Tag Archives: health and safety

COVID-19: The employer must reconsider its position on close contact training

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

The following message was sent to the employer on June 2nd by Mark Weber, CIU’s 1st National Vice-President, and Co-Chair of the Policy Health and Safety Committee.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen our Policy Health and Safety Committee commit a great deal of time and effort to ensuring that all CBSA employees are kept as safe as possible. We’ve accomplished much that’s positive, in circumstances where the planning and implementation of every preventative measure was an urgent matter. Most Departments within the CBSA have participated proactively in this work with us, making all we’ve had to address run much more smoothly.

Our experience working with Training and Development has been uniquely negative. We’ve repeatedly learned of scheduled training from our members, without it having first been brought to our Committee as mandated by the Canada Labour Code (CLC) and Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR). We’ve been given documents to assess on the eve of training, only after insisting that they be provided. We’ve seen all they’ve developed ‘assessed’ at meetings of a health and safety ‘working group’, who we’ve learned keep no minutes, and whose composition we are entirely unaware of. We’ve been told repeatedly that everything in place was approved by a qualified person, only to learn that this is not the case. Procedures that include a 14 day quarantine period continue to be used to declare safe close contact training for employees who are not quarantining.

We recently asked to participate in a meeting with Health Canada, only to learn that the employer had the meeting without us. We were told that Health Canada will “never state that training is safe or unsafe”. Health Canada was only asked about the preventative measures in place, not the training itself. The truth is that no qualified person will say that it is now safe to ignore physical distancing, because it is not. Health Canada’s recommendation that training be reevaluated based on local pandemic conditions was ignored and again, the documents provided to Health Canada had the trainees quarantining, which is not what is happening for anyone other that our OITPs.

The odd justifications the employer side of our Committee continues to espouse for Training and Development are inexplicable given the business like, efficient manner in which all else connected to COVID has been dealt with. The culmination of this behaviour is the recent conclusion that it is not the role of the Policy Health and Safety Committee to determine when training is safe to resume, “it is ultimately management that determines the safety of training”.

The employee members of the Policy Health and Safety Committee do not believe that it is safe to resume close contact training, and we urge the employer members of our Committee to revisit their decision to recommend it. Should the decision be to forge ahead with close contact training, we ask that daily COVID testing be arranged for trainees and trainers.

No proper risk assessment has been conducted, no qualified person has assessed any of the risks associated with this training, and the first step of Part 122.2 of the CLC has been wrongly passed over. We remind the employer of their obligations under the CLC and COHSR, including Part 148 of the CLC.

This is what a successful return-to-workplace plan looks like

Man working at computer

PSAC is working hard to make sure the federal government takes every necessary precaution to ensure that the return to federal offices and workspaces across the country is safe for employees, their families, and the general public.

PSAC insists that the health, safety, wellness, and privacy rights of public service workers must be at the centre of the return to workplace plan and that it reflect the fact that, until a COVID-19 vaccine is created, the virus poses an ongoing threat to the physical and mental health of workers.

PSAC also takes the position that:

  • All return-to-workplace provisions must be in line with collective agreements and legal obligations.
  • Since specific equity groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the plan must be created with a strong equity and human rights lens.
  • The overall plan and any specific measure must adhere to direction from public health authorities and assessments from professional experts in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Additionally, PSAC is urging the following measures:

Conditions for returning to the workplace

  • Provide clear guidelines for determining who will be selected to return to workspaces and who will continue to work from home. Decisions should not be left to the discretion of management to avoid discrimination.
  • Provide employees who are returning to the workplace with a reasonable notice period of at least two weeks to allow them to manage the transition and to do so gradually.
  • Allow workers living with an immunocompromised individual to continue to work remotely to minimize exposure within their household until a vaccine becomes available.
  • Continue our members’ access to “Other Leave with Pay” (699) to accommodate various circumstances including, but not limited to, child care responsibilities that are related to COVID-19, including if parents are unable to or choose not to send their children back to school or daycare.
  • Acknowledge that productivity will be negatively affected by the pandemic and that employees’ performance evaluations should not consequently be negatively affected.
  • Allow for genuine consultation and negotiation with bargaining agents on any reorganization of work. Especially in the event that changes would trigger Work Force Adjustment obligations.

Public transit and shared spaces

  • Consider how returning to offices or workspaces increases a worker’s risk of exposure to the virus as it may require them to drop children off at school or childcare, ride a bus or train, use a public washroom or ride an elevator.
  • Include a strategy to ensure workers can remain at a 2-metre physical distance from others, including in shared spaces, but still have access to necessities such as washrooms, elevators, microwaves and fridges.
  • Address how an employer will proceed when 2-metre physical distancing is not possible in elevators, entrance ways, stairwells, washrooms, and routes to and from public transit.
  • Consider the impact on workers who cannot take public transit because of risk of exposure, and therefore support accommodations like additional or reduced-price parking available for those who can drive to the work site.
  • Ensure that employers implement health and safety strategies such as staggered scheduling, controlling or restricting access to common spaces, more frequent cleaning/disinfecting of the workplace, preparing and training for emergency situations, as well as training and communication on COVID-related health and safety procedures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

General health & safety, sanitation and workers’ needs

  • Provide a robust sanitation plan and risk assessment of federal government workspaces.
  • Include a plan to track cases of COVID-19 in the public service, including procedures that must be followed after a worker tests positive.
  • Address Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs and align these needs with the recommendations of provincial and territorial health agencies who have called for the use of masks and gloves, especially when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Outline support for teleworkers in terms of ergonomic support, mental health, and appropriate working equipment.
  • Provide managers and Occupational Health & Safety Committees with additional situation-specific training to deal with the range of mental health problems that are likely to result, or have already, due to COVID-19.
  • Provide sufficient medical research and an assessment by a technical professional to determine how ventilation systems can contribute to virus transmission.
  • Include a plan to ensure all sanitation and ventilation systems are in ongoing compliance with the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (COHSR).
  • Consider slowing the pace of the conversion to Activity-Based Working. All work arrangements should be considered and evaluated in the context of COVID-19.

