exceptions to better control the spread of new and existing coronavirus variants and protect Canadians everywhere.

While the Canadian government has put some measures in place to reduce the risks of COVID transmission, these have not prevented variants from spreading across the country. Several provinces are facing new challenges daily in coping with the pandemic, and more needs to be done to curb possible outbreaks and allow our overburdened healthcare system to catch up.

Frontline workers across the country, especially in the healthcare sector, are exhausted. Provincial governments are putting in place increasingly severe measures. Many Canadian workers are confronted with mounting uncertainty, and marginalized communities are being impacted disproportionately.

Yet, Border Services Officers throughout Canada continue to have to contend with frustrating situations, notably when it comes to large numbers of non-essential international flights still arriving every day at major airports, adding to the list of potential vectors of transmission. The reality is that, while we continue to grapple with the pandemic, any non-essential flight puts both our members and the Canadian public at an increased risk.

The ongoing pandemic is undoubtedly complex to manage for any country, especially one the size of Canada. However, this is all the more reason for the federal government to act decisively where it can and re-evaluate its policies regarding exceptions for entering the country during the pandemic. There may be situations where entry needs to be granted, but the government must carefully establish what these are in order to more effectively manage the current crisis — and not needlessly expose Border Services personnel and other frontline workers.

Paid 698 leave available for federal employees getting vaccinated

Image of arm about the receive a vaccine

As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination begins to gain momentum, PSAC would like to remind all federal employees that they can request paid 698 leave to attend their vaccination appointment.

With the 698 leave, employees have access to up to a half-day of paid leave to attend a medical or dental appointment. This includes an appointment for vaccination, and time to travel to and from the vaccination site.

The paid leave is possible under a Treasury Board policy covering medical and dental appointments, but PSAC has been in discussions with Treasury Board to ensure that employees who are getting a vaccine that require a booster are also entitled to paid leave for the second vaccination.

However, since 698 leave is only available to employees of the federal government, we ask that provincial and territorial governments follow the federal Treasury Board example and not penalize employees by docking their pay when they protect themselves and their community by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. All workers, regardless of their jurisdiction, should be able to get vaccinated without worrying about their paycheques.

If you have any questions about your rights on the 698 leave, reach out to your local shop steward, your Component, or the PSAC regional office for help and support.

You can also consult our FAQ about your rights as an employee around COVID-19 screening and vaccination.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

PSAC: Governments must prioritize vaccinations for front-line workers

Canadian border crossing

PSAC is pressing governments to prioritize vaccinations for critical front-line workers across Canada to limit the spread of COVID-19.

PSAC represents thousands of front-line workers doing critical work at Canada’s borders, in federal penitentiaries, day shelters and group homes, community parole officers, firefighters, Coast Guard staff and employees on military bases, meat-packing plant workers, food inspectors and many more.

Their close contact with the public and other employees while performing their work puts them at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and contributing to outbreaks in their communities. That’s why it’s crucial that all provinces and territories provide access to vaccinations for front-line essential workers as soon as possible, as per Stage 2 of the Government of Canada’s vaccine schedule.

“The federal government has an obligation to safeguard the health and safety of all its employees during the pandemic,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “Federal ministers must step in and mandate provinces and territories to accelerate vaccinations for front-line essential workers as soon as possible, as recommended in the federal government’s own vaccination schedule.”

PSAC and components, including the Customs and Immigration Union and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, have been lobbying both the federal and provincial governments, including Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, to prioritize vaccinations for our members.

“Canada Border Services Agency personnel have continued to perform critical work despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, CIU national president, representing more than 11,000 CBSA officers and workers across the country. “With a third wave now well underway and the growing threat of COVID variants, it’s imperative for frontline Border Services officers to be prioritized for vaccinations equally across the country, alongside other first responders and law enforcement personnel.”

Some provinces have prioritized vaccinations for front-line workers early on, while others still refuse to consider many front-line workers essential under their vaccination plans, creating a patchwork system that puts workers and the Canadians they serve at risk. Two workers, doing the same job and facing the same risk of exposure to COVID-19, could be vaccinated months apart under the current provincial arrangement.