Child care

  • Provide clear guidelines on how to accommodate employees who may have to continue to provide childcare while also working due to COVID-19.
  • Allow parents to use “Other Leave with Pay” (699) to fulfill childcare needs related to COVID-19, including if some parents may be forced to keep their children home despite some schools and childcare facilities re-opening.
  • Include plans to negotiate with PSAC at the bargaining table so that its childcare proposal can be implemented as part of collective agreements.

Domestic and family violence

  • Provide an outline for the steps that will be taken to ensure employees are supported and feel protected from violence at home; whether they return to the workplace or continue to work from home.
  • Include a plan to finalize an agreement with PSAC on domestic violence leave.

Employment equity and human rights

  • Include a management approach that recognizes the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on specific groups, such as people with disabilities, women, racialized and Indigenous people.
  • Incorporate guidelines that will ensure that human rights, privacy rights and employment equity obligations are being met by the employer.
  • Include plans to consult with the NJC Joint Employment Equity Committee and departmental employment equity committees on changes to any practices, processes and policies that can potentially effect workers (telework, technological changes, workspaces, etc.) due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on equity groups.


  • Stipulate that any disaggregated information (age, gender, race etc.) collected that may be relevant for collective bargaining will be provided to PSAC so that we can determine any disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our members.
  • Ensure that any health or employment data collected by an employer observes privacy obligations and is stored in a secure manner.

PSAC is demanding that the government continue meaningful consultation with federal unions throughout the development and implementation of a return-to-workplace plan.

Until an acceptable overall plan is developed, PSAC strongly recommends that our members continue to work from home where possible.

We will provide further updates on the development of a plan as more information becomes available.

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

COVID-19: Health and Safety update

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

This is an update on COVID-19 related health and safety matters that Union representatives and Workplace Health and Safety committees are currently addressing.

Use of N95s

The Policy Health and Safety Committee is expecting guidance from Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada surrounding N95 re-use, cleaning and storage. Currently, each workplace is doing the best they can without any expert guidance, a situation that we hope to see rectified imminently.

‘Sani Clean’ lockers

The Southern Ontario Region has obtained sanitation equipment that you may want to have your Workplace Health and Safety Committees/Representatives explore. Here is a link to the type purchased there.


We are having significant success applying the following four health and safety principles to modified schedules across the country. Remember that Part 122.2 of the Canada Labour Code mandates the hierarchy of preventative measures. Proper scheduling allows for the reduction of exposure to this hazard.

  • Have the least number of people possible on shift.
  • Where possible, have days off work be scheduled consecutively to allow for greater self isolation.
  • Try to limit overlapping shifts, so that members come in contact with the least number of coworkers possible.
  • Where possible, have members consistently work with the same coworkers. This will help should any member test positive, and will assist the Public Health Agency in identifying close contact.

Mental Health

While EAP and mental health professionals are who members should turn to for help, CIU can play a positive role in addressing the loneliness and sense of disconnection that our members’ self isolation has created. Many Branches have already organized events and activities, and we encourage different locations to share ideas with one another on how to help members stay active, healthy and engaged.


As of April 20, we had 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 13 of whom have fully recovered. As we settle into the new ‘normal’ that this pandemic has created, unforeseeable challenges will continue to come up. Please reach out to your Branch President should you have any question or concern.


COVID-19: Health and Safety update

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

We are pleased to see the great work being done across the country by our Union representatives, Health and Safety committees, and most of all our members, who continue to provide critical services for all Canadians.

We have now had 19 CBSA employees test positive to COVID-19, a number far greater than what we expected to see, and one that we must do all we can to stop from growing.

Included here are some points that Branches and your workplace Health and Safety representatives are currently working on. Adhering to the hierarchy of preventative measures established in Part 122.2 of the Canada Labour Code Purpose of Part is the law, and we must ensure that it is being applied.

Guiding principles to keep in mind


  • Have the least number of people possible on shift;
  • Where possible, have days off work be scheduled consecutively to allow for greater self isolation;
  • Try to limit overlapping shifts, so that members come in contact with the least number of coworkers possible;
  • Where possible, have members consistently work with the same coworkers. This will help should any member test positive, and will assist the Public Health Agency in identifying close contact.

Other issues:

  • For telework, ensure that all safety factors are considered when members must attend the workplace to gather files/computer equipment, etc.;
  • Ensure that members performing non critical work are not being forced to remain in the workplace;
  • Ensure that vulnerable employees are not forced to attend the workplace;
  • Ensure that we participate in establishing where and how plexiglass is being installed in the workplace;
  • Review and ensure that the cleaning guidelines for radios is being followed (especially if radios must be shared);
  • Review and ensure that the cleaning guidelines for cars is being followed;
  • Ensure that the donning and doffing guidelines for N95 and surgical masks is being read and followed by members;
  • Explore having cleaning/disinfecting equipment made available in the workplace.

2019 novel coronavirus: Safety measures

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.