“By not quickly moving to vaccinate all front-line staff who work day in and day out with federal offenders, we put thousands of Canadians and employees at continued high risk of COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Stan Stapleton, national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees representing all federal employees working in rehabilitative, parole, maintenance, food service and related support roles in federal minimum, medium and maximum security penitentiaries, as well as Community Correctional Centres and parole offices across Canada.

PSAC will continue to pressure the federal government to work collaboratively with provincial public health authorities and ensure all front-line workers are equally prioritized as part of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.

Press Release — Vaccination of frontline Border Officers: Minister Blair must make good on his commitment

Photo of CIU flag

OTTAWA, April 15, 2021 — With COVID-19 continuing to spread throughout the country, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is calling upon the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to honour his previous commitment, and ensure that frontline Border Services Officers and personnel working for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) are vaccinated alongside members of other federal law enforcement agencies.

For months, CIU, which represents some 11,000 members, has been pressuring the federal as well as provincial governments to suitably prioritize Border Services personnel as part of their vaccination efforts. Sadly, vaccination plans vary greatly from one province to another, resulting in a process that is especially difficult to navigate for federal workers. Indeed, two officers who work in a similar environment, who perform the same duties, but who are located in different jurisdictions may very well not benefit from the same access to priority vaccination — if they are prioritized at all.

“For the better part of the past year, CBSA men and women have continued to perform critical work despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Jean-Pierre Fortin, CIU’s National President. “The reality is that every day, CBSA officers and employees put their health at risk by coming into close contact with potential COVID-19 sources while fulfilling their duties”.

CBSA frontline personnel have been instrumental in Canada’s COVID-19 response, be it at land borders or in airports, where they work directly with travelers and members of the public. Frontline Border Services Officers and employees are active in postal centers and commercial operations, where they facilitate the flow of critical goods entering the country, including PPE and vaccines.

As per the federal government’s vaccination guidelines, Border Services personnel should have been included at Stage 2 of the provinces’ vaccination plans. Unfortunately, that has often not been the case. Earlier this year, the union launched a letter-writing campaign, encouraging members to write to their provincial elected representative to sound the alarm on the pressing need for vaccination. Jean-Pierre Fortin also wrote personally to the Premiers of most provinces, advocating for fair and considerate vaccination plans.

While some provinces, notably New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador, made it clear early on that frontline CBSA personnel would be vaccinated, the situation remains uneven for most of the country. Despite headways in Ontario and Quebec thanks to union pressure, some work locations remain unvaccinated, with members left in the dark. The situation is even more dire in British Columbia, where Vancouver International Airport remains one of the only airports in Canada open to international travellers where Border Services Officers are not prioritized in some way for vaccinations. Personnel located in the Prairie Provinces have also been left in the lurch.

Recently, Minister Blair met virtually with CIU members and local union representatives in Lacolle, Quebec, and in Windsor, Ontario. At these meetings, the Minister committed to intervening personally if CBSA frontline personnel were not added to their provinces’ COVID-19 vaccination plan. Despite these assurances, and despite the CIU National President writing to the Minister following these meetings, the issue remains unresolved.

“It is high time for Minister Blair to do what’s right and reach out to the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and to the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, to ensure that CBSA employees are protected to the same degree as other federal law enforcement personnel,” declared Jean-Pierre Fortin. “The federal government has the power to secure sufficient vaccine doses for CBSA employees, and must do so immediately.”

The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents Canada’s Front-Line Customs and Immigration Officers. CIU also represents Investigation, Intelligence and Trade Customs Officers, Immigration Inland Enforcement and Hearings Officers, as well as all support staff – all of whom work at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Your rights at work: Vaccinations and COVID-19 screening

Image vaccination

As more Canadian workers become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and some employers make plans for a gradual return to workplaces, it’s more important than ever to know your rights when it comes to mandatory vaccinations and COVID-19 testing.

Since every province and territory has their own public health recommendations, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but you have basic rights under your collective agreement and human rights legislation that your employer must respect.

PSAC has pulled together some important questions about your rights as an employee around COVID-19 screening and vaccinations. See the following page for more information.